Tuesday’s announcement signals a potential end date to more than a year of isolation. While many other states have pushed ahead, California has generally resisted reopening too quickly and, in several instances, has moved to reinstate restrictions to stem rising new cases and hospitalizations.
But the pandemic has taken its toll, killing more than 58,000 Californians, while shuttering scores of businesses and forcing millions of students to attend school remotely for much of the year.
In the short term, California’s vaccination progress means that counties can more easily shift to less-restrictive tiers, allowing them to increase capacity limits for various activities like indoor dining, shopping, worship services and sporting events. Every county in the Bay Area, except Solano County, has recently moved into the second-least restrictive orange tier.
The vaccine milestone also triggers a lower threshold for counties to enter the least-restrictive yellow tier: an adjusted rate of fewer than two new daily cases per 100,000 residents.
“San Francisco is currently in the orange tier, and fingers crossed governor, we’ll be in the yellow tier next week,” said Mayor London Breed during Tuesday’s announcement.
The new reopening plan comes as the first-term Democratic governor faces a likely recall election pushed by those critical of his handling of the pandemic. Many Republicans across the state and nation contend that political pressure, not vaccination progress, is driving Newsom’s decision to loosen restrictions.
“It took millions of Californians signing a recall petition for him to finally begin reopening our state,” Kevin Faulconer, a former San Diego mayor and Republican who is hoping to replace Newsom, said in a statement Tuesday.
Joanna Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Republican Governors Association, called Newsom’s announcement “too little too late.”
“While Newsom continued to live by a different set of rules than those he mandated on everyone else,” she said, “his failed leadership wreaked havoc on the state.”
Nonetheless, Tuesday’s announcement was welcome news to millions of people across the state, eager to resume their normal lives.
Michael Rodriguez, owner and general manager of the Cadillac Bar & Grill in San Francisco’s near-empty downtown, can’t wait for customers to return for happy hour cocktails and for theaters to reopen to live audiences.
“Everybody has something to look forward to now,” he said.
This post includes reporting from KQED’s Matthew Green, Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí, Guy Marzorati and The Associated Press.