Top state health official says Californians could return to normal activities by fall

Coronavirus

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGET) — California’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, weighed in on the plan to fully reopen the state June 15.

The discussion with the secretary of California’s Health and Human Services and other health experts was at an event hosted by the Sacramento Press Club. 

State leaders are confident in California’s ability to move past the virus, regardless of what’s happening in other countries. 

Ghaly said Friday the state is still poised for a full reopening in less than two months, regardless of the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

He said the state set the June 15 date aware of the issues with COVID-19 mutations in other parts of the nation and in other countries. While several variants have been found in California cases, state leaders are encouraged by the vaccine’s protection against them.

“So far, the variants we are concerned about have largely, almost entirely been responsive to the vaccine, which is the best news,” Ghaly explained. “To date, we don’t have a variant that completely escapes our vaccines.”

Speaking at Friday’s event, Ghaly explained what California could look like beyond the blueprint in October.

“Many of the things that we’ve missed we will be able to do again,” he said. “The big difference though is we will not likely have our youngest children vaccinated, so we’re going to still need to protect young people.”

But in a response panel with other health experts, COVID Action Group founder Yaneer Bar-Yam said California needs to stop being reactive to the virus instead of proactive. 

Bar-Yam has advocated for lockdowns to completely suppress the virus like other countries have, with continued vaccination and constant testing. 

“If we wait, we’re basically guaranteeing the disease will become endemic with cycling disease year after year,” he said.

As California moves away from restrictions, Ghaly said the state will continue to do high-level disease investigations for the foreseeable future.

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