The announced relaxation of Covid-19 guidelines across California on Friday is likely the prelude to a much wider reopening.
For weeks, Governor Gavin Newsom has been reminding residents that the state tied the loosening of restrictions to vaccine equity. That is: The faster the most underserved communities in the state are vaccinated, the faster the authorities will allow everyone else to relax restrictions.
Weeks ago, the governor ordered 40% of the state’s vaccine supply set aside for underserved communities. He also laid out two key thresholds that would trigger broader reopenings: First when vaccinations in the lowest economic quartile reach 2 million and second when the same population receives 4 million doses. California crossed 2 million vaccinations in that quartile on on March 12. Just 3 weeks later, the state is on the brink of crossing the 4 million threshold.
Newsom told San Diego officials on Friday that he anticipates “four million next week.” As he spoke, the state was reporting 3,730,000 vaccinations in the lowest economic quartile of residents. See chart below. Given that the number of vaccinations administered among this group topped 100,000 in the past 24 hours, it’s a safe bet that the state will cross four million very shortly.
So what will happen at 4 million? For one thing, counties will have a much easier time progressing through the state’s color-coded reopening tiers. Los Angeles County, for example, sits in the state’s Orange tier. Currently, its number of new cases per 100,000 residents would have to fall below 1 to move the county into the Yellow tier. L.A. currently sits at a 3.1 adjusted rate of cases per 100,000. Orange County is at 2.9 per 100,000. Once the number of lowest economic quartile vaccinations reaches 4 million, however, the threshold for Yellow becomes 2 new cases per 100,000 residents. See chart below. Both Orange and L.A. counties have a shot at making that number next week.
Movement into the Yellow tier doesn’t mean much for movie theaters, which would stay at 50% capacity. But it would allow theme parks such as Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Magic Mountain to increase capacity another 10%, to 35% total. Parks would also be allowed to increase indoor dining to 50% capacity and sell tickets at the gate.
The Yellow Tier could have benefits for larger concert, sports and theatrical venues, as well. While capacity is limited to 10% or 2,000 people, it increases to 50% if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination.
And what lies beyond the Yellow tier?
“Ultimately [we’ll be] getting to a green tier, which we’ll be talking a lot more about next week,” said Newsom on Friday.