Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

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Reopening day in California.

Jonathan Wolfe

June 15, 2021


Members of the San Francisco Boys Chorus gathered to welcome people to the re-opened state of California.
Credit...Jim Wilson/The New York Times

California, the first state to impose a lockdown in the U.S. after the outbreak, lifted most of its Covid restrictions and officially reopened today — one of the last states to do so.

While some restrictions have already been relaxed, and others will remain in place, the formal reopening of the country’s most populous state is yet another sign of the pandemic’s retreat in the U.S. and the nation’s turn toward recovery.

California recorded 63,000 virus deaths during the pandemic, more than any other state because of the size of its population. Restrictions were put in place early on, but it was not until an intensive vaccine rollout that the state managed to turn the corner: California now has one of the country’s highest vaccination rates (72 percent of adults) and lowest positivity rates.

The relaxation of rules allow for the return of large indoor events like N.B.A. games and concerts, which will require a negative coronavirus test or proof of vaccination for entry. Masks will continue to be required in crowded and high-risk areas — hospitals, long-term-care facilities, public transit, prisons, homeless shelters. But otherwise, the state generally will not require masks for people who have been vaccinated, and enforcement will largely be on the honor system.


Credit...Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Within 20 minutes of opening today, Portal, a popular brunch spot in Oakland, Calif., had already seated eight tables: Turnout was more than 40 percent better than on a typical day over the past year.

“Californians are anxious to get out and enjoy themselves again,” the owner, Kevyn Johnston, said. “We’re already seeing people that we haven’t seen in a long time.”

Not everyone, however, was ready to dive in. In Lafayette, Francis Wong was buying a box of sugar and maple doughnuts at Johnny’s Donuts, and he still wore his mask inside.

“I feel very good about this — I’m relieved, but not really relaxed yet,” Wong told The San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s a good day, but we’re all going to have to get used to this. I think a lot of people are still going to be careful.”


Credit...Alexandra Hootnick for The New York Times

My colleague Jill Cowan, who writes the California Today newsletter, spent a muggy morning taking in the reopening vibe in Los Angeles.

“It was pretty chill, and sort of tentative,” she said, noting that a lot of people were still wearing masks. “It seems like people — at least in L.A. — didn’t take the big milestone as a green light to go totally back to normal.”

That may change tonight, Jill said, as people fill bars and restaurants, or attend the evening’s Dodgers game. Despite the caution, she did notice a shift in the mood of Californians she spoke with today. “People seem lighter, more hopeful,” she said.

New York lifts restrictions too. The state lifted nearly all virus restrictions on businesses and social gatherings after 70 percent of the state’s adults have gotten at least one shot.

The largest study to date of long-term Covid symptoms tracked the health insurance records of almost two million coronavirus patients in the U.S. and found that one month or more after their infection, almost one-quarter sought medical treatment for new conditions. Even those who had a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid reported new health issues.

The most common new health problem reported was pain, including in nerves and muscles, along with breathing difficulties; high cholesterol; malaise and fatigue; and high blood pressure. Experts say the new report shows that having the disease long term can affect nearly every organ system.

Covid has also put a spotlight on parosmia, a distortion of the senses of smell and taste, which some patients continue to report months or even a year after they were initially infected.

The leading opinion among scientists is that the condition, which can make meat taste putrid or coffee smell like gasoline, is caused by damaged cells in the neurons of olfactory nerves. Some scientists describe it like a damaged piano, with wires missing or connected to the wrong notes, emitting a discordant sound.

A host of research has sprung up on Covid-linked parosmia, and while many people have reported improvement, others have turned to support groups or smell training to try to correct their sense of smell.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

I just returned from the local general store where I shopped without a mask for the first time in over a year. The young man at the register was without a mask, too, and when our eyes met we broke into big smiles. Vermont reached a milestone as the first state in the country to administer at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 80 percent of our eligible population, and all pandemic restrictions have been dropped. I’ll still wear a mask when I need to, but today feels like Victory Day in Vermont. After living in fear for so long, it feels really, really good.

— Mary Riordan, Norwich

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Lance Booth was the photo editor for today’s newsletter.

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