MONTEREY (KPIX) — With hours to go before California’s grand COVID reopening, major tourist towns like Monterey are already seeing a sharp rise in visitors ahead of the June 15 timeline.
At 12:01 a.m., Tuesday morning, the state will lift all capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements. Masks, however, will be left up to the discretion of the business itself for both employees and customers.READ MORE: Dixie Fire Update: Evacuation Orders Expanded to East Shore of Lake Almanor; Greenville Threatened
On Monday afternoon, tourists packed the sidewalks at the usual hotspots at Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Tomorrow, the aquarium will continue with its reservation system, admitting about 6,000 visitors or slightly less than 50% capacity. The volume of visitors will be ramped up steadily over the summer. Soon touch pools will be fully open and one-way paths will be removed.
Face coverings will still be required indoors, but visitors can remove their face covering while outside or while eating in the aquarium cafe.
“We know a lot of our visitors are families, which obviously includes small children, and they have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet. So we just want to make sure that — whether it’s a family with small children or adults — that everybody feels comfortable being inside,” said David Rosenberg, Vice President of Guest Experience at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Hotel bookings are strong for the summer. The region has added about 20 new restaurants and tasting rooms and Monterey Car Week is back this August, according to Rachel Dinbokowitz with the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau.READ MORE: UPDATE: Pentagon Confirms 'Several Casualties' After Attack on Police Officer
Much like other tourist-centric cities, demand for hospitality workers is also strong in Monterey.
“One of the things that we believed in is that travel is resilient. And no matter what, people would come back. We didn’t know when, we didn’t know the timeline, but we definitely saw at some point, there was going to be that bright light shining and a return to travel,” said Dinbokowitz.
At the Old Fisherman’s Grotto, the plexiglass dividers will be promptly removed starting tonight. The employees will continue to wear masks, according to CEO Chris Shake.
“I’m very optimistic. I think that we’re going to have, probably one of the best summers that we’ve experienced in a long time,” said Shake.
Pauline Gonzalez, who was visiting from Turlock, booked her family’s stay in Monterey not realizing the June 15 reopening would occur in the middle of their vacation.
After a year of struggling through the pandemic with a young child, Gonzalez said, “We deserve it.”MORE NEWS: COVID Surge: San Francisco Symphony Announces Updates To Safety Protocols
“God couldn’t have planned it better for me,” said Gonzalez.