As state reopens, city officials say they have no plans for new COVID-19 restrictions

Mayor Robert Garcia delivered what is expected to be his last formal COVID-19 media briefing Tuesday afternoon as the city transitions into the recovery phase of the pandemic, with most of the state’s pandemic restrictions being lifted Tuesday.

Garcia delivered his comments maskless and in front of City Hall, which has largely been closed to the public since March 2020.

The City Council will meet in person Tuesday night for the first time since March 17, 2020. The public is expected to be allowed to attend in person meetings starting July 6, the next scheduled meeting of the council.

The city’s focus will now be on contact tracing and continuing to get more people vaccinated, Garcia said, noting that Long Beach is just 3% short of reaching the goal of 70% by July 4 set by President Joe Biden.

“We know that the pandemic is still with us but we’re embarking on what’s going to be an absolutely new normal,” Garcia said. “A new way of moving forward, of being closer together, not having capacities in restaurants or retail spaces and of vaccinated folks being able to be unmasked.”

Tuesday is the first day that California abandoned its tiers for reopening, meaning that fully vaccinated persons no longer have to wear masks in most instances, indoor or outdoor, and businesses can welcome customers without social distancing or capacity restrictions.

Long Beach is aligning its new guidelines with the recently released state guidance that still require masks to be worn by everyone while using public transit, living in congregate settings, while indoors at school or childcare centers and at hospitals or other medical facilities.

Mega events like outdoor events with 10,000 or more people, and indoor events with 5,000 or more have their own rules. The state is recommending that mega events check vaccination status or require proof of a negative COVID-19 test, while indoor events must require proof of a negative COVID-19 test or verify attendees’ vaccination status.

Rules for workplaces are expected to be announced in the coming days after the state occupational safety board, known as Cal/OSHA, finalizes its new rules, which it has been sorting through for weeks.

Long Beach officials said they have not determined what markers could necessitate a move back to restrictions if COVID-19 cases begin to surge.

Kelly Colopy, the city’s director of Health and Human Services, said that the city now has the capacity to contact trace and test residents at a level that she hopes the city will be able to contain any outbreaks to small events but added that the city doesn’t have plan developed for what might require restrictions to be reintroduced.

“At this time, we don’t have markers for that process,” Colopy said.

Colopy urged residents who are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 to get tested, even if they’ve been vaccinated, to help ensure that they’re not spreading the virus to others and to sign up for the state’s system that can notify users if they’ve been in close contact with an infected person.

“While today we reflect on this progress we’ve made these past 15 months and celebrate the resumption of normal everyday activities, we must continue to do our part so we can continue moving forward,” Colopy said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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