Most of California will be allowed to reopen indoor venues for performances, conferences and other events by April 15, state officials announced Friday.
Indoor events were among the first activities to be closed as the Covid-19 pandemic touched down in California last year. As larger parts of the population become vaccinated, California is ready to loosen its restrictions around events, state public health officials stated.
The new guidelines set a sliding scale for how many visitors can attend an event, based on which tier a county is in within California’s four-tier coronavirus guidelines. Venues will also be able to increase their capacity if visitors are vaccinated or have verification that they recently tested negative for Covid-19.
Attendees who are fully vaccinated could also gain entrance to "vaccinated sections," said Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
To start, vaccination status will be determined with a “self-verification” process, said Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health. Self-verification could include visitors bringing in their vaccination cards or verification that they’ve had a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of the event, he said. State officials anticipate that eventually verification could become digital, as private tech companies are expected to step in as partners with some larger venues.
"I’m hoping most people will be honest because the vaccines are fully available," Aragón said, at a press briefing Friday. "The barriers to getting vaccinated are going down, eligibility is going up."
Under the new guidelines, venues with capacity up to 1,500 would be allowed to open with the following restrictions based on California's four-tier coronavirus guidelines:
The red tier allows for 10% capacity, and 25% capacity if guests are vaccinated.
The orange tier allows for 15% capacity, and 35% if guests are vaccinated.
The yellow tier allows for 25% capacity, and 50% capacity if guests are vaccinated.
For larger venues with over 1,501 people the guidelines include the following restrictions:
The red tier allows capacity to 20% and all guests must be vaccinated or tested.
The orange tier allows for 10% capacity, and 35% if guests are vaccinated.
The yellow tier allows for 10% capacity, and 50% capacity if guests are vaccinated.
For counties in the purple tier, the most strict tier under the guidelines, no indoor live events are permitted, and private events are advised to only be held outdoors.
The new guidelines allow private events, like receptions and conferences, to reopen on April 15, with some modifications. Public health officials still advise that all gatherings — like meetings, receptions and conferences — be held with masking and social distancing requirements.
For receptions and conferences, the new guidelines allow for:
Outdoor gatherings up to 25 people, or 100 people if vaccinated, in the purple tier.
Outdoor gatherings up to 50 people, or 200 people if vaccinated, in the red tier.
Outdoor gatherings up to 100 people, or 300 people if vaccinated, in the orange tier.
Outdoor gatherings up to 200 people, or 400 people if vaccinated, in the yellow tier.
If people “show proof of vaccination,” indoor events and conferences can be held with up to 100 people in the red tier, 150 people in the orange tier, and 200 people in the yellow tier, according to CDPH.
Health officials noted that events should also include pre-purchased tickets or a defined guest list and assigned seating.
The California Travel Association criticized the governor's announcement, saying there were no clear guidelines on when "trade shows and conventions” with more than 200 people could resume. The industry has been calling on the governor to issue guidance so meeting planners could begin to market and plan for future conventions.
“We’re still waiting,” Barb Newton, president and CEO of the California Travel Association, said in a statement. “Every other state has issued guidelines for trade shows and conventions but California. We are losing business every day to Arizona, Texas, Florida and other states that are all hosting large events safely.” Newtown, who called the situation was “very frustrating,” said without guidelines convention centers can’t confirm events for later this year or in 2022. “Every month that goes by is billions in lost revenue and jobs. Governor Newsom needs to take action now to reopen this sector and get our hundreds of thousands of employees back to work,” she said.