California will fully reopen its economy on June 15 if COVID-19 hospitalizations are low and stable, and vaccine supplies are plentiful enough for everyone over the age of 16 who wants to be inoculated, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.
The move to end pandemic restrictions in the most populous U.S. state comes as California continues to ramp up its vaccination efforts, with about 360,000 doses administered per day and 7.5 million people fully vaccinated.
“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic,” Newsom said. “We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here – wearing masks and getting vaccinated – but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”
If cases are low and vaccines readily available, businesses will be allowed to reopen fully, but they will still be expected to mandate mask-wearing and encourage people to become vaccinated, Newsom said.
California was one of the first states to shut down its economy as the pandemic began last year, and at one point had the tightest restrictions in the country. Some other states, including Texas, have already lifted most of their restrictions, but California would be the largest to do so.
Newsom, a Democrat, faces a likely recall election at a date yet to be set or affirmed, fueled by a combination of Republican activism and frustration over restrictions.
The announcement of plans to reopen the world’s fifth largest economy in just over two months also comes as states including Michigan and Florida are seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, linked to contagious new variants of the coronavirus as well as efforts to loosen restrictions.
In the bellwether county of Santa Clara, the center of the state’s Silicon Valley technology hub, officials last week warned that the fight against the pandemic was “precarious,” and said that the decline in case rates was stalling.
California has reported nearly 3.6 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and nearly 59,000 deaths, state records show. It reported 2,112 new cases on Monday.