California officials released looser guidelines for private gatherings on Friday as Los Angeles County warned against events or parties with non-household members, which still aren’t allowed under the county health officer.
The state’s new guidelines now allow for private gatherings of up to three households, but warned that any time people from different households mix, it increases the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
Gatherings with more than three households are prohibited.
The guidance calls for reducing the likelihood of spreading the virus by only having gatherings with the same households each time, keeping it short, gathering outdoors rather than indoors, having everyone wear masks and practice hand hygiene, and only hosting the small gatherings in spaces large enough for everyone to keep at least 6 feet apart.
In releasing the new guidance, state officials said local health jurisdictions may have more restrictive rules and residents should refer to local guidance on gatherings.
Los Angeles County’s health officer order continues to prohibit gatherings of people who are not part of a single household or living units — with few exceptions like outdoor religious gatherings.
On Friday, the same day the state’s new guidance came out, an L.A. County health department news release warned against in-person sports viewing parties ahead of the Lakers game.
“Gatherings, events or parties with non-household members are not permitted even if they are conducted outdoors except those expressly allowed in the L.A. County Order,” the health department said.”This includes in-person sport viewing and dinner parties as these events can become places where COVID-19 can spread easily.”
The coronavirus remains widespread in Los Angeles County, which still sits on the state’s purple tier — the most restrictive of the reopening phases outlined by California.
“It only takes one person to contract and become infectious with COVID-19 and unknowingly bring the virus home and expose their household and or go to work and expose their coworkers and start an outbreak,” the county health department said.
As for counties where local orders allow gatherings with up to three households, like San Diego County, people need to stick to the rules outlined by the California Department of Public Health and make sure those with COVID-19-like symptoms don’t attend.
On average, each person with COVID-19 goes on to infect between two to four people when there are no preventive measures in place, authorities said.
“In general, the more people from different households a person interacts with at a gathering, the closer the physical interaction is, and the longer the interaction lasts, the higher the risk that a person with a COVID-19 infection, symptomatic or asymptomatic, may spread it to others,” state officials say in the guidance. “Public health studies have also shown that the risk of transmission is increased in indoor spaces, particularly when there isn’t appropriate ventilation.”
Also, singing, chanting and shouting are strongly discouraged at any gatherings since they increase the release of respiratory droplets and fine aerosols into the air, state officials said. The risk of spreading the coronavirus also increases with laughing, loud talking and not being able to keep a safe distance from others.
The state health department says that since the virus is still so widespread, the safest way to gather is still to only spend time with people in the same household or to gather virtually.
“Limiting attendance at gatherings is a way to reduce the risk of spread as it lowers the number of different people who are interacting … People who do choose to attend gatherings should discuss and agree upon the specific group rules before convening together,” state officials said.