In a major advancement in the state’s COVID-19 economic recovery, California health officials announced changes today that will allow a resumption of indoor activities such as concerts, conferences and theater performances—and a return of fans to indoor sporting events.
The rules, however, include strict capacity mandates based on counties’ tier placement within the state’s economic-reopening blueprint, along with requirements for attendees to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests.
The new rules will take effect April 15—subject to the approval of local health authorities, who are permitted in each county to impose stricter regulations than the state allows.
“Today’s update to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy is a result of the progress we are making both in vaccinations and in controlling the spread of COVID-19,” according to a statement from Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary. “By following public health guidelines such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated when eligible, we can resume additional activities as we take steps to reduce risk.”
Officials from several industry groups released a statement Friday saying the new regulations do nothing to help conventions plan for events further out later this year or into 2022. The state is losing critical business to other states that have devised more concrete plans for reopening, Barb Newton, president and CEO of the California Travel Association, said in a written statement.
“Every month that goes by is billions in lost revenue and jobs,” Newton said.
She added: “It’s very frustrating that we have no guidelines, but other large indoor spaces like malls and retailers are open for business and operating safely with approved modifications.”
According to the state’s new guidelines for private events such as receptions or conferences:
- Counties in the most restrictive purple tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy can permit outdoor gatherings up to 25 people, or up to 100 people if all attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
- In the red tier, the outdoor gatherings can be 50 people or up to 200 with vaccination/testing proof, while indoor gatherings of up to 100 people are permitted with vaccination/testing proof.
- In the orange tier—which includes Long Beach and Los Angeles County—outdoor gatherings can be 100 people or up to 300 with vaccination/testing, while indoor activities are permitted for 150 people with vaccination/testing.
- In the yellow tier, outdoor gatherings are allowed up to 200 people, or 400 with vaccination/testing, and indoor events allowed up to 200 people, with vaccination/testing of all attendees.
For indoor live events and performances, which state officials said includes sports arenas, theaters and other event venues, such events are banned in counties in the restrictive purple tier, but permitted in other tiers, with varying capacities, advance ticket purchases, physical distancing, designated eating/drinking areas and in-state guests only.
For venues with a capacity of up to 1,500 people:
- In the red tier, capacity is limited to 10% or 100 people, and capacity increases to 25% if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination;
- In the orange tier, capacity is limited to 15% or 200 people, increasing to 35% if all guests are tested or vaccinated; and
- In the yellow tier, capacity is limited to 25% or 300 people, increasing to 50% with testing/vaccination of all guests.
For venues with capacity of 1,501 or higher:
- In the red tier, capacity is limited to 20% with testing or vaccination proof required for all guests;
- In the orange tier, capacity is limited to 10% or 2,000 people, increasing to 35% if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination; and
- In the yellow tier, capacity is limited to 10% or 2,000 people, increasing to 50% if all guests are tested or vaccinated.
The state guidance also includes provisions that would allow venues to have designated sections of spectators who have all been vaccinated and who could be seated without need for physical distancing.
Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County’s health officer, said the county will need to review the full details of the state’s guidelines. He said the county in general tries to align with the state’s guidance, but officials will review the specifics and “try to figure out what makes the most sense for us” locally to determine if any adjustments need to be made.
“We still have to see all the details,” Davis said.
The Los Angeles Lakers issued a statement late Friday, saying the team is “incredibly excited that the state of California announced guidelines today that will allow Lakers fans to return to Staples Center.”
“Now that we have the guidance, we will work with LA County Public Health and Staples Center to finalize our plans to have fans safely attend our games starting with the Lakers vs. Celtics game on April 15,” according to the team.
The Clippers posted a short message on the team’s Twitter page saying, “Can’t wait to see you, #ClipperNation.”
The message included a photo saying limited tickets will be available for home games starting April 18.