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Gavin Newsom: Things are going so well in California we plan to fully reopen -- in two and a half months

I’m torn about this. Watch first, as it’s short, then read on.

On the one hand, having Governor Lockdown specify a date for lifting all restrictions in America’s biggest state feels like a semi-official end to the pandemic. Right, right, it’s all contingent: We have to keep wearing masks and taking precautions, says Newsom, and we need to keep up the rapid pace of vaccinations. But if all goes well, three-quarters of the state’s population could be partially immunized in a matter of weeks. Businesses will begin to reopen. Flowers will bloom.

He’s giving an actual concrete timeline for a return to “business as usual” here, a rarity for any politician but an especially noteworthy one in a state as prominent as California. I almost can’t cope with the optimism after 13 months of doomsaying from the governing class. I mean, just look at this tweet from the state health department of one of America’s most liberal jurisdictions. Seeing this sort of hopefulness from a public health bureaucracy, of all things, about returning to normal jars me to my bones:

And yet. June 15 is nearly two and a half months away, which seems a long time in the abstract and a really long time given the current state of the pandemic in California. Do you have any idea how well the state is doing right now, let alone how well it might be doing after another two and a half months of vaccinations? Have a look:

That’s a positivity rate of 1.0 percent. I wonder if there’s another jurisdiction on Earth with 40 million people where the virus has been prevalent that’s down to one percent. The only one I can think of is the UK, which, like California, has also been locked down for months and has been vaccinating at a breakneck pace.

Yesterday California had only the fifth-most cases in the U.S. despite having the largest population by a wide margin. Its numbers right now are on par with those of Massachusetts despite having more than five times as many people. Can a state in that condition really not safely reopen any sooner than … June 15? I appreciate Newsom not wanting to risk one last wave before herd immunity, but two and a half months is a meaningful fraction of the pandemic. And as it happens, although some states are seeing cases rise right now, hardly any are experiencing a dramatic spike indicating the arrival of a full-blown wave.

Although … there is one:

Things are now so dire in Michigan that daily case counts are approaching their winter peak, among the worst numbers of the entire pandemic. Yesterday Michigan, a state of 10 million people, had many more cases than California, Florida, or Texas did, and more than California and Illinois combined. The only silver lining is that deaths are rising much more slowly than cases, probably because senior citizens have been vaccinated at disproportionately high rates. More people under 60 than over 60 are hospitalized in Michigan right now, in fact. For the moment, it’s more of a “casedemic” than a true epidemic. But we’ll see how it looks in two weeks.

You would think Gretchen Whitmer would be springing into action to issue new restrictions given her penchant for lockdowns earlier in the pandemic. But no, she’s hanging in there with the status quo, saying today that “It is not a policy problem that we have. It is a compliance problem that we have. It is a mobility issue that we’re confronting. It is fatigue that we’re confronting. And it’s variants.” She’s gone from being one of the most infamous hard-asses among Democratic governors in issuing limits on businesses to a Kristi-Noem-ish “stay open at all costs” disciple. Weird.

I’ll leave you with Biden announcing this afternoon that by April 19 all American adults will be eligible for vaccination in their home state regardless of age. That’s another case of him setting the bar low to make it easy to clear, as most states have either already moved to full eligibility or announced near-term dates to do so.