April 5, 2021 -- With case counts falling and vaccination rates climbing, California plans to loosen restrictions to allow people to attend indoor concerts, theater productions, and sporting events in almost all the counties in the state.
The change takes effect April 15 and would still restrict seating capacity depending on where a county falls in the state’s four-level risk designation: purple for widespread COVID risk, red for substantial risk, orange for moderate risk, and yellow for minimal risk, according to a news release from the California Department of Public Health.
Big population centers like San Francisco, Santa Clara County and Los Angeles County are in the orange tier, the Associated Press reported. Only three counties — San Joaquin, Merced and Inyo — are still in the most-restrictive purple tier.
Ben Bleiman, chairman of the California Music and Culture Association, told AP that venues will accept the crowd restrictions, though they need full capacity to ultimately survive.
“On the one side you have the thrill and the joy of reopening,” he said, noting that on the other hand “there’s some dread that something’s going to go wrong.”
At live performance venues with a capacity of 1,500 or less, red counties can allow 10% or 100 people, orange counties can allow 15% or 200 people, and yellow counties can allow 25% or 300 people. Capacity can increase if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination. Indoor performances are not allowed in purple counties.
At live performance venues of 1,501 and more, red counties must require testing or proof of vaccination and capacity is capped at 20%. Capacity is limited to 10% or 2,000 people in orange counties and 10% or 2,000 people in yellow counties. Capacity at larger venues in orange and yellow counties can increase to 35 and 50%, respectively, if attendees are tested or show proof of full vaccination.
Advance ticket purchases are required and the events are limited to state residents. Social distancing and other safety measures are required.
Similar restrictions will be placed on private events or meetings such as conferences or receptions.
"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," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. "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."
California, the most populous state, has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. As of April 1, there have been 3.5 million confirmed cases and more than 58,000 COVID-related deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health. Those are the most in the nation in those categories.
But the COVID statistics are rapidly improving. More than 18 million doses of vaccine have been administered and 6.5 million people are fully vaccinated.
As of March 29, the state COVID dashboard recorded a seven-day average case rate of 4.4 per 100,000 people, down from 112.6 on Jan 8. No deaths were reported on April 1, compared to 771 on Dec. 23. There were about 2,500 hospitalized COVID patients on April 1, down from more than 21,000 in mid-January.