The doors of the region’s businesses were fully open on June 15 for the first time in 15 months — and two Central Coast residents became millionaires — as California lifted nearly all of its COVID-19 restrictions.
The state appears to have the upper hand on the virus, with new cases down to around 1,000 per day since June began, from a peak of more than 40,000 new cases per day in December and January. And though more than 1,700 people in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have died of COVID-19, there have been only a handful of deaths in the tri-county region since April began.
By June 14, 47.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been delivered into the arms of Californians, enough to fully vaccinate 55.6% of the state’s 12-and-older population and partially vaccinate another 10.8%. Those figures place California near the top of the nation’s largest states.
On June 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom was at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, where he announced the end of the state’s color-coded reopening matrix, and with it the end of capacity limits and requirements for masks and physical distancing in most settings, at least for vaccinated Californians. Masks are still required in health care settings, on public transportation, indoors at schools, and — for now — in indoor workplaces. But Newsom has said he will sign an executive order in the coming days that will immediately repeal the workplace mask rule.
Newsom also drew the names of 10 winners of the $1.5 million grand prizes in the state’s vaccine lottery. State officials credit the lottery with a recent improvement in California’s weekly vaccination totals, including a wave of first doses in communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
The 10 grand prize winners include one person from Santa Barbara County and one from Ventura County. The winners will be notified over the next several days, and they will have the option to remain anonymous or have their names released.
The end of masks and distancing will come gradually, if the reaction on June 15 in downtown Santa Barbara was any indication. Many businesses kept their “masks required” signs up — private businesses are free to require masks or vaccinations in California — and customers indoors were split fairly evenly between the masked and unmasked.