Ahead of the state’s reopening on June 15, San Mateo County officials say they fully intend to align with state safety precautions and will not intervene in discussions around health guidelines between employers, employees and clients.

“We’re going to be following the state as we have been in the past,” County Manager Mike Callagy said during a press briefing Wednesday, June 9.

Come June 15, when the state is slated to lift its Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening system, Callagy said no additional orders will come from the county. Residents will be expected to follow state masking guidelines that will align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Updated CDC guidance released May 16 permits vaccinated individuals to go maskless indoors and outside two weeks after completing the vaccination series unless otherwise required by a government agency, local business or workplace. Unvaccinated individuals should continue masking any time social distancing cannot be maintained.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board withdrew a controversial mask regulation late Wednesday. The revised rule would have allowed workers to forego masks only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That contrasts with the state’s broader plan to do away with virtually all masking requirements for vaccinated people. Withdrawing that worksite rule allows the board to consider changes at its June 17 meeting and potentially have them go into effect by month’s end.

As for retailers and establishments, Callagy said the county would also leave rule setting responsibilities up to business owners on whether to require masks, social distancing and other safety measures for all guests.

“It’s going to be totally up to the individual owners as to what they do in regard to the customers that come into their businesses. We will not get involved with that,” Callagy said.

Reflecting on the past nearly year and a half of the pandemic, Callagy noted the county has come a long way in slowing the spread of the virus. COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped to the single digits after hospitals saw more than 200 patients a day during the winter spike.

And vaccinations have far surpassed COVID-19 infections with 553,775 residents ages 12 and older having received at least one dose compared to the 42,176 residents who have fallen ill since the start of the pandemic.

Now the county is preparing for vaccinations of children under the age of 12 as Pfizer Inc. seeks federal emergency use approval by the fall. Callagy said officials will largely look to pediatricians to vaccinate younger residents, as they are a trusted source for parents. However, resources could be deployed to schools or special events if necessary.

He similarly praised the work of various departments and agencies in responding to the crisis. Nearly $64 million in grants has been provided to residents for small business support, rent relief and child care and technical assistance.

“We are on our way to recovery and that’s the good news. We are a stronger community, we are a strong county for having gone through this together and we are poised now to face any type of crisis with the knowledge we have gained and the collaboration we have forged throughout these last 15 months,” Callagy said.

Despite improving health conditions, Callagy noted many social and economic issues exacerbated by the pandemic will require sustained attention. Work conditions in many industries have yet to improve, making food insecurity a prevalent need.

The county is also preparing for the official end of the Great Plates Program, a state initiative to provide three fresh meals a day to seniors. Following July 8, the county will facilitate a soft ending to the program while developing a more focused approach to offering meals to seniors, Callagy said.

The rent debt cliff is also top of mind for officials, he said. The Board of Supervisors unanimously supported sending a letter to California leaders calling on them to extend the current eviction moratorium set to expire by the end of June.

Callagy said the extension would allow the county more time to connect residents struggling with mounting rent debt to a $47 million state funded rent relief program. To date, $27.5 million has been requested with $2.27 million having been expended and an additional $8.96 million pending approval.

“Our work, and I mean all of us out there, is truly far from over,” Callagy said. “We will continue to sprint through the finish line until COVID-19 does not exist in this county.”

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