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Editorial: CA has reopened at last

by BAR Editorial Board

Veronika Fimbres, a transgender woman, celebrated the state's reopening Tuesday afternoon outside Twin Peaks Tavern in the Castro. Photo: Gooch
Veronika Fimbres, a transgender woman, celebrated the state's reopening Tuesday afternoon outside Twin Peaks Tavern in the Castro. Photo: Gooch  

Most of us were downright giddy on Tuesday as we ventured outdoors without face coverings for the first time in more than a year of surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom officially reopened the state June 15 with an appearance at Universal Studios Hollywood, where he said that the Golden State's full reopening marks the end of social distancing, capacity restrictions, county tiers, and masks in almost all settings for vaccinated Californians. (One important caveat: face coverings are still required on public transportation, railways, and at airports and health care facilities, per federal regulations.) This milestone would not have been possible if most state residents had not adhered to the shelter-in-place mandates, and dramatically changed their behavior for some 15 months. When vaccines became available, folks in the Bay Area especially raced to get them, leading to some of the highest inoculation rates in California.

"Today, we celebrate the incredible strength and resilience of Californians — from our heroic health care workers to essential workers across the board to everyday Californians from all walks of life — who have supported each other through hardship and heartache over the past year, making sacrifices to save countless lives and enable us to turn the page on this pandemic," Newsom stated. "As we look ahead to better days, we will continue to look out for one another, redoubling our investments to address California's most persistent challenges, so that the entire state comes roaring back together."

Newsom noted that more than 40 million vaccinations have been administered in the state, with over 70% of adults having at least one shot. Last week, San Francisco Mayor London Breed stated that the city became the first in the country with 80% of eligible residents having received at least one vaccine dose. That's an extraordinary accomplishment. Other Bay Area counties also have solid vaccination rates combined with decreasing COVID cases.

It's also important to remember that not everyone is ready to ditch their masks just yet — and that is OK. Especially since they're still required on public transportation, people should probably carry one with them, just in case. Others may feel uncomfortable gathering in large maskless groups, and that's OK too. And some workplaces, stores, and school campuses may continue to require face coverings, considering that children under the age of 12 still can't get vaccinated. Much like when the pandemic started last year, these are days of adjustment.

And we must keep in mind that the pandemic is not over and is still spreading in much of the world. Even as Newsom was drawing names for the 10 lucky vaccinated winners of $1.5 million cash prizes, the state's COVID dashboard was reporting that there were 628 COVID cases and 10 deaths on Tuesday. In fact, there have been a total of nearly 3.7 million cases and 62,515 deaths in California since the start of the pandemic, according to the state's figures. But it's clear that the vaccines are a factor in curbing the virus so effectively and that, so far, they seem to protect against the variants that have developed and will provide immunity for a while.

While reopening calls for rejoicing, it's also time to remember that neighborhood businesses, and the nightlife, restaurant, and hospitality industries, were severely impacted by the lockdown. Some establishments didn't make it, but those that did will need the support of patrons to rebound. We can do our part by dining out, grabbing a cocktail, or shopping at local merchants in the Castro and beyond. For those planning summer getaways, most hotels will welcome you back and are eager to detail their enhanced cleaning protocols.

It's disappointing that there won't be a San Francisco Pride parade this year, but it will come roaring back in 2022. (The People's March will take place as announced Sunday, June 27.) In the meantime, you can still celebrate Pride by reveling in the freedom to gather with others without face coverings, and enjoy seeing faces again.

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