California Reopens, Says Goodbye to Most COVID-19 Rules

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -
Stickers are seen at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine clinic for newly eligible 12 to 15-year-olds in Pasadena, California, May 14. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo)

California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic.

At the stroke of midnight, California is lifting most of its COVID-19 restrictions and ushering in what has been billed as the state’s “Grand Reopening.”

Starting Tuesday, there will be no more state rules on social distancing, and no more limits on capacity at restaurants, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums or anywhere else. And masks — one of the most symbolic and fraught symbols of the pandemic — will no longer be mandated for vaccinated people in most settings, though businesses and counties can still require them.

“With all due respect, eat your heart out, the rest of the United States. There is no state in America that has more,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on the eve of the reopening. “The state is not just poised to recover, it’s poised to come roaring back.”

To mark the reopening, Newsom will make a few lucky residents millionaires. In an event, the governor will draw 10 names of residents who have received at least one vaccine dose and award each one $1.5 million. The drawing is the grand finale to the nation’s largest vaccine incentive, $116 million in a COVID-19 vaccine lottery. Winners can collect the money once they’re fully vaccinated.

California now has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country, below 1%. That dramatic drop in infections combined with an increasing number of vaccinated residents — over 70% of adults have had at least one dose — led Newsom to announce in April that most COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted June 15.