Long Beach issued a new health order effective today, Tuesday, March 22, that no longer requires bars and other drinking establishments to check the vaccination status of patrons.

The city also said it will align with the state and Los Angeles County in doing away with a requirement that organizers of indoor “mega” events require vaccine verification or proof of negative COVID-19 test results before allowing people to enter.

That new order for indoor events of more than 1,000 people will go into effect April 1, which will free organizers of the city’s largest event, the Acura Grand Prix, from having to set up a system to check test results or vaccine status for its Lifestyle Expo in the Long Beach Convention Center. The Grand Prix is slated to take place April 8-10.

The new order will also affect a slew of indoor sporting events and concerts.

Health officials are still urging organizers of events, bar patrons and attendees of events to use caution and wear a mask in crowded situations and to get vaccinated, especially as a new variant of the COVID-19 virus is causing a spike in cases across Europe and other regions.

Long Beach noted in the new health order that case rates have plummeted since the winter, when the omicron variant caused record-high cases of the virus.

As of March 18, the city’s seven-day average case rate was 2.5 cases per 100,000 people, far lower than the 474 cases per 100,000 people reported on Jan. 10.

Earlier this month, as of March 1, Long Beach and other agencies had already lifted masking and vaccine requirements on establishments that serve food.

However, “the risk of COVID-19 infection for those who are not or cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to remain high,” the city’s new health order said. “Outbreaks continue to have negative consequences for businesses and institutions.”

County health officials said Monday that the new BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 is slowly beginning to expand locally, and will likely soon gain a stronger foothold in the county.

During the week ending Feb. 26, 6.4% of all COVID specimens that were analyzed for variants turned out to be the result of BA.2, which is a more infectious offshoot of the omicron variant that fueled the recent winter surge in infections. That was up from 4.5% the week prior.

Health officials noted Monday that while the percentage is still low, the same pattern was seen with the omicron and delta variants that both grew into major spreaders of the virus. They said BA.2 is currently estimated to be responsible for 23% of sequenced cases nationally, while representing 30% of infections in New York City.

City News Service contributed to this report. 

Melissa Evans is the executive editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach her at [email protected], @melissaevansLBP or 562-437-5814.