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California To Allow Large Indoor Events, But With Proof Of Vaccination Or Negative Test

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Updated 6:07 p.m.

California will soon allow indoor live performances and events in counties outside the state's most-restrictive reopening tier, but the number of people allowed will increase if all attendees are tested or can provide a proof of vaccination.

Beginning April 15 — the day every Californian over the age of 16 becomes eligible to receive the vaccine — counties in the red, orange and yellow tiers can begin hosting indoor events such as conferences or seated live performances, including professional sports.

Capacity limits increase significantly at events where attendees are tested or show proof of full vaccination. For example, in the orange tier, where half the state’s population currently sits, outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people, but if all attendees show proof of vaccination or are tested, an outdoor event can hold 300 people.

All private indoor events such as conferences or receptions will require that attendees show proof of vaccination, such as their CDC-issued vaccine card, or a negative COVID-19 test from 24 hours or less before the start of an event.

All private indoor events such as conferences or receptions will require that attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from 24 hours or less before the start of an event.

Indoor live events like concerts, theater performances or live sports can occur without all attendees being vaccinated at venues with a maximum capacity of less than 1,500, with capacity increasing with proof of vaccination or a negative test.

For larger events, all attendees must show proof of being tested in the red tier, but not the orange or yellow tiers. Sacramento County is currently in the red tier, and not expected to move in the coming weeks. See a full list of restrictions here.

California Public Health Director Dr. Tomás Aragón said the state is “really pushing to make sure that vaccination and testing is the pathway to open up safely.”

In a statement, the Sacramento Kings organization said "We are excited about today’s announcement regarding indoor professional sports venues and look forward to safely welcoming fans back to the arena in the near future."

In all tiers, events must follow precautions such as pre-purchased tickets or a defined guest list and assigned seating. Indoor live events must have designated areas for eating and drinking, and only in-state visitors can attend.

Venues can have fully-vaccinated sections without physical distancing where people can sit shoulder-to-shoulder, but they must wear masks.

Dee Dee Myers, the governor’s senior economic adviser, hopes people see the loosened restrictions for vaccinated attendees as an incentive.

“We want to incentivize people to get the vaccine and to get it as soon as they can,” she said. “If they can return to some of their favorite activities because they’re vaccinated, then hopefully a few more people will go and get vaccinated.”

Asked about the possibility of forged vaccination cards to enter events, Aragón said “I’m really hoping, and I think most people will be honest because the vaccines are freely available.” He pointed out eligibility is rapidly increasing, but as that happens, many Californians are struggling to book vaccine appointments.

Even with the loosened restrictions, California is still one of the “most restrictive states in the country, and we’ll continue to move very slowly and cautiously,” Myers said.

But the California Travel Association is frustrated by the announcement, saying in a statement that convention leaders and labor groups are disappointed Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet to issue statewide guidelines for trade shows and conventions.

“We’re still waiting,” said California Travel Association President and CEO Barb Newton in the statement. “The guidelines issued today don’t help convention centers at all and continue to send a signal to other states that California is closed for this business indefinitely.”

State health officials say the move is a response to more Californians being vaccinated and declining COVID-19 case rates. The state has delivered 18 million doses of coronavirus vaccine and around 16% of the population is fully vaccinated, while the average number of new cases has dropped to around 2,500 statewide from highs of more than 40,000 this winter.

On Friday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines saying it is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel, but still advised against non-essential trips.

Still, many California counties say they don't have enough vaccine doses to meet demand, especially as millions of more people become eligible this month. And some experts are concerned that the state may soon see an increase in cases as other parts of the country experience an uptick.