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By Shawn Raymundo and Lillian Boyd

In mid-March of 2020, a statewide order for Californians to stay at home was met with anxiety and angst. Coronavirus cases were on the rise, and to curb the spread, non-essential businesses were told to lock up and residents to limit trips outside the home.

Since that time, California’s businesses and its roughly 40 million residents were faced with a continued sense of uncertainty, enduring pandemic-related restrictions that continued to evolve and shift based on COVID-19 metrics.

Fifteen months later, those fears have turned into jubilation, as the state on Tuesday, June 15, lifted its restrictions, allowing businesses to operate at full capacity without social distancing requirements, and for fully vaccinated residents to ditch the face masks even indoors.

The long-awaited reopening date came as the spread of transmission continues to fall and more Californians receive available vaccines. As of Tuesday, 55.6% of California’s population had been fully vaccinated, according to the state.

Speaking from the entrance of Universal Studios Hollywood on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared, “We’re finally here.” He added, however, that the day shouldn’t be considered as “mission accomplished,” nor does it represent the state spiking the football.

“It’s been a tough year for all of us, a tough 15 months for all of us, all the fear and anxiety that we’ve all had to work through—and I’m mindful of that stress still upon so many of you,” Newsom said. “I recognize the incredible burden that’s been placed on you over the last year, but I want folks to know that the state has your back as we come back.”

Newsom boasted about the state’s metrics, noting that California has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation and one of the lowest case rates. He attributed those accomplishments to the state’s observance of data and science, and “not ideology.”

Though celebrating the efforts to lead in those categories, Newsom stressed that there’s still more work to do in getting residents to take the vaccine and to address the COVID variants.

“We do need to keep our guard up; we can’t let our guard down,” he said, in front of a podium that said, “California Roars Back.”

Vickie McMurchie, the executive director of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, says the community is elated to welcome loosened modifications and get back to business as normal.

She says the Chamber is encouraging each business owner to do what they and their staff feel most comfortable with and making sure that their expectations of patrons are clearly indicated before someone even walks in their doors, to ensure there’s no confusion.

Coffee Importers owner Jim Miller says visitors have been coming to the Dana Point Harbor en masse amid the state’s reopening and summer vacation kicking off. Photo: Lillian Boyd

“We encourage the public to remember that everyone’s situations are different, and some businesses may still ask for patrons to wear masks or remain distanced—we should all do what we can to support these small businesses and ensure that they can keep their doors open in whatever way they feel is best for them and their staff, and keep their small business dreams alive and thriving,” McMurchie said.

The No. 1 question the Chamber is facing from most of the Dana Point business sectors is how to attract more applicants and staff up for the reopening.

“Our restaurants, retailers and tourism industry are experiencing a strong bounce back, but the inability to be fully staffed is making this re-entry to ‘normal’ very challenging,” McMurchie said.

On June 11, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board) published its latest set of proposed revisions to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (Revised ETS). The Standards Board will vote on the Revised ETS at its June 17 Standards Board meeting. The proposed regulation will then be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for approval.  Once approved, the Revised ETS will take effect for California employers no later than June 28.

“The last-minute CalOSHA changes to modifications have made things a bit challenging as far as employers providing info to their staffs about having to be masked,” McMurchie added. “I do think everyone is beyond ready to show their faces, but admittedly, it does take some getting used to after the last 16 months we just had.”

Newsom on Monday, June 14, said the state will be consistent with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allowing fully vaccinated staff to work without masks.

“Our small businesses have faced unprecedented challenges over the past year. They supported us throughout the pandemic, and now it’s our turn to support them,” McMurchie said. “Let’s celebrate our state’s reopening with a visit to your favorite Dana Point business and enjoy some maskless smiles and maybe even a hug of gratitude.”

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