Valley health experts say they're 'cautiously optimistic' as California reopens economy

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As California prepares to reopen on June 15, many residents in the Central Valley still have questions about their health and safety once a majority of COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Action News spoke to Dr. Kenny Banh, an emergency medicine physician at UCSF Fresno, and Valley Children's Hospital infectious disease consultant Dr. Karen Dahl to get some answers.

Both experts said they are 'cautiously optimistic' about the reopening. Local health officials, along with medical staff, are doing their best to get as many Central Valley residents vaccinated as possible.

California is on track to fully reopen its economy on June 15. That means bars, restaurants, concert venues, grocery stores and everything in between can open at full capacity - if they so choose. Fully vaccinated people will be allowed to do almost everything they were doing before the pandemic without needing to wear a mask - including grocery shopping, going to the gym, drinking at a bar, seeing a movie or going to church.

RELATED: Everything to know about California's June 15 reopening, from capacity limits to the mask mandate

Does that mean we can leave our masks at home? Dr. Dahl said that depends.

"It's going to look different for different families. If your entire family is older and vaccinated, you really do have the green light to go maskless. However, if you're one of those families that may have a child who is ineligible for a vaccine yet, that child is still at that same risk.... They should still wear a mask when they're mixing with other households," she said.

She said if you're in doubt, you should have a conversation with your doctor about what strategy to take.

The lifting of restrictions still holds more risk in Central California than in the rest of the state, primarily due to the relatively lower vaccination rates in this region. Around 37% of Fresno County residents have been fully vaccinated - the. highest in the Valley. Merced County is at 27%, Madera County at 34%, Mariposa County at 28%, Tulare County at 32% and Kings County has the lowest rate at 24%.

RELATED: California COVID-19 vaccine tracker

Dr. Banh said one reason for more vaccine hesitancy among Central Valley residents could be the larger population of migrants and Latino residents, who have historically been at the receiving end of what he called 'socially racist' policies. He said officials are now doing their best to reach out to and reassure these communities, and to combat misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

RELATED: Fresno County officials struggling to find people who want a COVID-19 vaccine dose

Anyone in Fresno County wanting to get registered or get someone registered to get a vaccine can call 1-888-559-2683 for help with the MyTurn system.

You can click here for more information on Dr. Banh and here for more information on Dr. Dahl.

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