Tuesday kicked off the next phase in the return to normalcy in California with new state and county guidelines in effect, relaxing social distancing restrictions and mask requirements.
The California Department of Public Health's "Beyond the Blueprint" framework allows most businesses like restaurants, theaters, wineries, breweries and shopping malls to resume regular operations without requiring masks for people who are vaccinated, physical distancing or capacity limitations.
Mega events are one of the exceptions to these new rules, which are characterized by large crowds greater than 5,000 (indoors) and 10,000 (outdoors).
In alignment with the state, Alameda County has also rescinded its shelter-in-place order and shed its mask mandate for those who are vaccinated. However, it is still suggested to wear masks even if fully vaccinated in certain settings, including while taking public transit, at healthcare facilities, correctional facilities and homeless shelters as well as childcare facilities and other settings that serve youth.
As of Tuesday afternoon, many people throughout the Tri-Valley were still wearing masks in communal settings -- like exercising at 24 Hour Fitness in Pleasanton or out shopping and dining in populated areas such as downtown Livermore, the San Francisco Premium Outlets, Hacienda Crossings and the Fallon Gateway shopping center.
"It's still kind of early, but the response right now is that everybody's just really excited," said Rachael Snedecor, executive director of Livermore Downtown, Inc. (LDI). She added, "We're thrilled that people now have more of a choice to either wear the mask or don't. I think our hope is just to make sure everybody's kind and doesn't judge either way."
In an effort to promote kindness and respect during this transition phase, LDI partnered with city leaders and educators to launch the #LivermoreKindness campaign, which features posters designed by Livermore High School students reminding community members to be kind to one another.
"Promoting kindness as we transition out of the most painful period in modern American history helps us refocus and reset priorities to create a stronger community going forward," Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Dawn Argula said in a statement. The posters were distributed around downtown businesses and public kiosks Tuesday.
Each downtown Livermore business has its own protocols in place but workplaces that are governed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) are still required to follow the agency's standards, which include continuing to enforce mask requirements for employees. Snedecor said many downtown businesses are waiting for guidance directly from Cal/OSHA and recommendations from the city before making changes to their current policies.
A similar approach is being taken in downtown Pleasanton.
"June 15 is an exhilarating day for business in Pleasanton," said Zac Grant, the new executive director of the Pleasanton Downtown Association. "Our downtown shopkeepers and restaurateurs are overjoyed to welcome their customers’ smiling faces. Later this week, we anticipate further news that may allow vaccinated restaurant and retail employees to join customers in the return to normalcy."
Grant also noted that although most businesses are excited to allow guests back without masks, some work spaces and shops may require continued masking to protect vulnerable guests or employees. "Everyone has experienced painful losses over the past year, so let’s respect each other when appropriate until all of us are ready to celebrate again," he said.
Representatives of Simon Property Group, which owns and operates the outlets in Livermore, told the Weekly that for now, they will continue to require their employees, retailer employees and shoppers to wear masks, as well as provide free face coverings upon request.
With the new, relaxed rules in effect, several local retail employees said they expect businesses throughout the Tri-Valley and the entire state to see an influx of visitors over the weekend.