By Lorraine Gabbert
Santa Clara County residents can return to life near normal as California officially reopens today following more than a year of COVID-19.
Starting today, the majority of businesses can operate at full capacity and vaccinated people can mostly remove their masks while grocery shopping, eating at restaurants or working out at the gym.
The relaxation of state restrictions removes capacity limits and physical distancing requirements, but businesses, churches and local governments can choose to still impose them or require proof of vaccination.
“The county of Santa Clara is currently following the state of California’s guidelines with regards to COVID-19 and June 15,” a county spokesperson told San José Spotlight.
According to the California Department of Public Health, masks are not required for fully vaccinated individuals except on public transit, indoors at schools and childcare facilities, health care settings, prisons, homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers.
For unvaccinated individuals, masks are still required in indoor public settings including retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings and government offices.
It’s up to businesses how they choose to enforce rules when required. Options include allowing people to self-attest that they are vaccinated prior to entry, verifying vaccine status to determine which individuals need to wear masks and requiring all patrons to wear masks regardless of vaccinations.
Businesses and schools must still report positive COVID-19 infections to the county for tracking.
While rules are set for residents, worker requirements aren’t as clear.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted workplace rules earlier this month that require workers to wear face coverings when there’s a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated employees in the same space. On Thursday, the board will consider allowing vaccinated workers to go completely mask-free.
Santa Clara County Public Health says that previous restrictions are no longer necessary due to widespread vaccination and fewer cases of COVID-19 in the community.
As of Monday, 119,516 Santa Clara County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,177 have died. About 79% of county residents age 12+ are vaccinated with at least one dose, and about 69.3% of residents age 12+ are completely inoculated.
Statewide, 17,297,403 people—43.8%—are fully vaccinated.
State guidelines recommend but do not require verification of completed vaccinations for outdoor live events with more than 10,000 attendees. Those without proof can be admitted with masks.
The SAP Center will not require guests to provide proof of completed COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test for entry. Instead, fans can self-attest they are either fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the event. The SAP Center expects to operate at full capacity by July.
Levi’s Stadium will reopen at full capacity in the fall, said San Francisco 49ers spokesman Jacob Fill. The first game open to the public will be a preseason opener on Aug. 14.
Jim Mercurio, vice president of stadium operations, said the thought of reopening gives him goosebumps. He equates it to when the stadium first opened in 2014.
“I think the players and coaches are probably among the groups needing this the most,” Mercurio told San José Spotlight. “The crowd is what makes a live event impactful—the crowd, the noise, the excitement, the emotion—that’s what we’re here for and we crave it.”
The 49ers plan to release a “Know Before You Go” guide for the public to communicate existing rules and regulations prior to the opening game.
On June 24, Levi’s Stadium will stop being a mass vaccination site for Santa Clara County residents and workers. At its height in mid-April, about 12,000 people a day received shots, and as of Sunday, the location administered more than 350,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. It was the largest vaccination site in California.
Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said Levi’s Stadium played a critical role in Santa Clara County having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
Mercurio said helping the community in this way was one of, if not the most, important event of his life. He sees a better future ahead.
“We have to be smart about how we go back to business,” he said. “It’s not just going back to what was done in 2019; it’s how can we be more effective and efficient. How we can make it a win-win for everybody.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.