U.S. states ease virus restrictions even as variants take hold

The closures prompted strident protests, lawsuits and even a movement to recall Newsom, a Democrat who many believe wants to run for president. Now, those businesses will be able to reopen, subject to capacity limits and other rules. The state made the call after seeing declines in new case loads and hospitalizations.

“Today, we can start to see some real light at the end of the tunnel as it relates to case numbers,” Newsom said at a news conference.

The trajectory of COVID-19 in California, which imposed strict public-health restrictions early but continued to see rising infections, has long baffled experts. Those types of “abstinence-only” measures may have driven people to gather privately, spreading the virus, said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an infectious diseases physician.

“People are frustrated with the orders in California. I think they need to recalibrate how they’re doing this,” he said. “Anyone who has been following this pandemic should not have this misconception that lifting the stay-at-home order means the virus is over.”