The announced relaxation of Covid-19 guidelines across California on Friday is likely to mark the start of a much broader reopening.

For weeks, Governor Gavin Newsom has been reminding residents that the state has linked the easing of restrictions to the equity of vaccines. That is, the sooner the most underserved communities in the state are vaccinated, the sooner authorities will allow everyone else to relax restrictions.

Weeks ago, the governor ordered 40% of the state’s vaccine supply to go to underserved communities. He also set two key thresholds that would trigger a broader reopening: first, if vaccinations in the lowest economic quartile hit 2 million, and second, if the same population receives 4 million doses. California exceeded 2 million vaccinations in this quartile on March 12. Only 3 weeks later, the state is on the verge of crossing the 4 million threshold.

California reopens concerts, sports venues and theaters on April 15th

Newsom told San Diego officials Friday that it was expecting “four million next week”. As he spoke, the state reported 3,730,000 vaccinations in the lowest economic quartile of residents. See table below. Given that the number of vaccinations given to this group has exceeded 100,000 in the past 24 hours, it is certain that the state will soon exceed four million.

via state of CA

So what will happen at 4 million? For one, counties will find it much easier to go through the state’s color-coded reopening stages. Los Angeles County, for example, is on the state’s Orange tier. Currently, the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants would have to fall below 1 in order to bring the district to the yellow level. LA currently has an adjusted case rate of 3.1 per 100,000. Orange County is 2.9 per 100,000. However, once the number of vaccinations with the lowest economic quartile reaches 4 million, the threshold for yellow will be 2 new cases per 100,000 population. See table below. Both Orange and LA counties have a chance of hitting that number next week.


Graphic with revised CA vaccine levels after 4M vaccinations in the lowest economic quartile
via state of CA

Getting into the yellow tier doesn’t mean much for cinemas that would have 50% capacity. But it would allow theme parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Magic Mountain to increase capacity by another 10% to a total of 35%. Parks could also increase the number of indoor restaurants to 50% and sell tickets at the gate.

The yellow tier could also have advantages for larger concert, sports and theater venues. While the capacity is limited to 10% or 2,000 people, it increases to 50% if all guests are tested or provide evidence of full vaccination.

And what is beyond the yellow step?

“Ultimately [we’ll be] Reaching a green level that we’ll talk about a lot more next week, ”Newsom said on Friday.