By Matthew Rodriguez

Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor

Pasadena officials are optimistic for economic recovery as California plans to fully reopen on June 15.

“Pasadena should be able to recover as well as anyone because our economy is so diverse,” said Chamber of Commerce President Paul Little.

“We aren’t dependent on a single industry to keep us going. We have a diverse group of industries that make up our economy. By and large, we should be able to recover as well as anyone else.”

The state plans to fully reopen on June 15, over a year after the lockdowns started — ditching the capacity constraints or requirements on social distancing for many businesses and allowing fully vaccinated people to no longer wear masks in most situations. Pasadena will follow suit and align with the state requirements.

However, even as California reports some of the lowest community transmission in the country, out of an abundance of caution, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state of emergency order will remain in place past June 15. Newsom and health officials have used the emergency order to weild power to impose temporary rules and restrictions throughout the pandemic.

“We are still in a state of emergency,” said Newsom. “This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished. It’s not taking the summer months off.”

The news comes as California reports record lows in COVID-19 case rate and transmission since the beginning of the pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California has the third-lowest community coronavirus transmission rate in the country with a seven-day case rate of 11 per 100,000 people. In comparison, the next three most populous states had much higher case rates with New York at 20.7, Texas at 27.6 and Florida at 63.6.

Pasadena continues to report record lows, reporting only one new case of COVID-19 and 0 deaths on June 7. Pasadena has also vaccinated 82.8% of residents — about 101,000 — with at least one dose.

Assuming the state will not impose new rules and restrictions after June 15, California will withdraw with its colored tier system, which has gauged the reopening status of regions throughout the pandemic.

Experts such as Jerry Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson quarterly forecast, are also optimistic for California’s economy to rebound. According to Nickelsburg, “high human contact sectors,” such as administrative services, retail trade, leisure and hospitality — which were part of the sectors that accounted for 77% of the state’s job losses — are recording the highest job gains as of April 2021. He also expects many more jobs will return after the reopening on June 15.

“Those are sectors that are beginning to return,” said Nickelsburg in a briefing on June 2. “Again, this is back in early April, and we’ve had a lot more opening up since then.”

Despite the bullish economic forecasts, Little believes that the Pasadena economy will initially slowly recover as businesses and customers navigate the new social landscape.

“I think people are going to be very careful,” Little said.

“It’s going to be on the customers feeling comfortable coming back (as much) as it is on what the merchants can do to make sure that their environment is safe and clean and healthy.”

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health or Cal/OSHA proposed new rules for workplace safety allowing employees who are fully vaccinated to remove their masks when working outdoors.

However, if an employee is working indoors then they must wear a mask, unless everyone in the room is fully vaccinated and does not exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. Pending administrative approval, the new rules should go into effect on June 15.

This rule does not apply to customers unless a private business requires customers to wear masks.

Customers and restaurants will still have the option to dine and drink outside even as the new rules are instituted. Restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries can continue to serve alcohol in temporary al fresco dining areas until the end of the year. Newsom also urged local officials to work with businesses to continue outdoor dining programs as he pushes for state legislation to ease zoning laws.

As the path to pre-pandemic normalcy seems to be paved, Little is cautiously optimistic about the future.

“I think there’s certainly reason to be more optimistic,” he said. “We’re just going to have to watch how everything unfolds.”