On June 15, the masks came off in California. Fully vaccinated Californians are no longer required to wear masks in many settings, but there are exceptions, including public transit; K-12 schools; health care settings and long term care facilities; and cooling centers. 

The tiered reopening system was also retired, along with the Stay-at-Home Order that went into effect in March 2020. Statewide capacity limits and physical distancing requirements were also relaxed. However, counties, cities and local businesses can still implement their own policies, and officials stress the reopening is for those who are vaccinated. 

Unvaccinated individuals must still wear masks in indoor public settings and businesses, including restaurants. It remains unclear whether workers will still be required to wear masks, but all workplaces must still follow rules set by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or CalOSHA. 

The pandemic isn’t over, but the new guidelines are being hailed as a major step towards a post-COVID world.

“California is turning the page on this pandemic, thanks to swift action by the state and the work of Californians who followed public health guidelines and got vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities,” said Governor Newsom. 

As we take this step forward, it’s important not to forget the sacrifices many have made to get us to this point, and the people we’ve lost during this tragic chapter of history. So far, there have been 615,053 COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S., and a staggering 3,819,138 deaths worldwide—a number that continues to grow. Here in the unincorporated Santa Monica Mountains, 13 residents have died of COVIID-19.

Recovering from a disaster of this magnitude is going to take time. Some of us may still be reluctant to travel, or go to events, or even take off that mask—not yet. For those who have lost loved ones or who are grappling with the aftereffects of the illness, the post-pandemic recovery may be especially challenging, but each day takes us a step closer to post-pandemic reality. We’ve come a long way already.

Summer officially begins on June 21, but the heat is already on. An official “excessive heat watch” warning was issued this week for the entire Southwest, from the coast to the Northern Rockies. Temperatures soared into the triple digits in Topanga this week, as the Santa Monica Mountains sweltered through the first major heatwave of the season. Roads, beaches and trails have all been packed this week, as Angelenos seek respite from the heat. 

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and other overloaded park units may benefit from President Biden’s proposed Fiscal 2022 budget, which calls for $3.5 billion for the National Park Service. The funding, a 12 percent increase from current levels, would enable the perpetually cash-strapped agency to hire more rangers, expand the park service’s science mission, and revive the Civilian Conservation Corps, creating jobs and helping to repair infrastructure. The park system has experienced a record number of visitors in recent years, but is struggling with an estimated $12 billion maintenance backlog.

Topanga residents can help with an important park maintenance project in our own backyard this weekend. On Saturday, June 19, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains is hosting a crayfish removal event in Topanga Creek. For more information, email outreach@rcdsmm.org

We are ready for summer here at TNT with our summer almanac detailing what to look for in the sky, in the mountains and at the coast this season. We also take a look at the real estate industry in Topanga and the impact the pandemic has had on it over the past year; meet Malibu master bladesmith Dane Skophammer; and reflect on the connection between health and diet with guest columnist Emeran Mayer. 

Speaking of the sky, don’t miss the full Strawberry moon on June 24! Canyon moonrises are always special, but this is the first full moon of Summer, and it’s a super moon, which means it’s at its closest approach to Earth and should appear even bigger and brighter than usual. A moonlit summer night in Topanga? Pure enchantment.

Stay safe, be well.