Los Angeles | California, the first US state to establish public containment to halt the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrated its “re-opening” on Tuesday by lifting nearly all health measures in place for 15 months.
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Vaccinated people are now officially allowed to dispense with masks in most public places, with the notable exception of public transport, schools and hospitals.
“We are finally here, on June 15, to turn the page, to put an end to limited capabilities…with social distancing,” Governor Gavin Newsom rejoiced during a ceremony organized to mark the “full reopening of California’s economy.”
The most populous state in the United States has come a long way. If he had quickly taken health measures that made it possible to contain the epidemic during the first months, premature mitigation led to an explosion in the number of cases.
California even became one of the main epicenters of the coronavirus during the winter, especially in the Los Angeles area. “Sometimes – it was January, not long ago – we ran out of body bags in some places in Southern California,” Newsom said, speaking from the park at Universal Studios Hollywood.
“We’ve seen more deaths than we would have liked, we’ve held our hands a lot because families can’t be there” in intensive care units, lamented Helen Cordova, the nurse and the first Californian to be vaccinated against COVID-19, last December.
Since then, more than 40.5 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state, which for weeks has seen one of the lowest rates of contamination in the country.
However, the restrictions have drawn heavy criticism, especially from Republican voters and merchants, who favor a faster reopening and accuse the Democratic governor of abuse of power. As a result of a petition by his opponents, a referendum should also be organized by the end of the year on the possibility of removing Gavin Newsom.
On Tuesday, the governor responded to California’s behavior as “a country guided by science, data, facts and hard evidence, not ideology.”
“Unfortunately, things have taken a very political turn in terms of mask-wearing and vaccination campaigns,” he added.
The fifth largest economy in the world alone, California produces roughly 15% of the US GDP, but accounts for about 38% of jobs created in April across the US.
“We are at the forefront of the recovery of the US economy, thanks to our health interventions,” the governor said.