No more tiers. Gavin Newsom signs order to officially end most COVID rules Tuesday

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It’s official: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Friday afternoon that will end California’s stay-at-home order and the county tier system on Tuesday.

Although it has been modified many times, the stay-at-home order Newsom issued March 19, 2020, served as the legal groundwork for California’s complex web of restrictions aimed at curbing spread of the coronavirus as infection rates ebbed and flowed over the last 15 months.

Its official end on Tuesday will mark a turning point for California life.

Starting that day, the state will no longer be subject to the color-coded tier system, which restricted economic activity based on the severity of disease spread in each county.

Those restrictions will be replaced with a new public health order on masking and mass events, Health and Human Service Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said during a call with reporters Friday afternoon.

There will still be some areas where everyone will be required to wear masks, including public transit, schools and prisons, but people will be able to ditch their masks in most settings under the loosened rules.

Despite the changes, Newsom says he will not end the COVID-19 state of emergency on June 15. State officials say that’s because ending the emergency would end all pandemic executive orders, including many that grant regulatory flexibility. Those include license waivers for businesses to let them produce hand sanitizer and for emergency medical technicians, who were in desperate demand during the darkest days of the pandemic.

Although California now has one of the lowest transmission rates in the country and a better vaccination rate than the nation as a whole, businesses still need time to transition back to normal. Ending the emergency order suddenly would be massively disruptive, Newsom’s Legal Affairs Secretary Ann Patterson said. Instead, those executive orders granting regulatory flexibility will be phased out gradually.

“We are scheduling this wind-down in a careful and methodical way” to give businesses time to transition back to normal, she said.

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