A Memorial Day filled with freedom awaits California as COVID-19 slowly recedes

Josue Torres

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With Memorial Day coming, many Californians are rejoicing in their newfound freedom, as success in the battle against the coronavirus has allowed large areas of the state to reopen.

Last year, California was in a similar situation, and for many, the pull of newly reopened shops and restaurants, as well as the enticing routine of backyard barbecues, proved too delectable to ignore after weeks of living under the state’s stringent stay-at-home guidelines.

That fateful holiday weekend helped sow the seeds for what would eventually become the state’s summertime surge, when infections, COVID-19 hospitalizations, and deaths reached previously unheard-of levels, prompting officials to reimpose sweeping restrictions in the hopes of slowing the pandemic’s spread.

This year, though, the coming of the long weekend is eliciting a different emotion, one of positive meditation and recognition of how California is now forging a more positive route.

Those who have long been involved in the fight against COVID-19 are aware of the transformation.

“We’re all so glad that this Memorial Day will look so different from last Memorial Day, and it’s a relief for so many of us that we’ll be able to gather with family and friends again,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Thursday.

But that optimism is tempered by a note of caution, and authorities advise Californians to continue taking common-sense precautions to safeguard themselves, their friends, and their loved ones.

“This disease has not gone away,” declared Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. “It’s not taking Memorial Day weekend off.”

In many parts of the state, though, this holiday will be the first in a long time that seems to be near to pre-pandemic normal.

Beaches and hiking routes are now available. Crowds may return to the state’s amusement parks or dine inside an air-conditioned restaurant. Thousands of baseball fans have returned to Dodger and Angel stadiums.

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Fifteen of California’s 58 counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, and Santa Clara, are in the state’s most liberal yellow category, which enables many enterprises to operate inside with few changes.

Thirty-five additional counties are in the orange tier, which permits a wide variety of industries to expand.

The state’s most stringent restrictions on private meetings have also been eased, however, authorities emphasize that outdoor settings are still safer than interior settings and that people who have not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19 should take care.

“I know for many it will be a relief to be able to gather together with other families and friends to honor those who’ve passed in their service to us, and also to again enjoy time over the long holiday weekend,” Ferrer added.

The most significant change between this year and the previous is certainly the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, which are demonstrating enormous effectiveness not just in preventing the disease’s severe clinical effects, but also in preventing coronavirus transmission.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over two-thirds of all eligible Californians — those over the age of 12 — have gotten at least one dosage.

While just 49.5 percent of that cohort is completely vaccinated, having such a significant portion of the entire population even partly protected implies the state is pretty well prepared for the likelihood of another coronavirus rise.

According to the California Department of Public Health, just 4,270 post-vaccination coronavirus cases were documented statewide between January 1 and May 12, accounting for roughly.03 percent of the more than 14.8 million people who had been completely vaccinated as of that date.

As of Monday, the CDC has received reports of 2,298 instances of fully vaccinated people being hospitalized with a coronavirus-related illness, as well as 439 fatalities. 

According to federal health experts, 23 percent of hospitalizations and 16 percent of deaths were “reported as asymptomatic or unrelated to COVID-19.”

As of early this week, more than 130 million Americans had been properly immunized.

Many authorities and academics applaud California’s vaccination deployment for aiding in the fight against COVID-19.

According to statistics, an average of 1,655 new coronavirus cases have been recorded every day over the previous week, and CDC records indicate California continues to have the lowest incidence of any state.

The state’s hospital system, which was previously inundated with patients, is currently caring for fewer coronavirus-positive persons than at any time throughout the epidemic.

And, with so many Californians at least partly immunized, there is increasing optimism that the state will avoid another surge like the one that occurred last summer, and again in the autumn and winter.

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Despite this success, California’s vaccination rate has declined, with the average number of doses provided statewide falling from over 400,000 per day to closer to 200,000.

In an effort to reverse this trend, Newsom unveiled a $116.5 million vaccination incentive program dubbed “Vax for the Win” on Thursday.

“We’re starting to see a decline in the total number of doses administered on a weekly basis — not as precipitous as some other states, but we are mindful that if we continue down this path and this trend, we’re not going to get where all of us need to be,” he added.

As part of that endeavor, all California residents who have received at least one vaccination dosage will be automatically placed into a series of lotteries in June for a chance to win one of ten $1.5 million prizes or one of thirty $50,000 rewards.

The next 2 million individuals who begin their COVID-19 immunization series on Thursday and get all of the needed doses will be eligible for a $50 prepaid gift card or a $50 supermarket card.

Memorial Day may eventually serve as a prelude to an even busier summer vacation season.

California expects to completely reopen on June 15, easing the coronavirus-related capacity limitations and physical distancing requirements for attendance, customers, and visitors at practically all companies and other institutions, and enabling fully vaccinated persons to go without masks in most scenarios.

Road excursions for Father’s Day? Fireworks displays on July 4th? All of this is on the table, as long as the state continues to go on the correct path.

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