What to expect when California fully reopens on June 15. Spoiler: Most pandemic rules are going away

By Matt Guilhem

Customers drink, eat and talk at well-spaced tables on Almanac Taproom’s former parking lot-turned-pandemic beer garden in Alameda, California, U.S. June 4, 2021 Ann Saphir/Reuters.

On Tuesday, June 15, the Golden State is saying goodbye to many of the regulations that have shaped daily life for the last pandemic year. Here's what's mostly going away and the few protocols poised to persist in the reopened California. 


The Blueprint for a Safer Economy, California’s color-coded reopening framework, is going away. No more wondering if we’re going up or down the scale between purple, the most severe level, and yellow, the least restrictive. No more tiers.

Whether you were on team “social distancing” or “physical distancing,” that mandated six feet of separation is being retired. You should still respect personal boundaries, but you can now safely be closer than shouting distance.


Don’t throw away your favorite face covering(s) because while fully vaccinated people can go maskless in most places, some settings and activities will still require you to cover up. Photo by Shutterstock. 

If you’ve got a favorite facial covering, don’t toss it out. According to the California Department of Public Health, after June 15, fully vaccinated people will be able to show their full face in a lot of places, such as the gym, church, movie theater, and bar. Imagine the novel thrill of grocery shopping maskless! But some settings and activities will still require you to cover up.

The mask has to stay on when: 

- Taking public transit (bus, train, flight)

- Inside health care facilities (hospitals, long term care homes, etc.)

- At correctional facilities or detention centers

- At homeless shelters, cooling centers, and other emergency shelters

Here’s a big one with a caveat: inside K-12 schools and other child care/youth settings. California is taking the lead of federal health authorities on this guidance. The state says this policy could change if the CDC revises its guidelines.

If you are unvaccinated, keep that mask in your back pocket, hanging from the rearview mirror, or wherever you’ve found yourself stashing it for the last year. You’ll still have to mask up in basically every public setting*: in restaurants, stores, movie theaters, bowling alleys, skating rinks … you get the idea.

*Private businesses and venues, this asterisk is for you. You’ve got a few options for determining people’s vaccination status. 

You can: 
A) Require everyone to wear a mask.

B) Ask guests/patrons/concertgoers/whoever to show proof of vaccination to determine if they need a mask or not.

C) Let all customers know what your policy is and allow vaccinated people to self-attest they meet the rules (i.e. the honor system). 

According to California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, if a maskless person walks into a business that’s going with option C above, that action should be considered a self-attestation that they’re vaccinated.

And if you prefer to play it safe and aren’t comfortable yet taking off your mask, no worries. The state says no business or activity can condition entry on removing a face covering.


If you’re going to a mega outdoor event with 10,000 or more people, California recommends (but does not require) vaccine verification. Photo by Shutterstock. 

If you’re planning to attend what the state has dubbed “mega events,” the organizer can and will ask for proof of your vaccination status, depending on the setting.

If your mega event is indoors, maybe a Lakers game or really big arena concert, pack your vaccine card or have a photo of it on your phone. Vaccine verification or a recent negative COVID test is required at indoor events with audiences of 5,000+ people. 

Should you be going to a mega outdoor event with 10,000 or more people — think Coachella — the state is strongly recommending vaccine verification be implemented. However, it’s not required. Unvaccinated people will still be allowed into the event if they wear a mask (which the event organizer should be able to provide).


The state’s workplace safety regulator, Cal/OSHA, is expected to release tentative mask guidelines on Friday, rescinding the current mask rules to be consistent with the CDC guidance, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The board will then vote on new mask rules on June 17. What they decide on will go into effect by the end of June. Photo by Shutterstock.

The state’s workplace safety regulator, Cal/OSHA, has been all over the place when it comes to guidance. At first, they said employees in a room could go maskless only if every person in that room was vaccinated. Should one person not be fully immunized, it’s masks all around.

That caused a furor because it’s a lot more restrictive than the post-June 15 rules California has in mind. After receiving a lot of blowback, on June 9, the regulatory agency’s board withdrew the rule about making everybody mask up if even one person wasn’t inoculated. Now, officials say the Golden State will sync up with CDC guidelines, which allow fully vaccinated people to show their full face in most indoor and outdoor settings. 


While California is relaxing the COVID rules to align with CDC guidelines, municipalities like counties could keep certain policies on the books and have tougher standards than those of the state. Some Bay Area counties, for example, sometimes took an even more cautious approach than the state’s rules as they reopened.

But this time around, it looks like everybody is on board with putting the laundry list of procedures and protocols to bed.

Health officials in LA have said the nation’s most populous county will subscribe to the new, less restrictive rules from the state. The county’s Public Health Department held a digital town hall meeting June 10 to chart out reopening plans.

With one voice, a panel of officials all said LA will be subscribing to the state’s guidelines. LA County Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said the county will follow all of the state’s regulations when it comes to masking.

On the subject of social distancing, Davis said once the state has reopened, those requirements will be phased out. “On June 15, all of the business sectors covered by the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy will not have the requirements to limit capacity nor for ensuring physical distancing among customers. However, businesses may choose to limit the number of people entering their premises and they’re able to do that if they want to.”

LA’s recommendations on workplaces defer to Cal/OSHA. Since those guidelines are still unknown, Liza Frias, the county’s director of environmental health, said offices should continue to follow the current Cal/OSHA rules. Her message was stay tuned, since the state’s workplace safety regulators are meeting after the reopening to (hopefully) finalize the policies. 

Parents can anticipate a more normal summer and fall, according to the public health department’s child and adolescent health section chief, Dr. Robert Gilchick. He expects a full-time return to in-person learning in the fall. He said COVID vaccination will not be mandatory for public school students to return to the classroom, but he said getting as many eligible young people inoculated as possible was a top priority of the county. When it comes to youth sports and day camps this summer, he says change is afoot. 

“The theme is that many of the current requirements at the state guidance for youth and sports and adult recreational sports, which we will be aligning with, will become more recommendation than requirement,” Gilchick said.

Further inland, Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Surawatari said in an email the county “will not be making any different or additional restrictions from what CDPH is announcing.” She reiterated that per state guidelines, Riverside will be dropping capacity limits at businesses and doing away with physical distancing restrictions on June 15.

It’s a similar story in Ventura County. Their public health officer, Dr. Robert Levin, said they’ll be fully aligning with all the changes coming from the state. 

As for masks at work, Levin said, “Ventura’s face coverings guidance will continue to recognize that in workplaces, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard, and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements.”

Levin also pointed out that Ventura is affirming the state’s policy that if you want to keep on wearing a mask, nobody can tell you to stop. Again, the new rules say neither businesses nor events can make removing a face covering a condition for entry.

This is what we know … for now. But if there’s one lesson the pandemic has driven home on multiple occasions (COVID regulations case in point), it’s that things can change on a dime.



Matt Guilhem