How California’s pandemic rules are changing

California

Californians can eat, drink and rub shoulders at restaurants, movie theaters and most other businesses without COVID-19 restrictions as the state fully reopened Tuesday. Here are some things to know about the changes:

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

When the pandemic hit last year, California issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at home order, closing all nonessential businesses and restaurant dining. Since then, restrictions have been tightened or eased as circumstances changed.

Last summer, California adopted a four-tier, color-coded system of business restrictions and guidelines. Each county was assigned a color based on their COVID-19 risk.

Infections have dropped precipitously and more than 70% of eligible people have gotten at least one shot, leading Gov. Gavin Newsom to end the tier system and fully reopen the state.

WHAT IT MEANS

Restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters and other businesses can open without capacity limits or social distancing requirements. However, people who want to attend indoor concerts, sporting events and similar gatherings that draw 5,000 people or more will have to verify that they are vaccinated or don’t have COVID-19. Attendees at outdoor events drawing 10,000 people or more are “’strongly encouraged” to do the same.

All students are allowed to resume classroom learning. However, those in K-12 public schools must continue to wear masks and social distance because many children haven’t been vaccinated. Some universities also are keeping their mask requirements in place.

Counties are expected to follow the state guidelines but they have the option of enforcing stricter regulations. Following federal guidelines, masks will still be required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation and at airports and train stations.

Only unvaccinated people must wear masks indoors, though businesses may require face coverings if they choose. All workers initially must remain masked and physically distanced on the job. The regulations apply in almost every workplace in the state, including offices, factories and retail.

However, fully vaccinated employees would not need to wear masks under rules to be approved Thursday by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. Newsom said he will then issue an executive order putting those regulations into effect immediately, bypassing a normal 10-day legal review.

Under the plan, employers would have options, including requiring workers to show proof of vaccination; requiring everyone to remain masked, vaccinated or not; or allowing employees to self-attest to their vaccination status, with the employer keeping a record of who self-attests.

WHAT WON’T CHANGE

The state is still requiring people who haven’t been vaccinated to wear a mask in indoor public settings and businesses, including restaurants and government offices.

Health officials will continue encouraging people to get vaccinated and will continue testing and contact tracing programs to detect COVID-19 spread.

Newsom says California will remain under a state of emergency that grants him broad authority to issue, alter or suspend state laws and regulations. California has been under the state of emergency since the pandemic began in March 2020. Newsom says the virus that killed more than 62,000 Californians hasn’t been eradicated and “it’s not taking the summer months off.”

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