by Publisher CoachellaValley | May 24, 2021 4:04 pm
CALIFORNIA — After nearly a year and a half, Californians will finally be able to return to festivals, concerts and sporting events — all sans face covering after the state reopens on June 15. But those attending a “mega” indoor event will have to prove their coronavirus vaccination or provide results of a negative test given within 72 hours of the event.
Mega events are characterized by crowds greater than 5,000 people indoors, the state said. For large events outdoors with crowds larger than 5,000, negative tests or proof of vaccination won’t be required, but it will be recommended.
“We are requiring — requiring, not recommending — a vaccine verification/negative test, and there will not be an option to come in if you’re neither of those and you can’t verify that by just wearing a mask,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California secretary of health and human services, said Friday.
The state will provide guidance for venue operators and other business owners about how to go about such verification, Ghaly said. Californians will likely need to provide proof of their vaccinations or COVID-19 test.
Staples Center, in the heart of Los Angeles, already posted guidance on vaccine verification that aligns with the state.
“A health verification is required for all ticketed guests,” the stadium’s safety guidelines said. “Guests are required to present a photo ID, and either proof of full vaccination (two weeks since your final dose) or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event date. Out of state visitors are required to show proof of full vaccination.”
Golden State health officials repeated that a vaccine passport was not in the works for residents, despite the new requirements for mega events.
“We are not at this time requiring or considering a vaccine passport for vendors,” Ghaly said on Friday. “We know the technology is being privately developed. … Our intention is to provide some guidance.”
The state of New York, meanwhile, partnered with IBM to create the first vaccine passport app, Excelsior Pass. The use of that pass is voluntary, and participating businesses and venues may opt to use them in New York. The digital passport can show proof of vaccination or negative test results.
It’s available 15 days after the final dose of a vaccine was administered and is valid for one year. For those just verifying a negative test, the pass is valid until midnight on the third day after a test.
It remains to be seen whether California will contract with a developer to offer its own voluntary vaccine passport.
California is set to reopen and lift nearly all coronavirus restrictions on June 15. On that day, California will no longer require social distancing or capacity limits, officials announced Friday.
“We’re at a place with this pandemic where those requirements of the past are no longer needed for the foreseeable future,” Ghaly said.
The Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which restricted counties to varying degrees depending on coronavirus prevalence, will also go away.
“We are now at a point, given our metrics that we’ve been watching, California is at a place where we can begin to talk about moving beyond the blueprint,” Ghaly said.
Cases plummeted dramatically several months ago and have remained low in stark contrast to the height of the state’s winter coronavirus surge. The state’s positivity rate has also consistently hovered around 1 percent, among the lowest rates in the country.
More than, 36 million vaccine doses have been administered, and more than three-quarters of residents over 65 have received at least one dose, Ghaly said. The rising level of vaccinations means it’s safe for California to remove nearly all restrictions next month, he said.
More than 15 million people — about 47 percent of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to recent state data.
The state will also do away with its color-coded four-tier system that restricts activities based on each county’s coronavirus prevalence.
Lifting these restrictions will inevitably result in some increased transmissions, Ghaly said. But the health care system should be able to handle them, and local officials can still impose additional limits if there are outbreaks, he added.
Health officials will also continue tracking whether virus mutations start breaking through vaccinations, which he said could prompt a return to restrictions.
“We’re going to be watching that very closely,” he said. “But I think we are in a place statewide where we have a significant number of people vaccinated and protected.”
Social distancing — a phrase that has become commonplace among Californians — and limits on how many people can be inside businesses at any one time will disappear, Ghaly said. There will no longer be physical distancing restrictions for attendees, customers and guests in business sectors, he added.
The reopening date won’t signal an abrupt end to wearing masks, Ghaly said. But the state will adjust its rules to correspond with federal guidance.
Last week, officials announced they would wait until June 15 to allow fully vaccinated residents to forgo masks in virtually all situations. That announcement came days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its own guidance lifting most mask restrictions for vaccinated people while saying that everyone should still wear masks in crowded indoor locations such as airplanes, buses, hospitals and prisons.
In any case, county leaders are the ones who hold the real power over mask rules.
“As always, local public health departments can implement local restrictions that are stricter than state guidance,” the California Department of Public Health told Patch in a statement. But the state hasn’t clarified how that will work. California’s workforce regulators — Cal OSHA — are separately developing safety rules that will apply to employers, Ghaly said.
“I can’t emphasize enough how the vaccine has allowed us to get to a place where we can safely do the things that we loved to do before the pandemic,” said Los Angeles County health Director Barbara Ferrer. The state’s lingering deaths “are almost all among people not fully vaccinated. This is preventable,” she said.
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