California to tighten rules for indoor events as cases rise

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will tighten its rules for indoor events next month, requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for gatherings of 1,000 people or more as new cases continue to climb because of the delta variant.

California already requires these things for indoor gatherings of 5,000 people or more, but that rule says people don’t have to show proof. The new rule, which takes effect Sept. 20, requires people to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours to attend the event. The testing requirement includes children under 12 and others who are not allowed to get the vaccine.

The new rule will last until at least Nov. 1. State officials say they will reevaluate it by Oct. 15 to decide whether to extend it.

The change comes after Newsom triumphantly announced the reopening of California’s economy in June, lifting nearly all virus rules and restrictions on businesses and public gatherings that had been in place for more than a year.

But the governor has been quick to impose new vaccine requirements in recent weeks, despite facing a recall election next month fueled in part by anger over his pandemic policies. Newsom has required the state’s roughly 2.2 million health care workers to get vaccinated to keep their jobs. He’s also required all teachers and state workers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to require all city workers to get vaccinated unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

In a memo announcing the new rules for indoor gatherings, public health officials say they decided to change the rule because of the delta variant, a more contagious and dangerous version of the virus. The state says recent data shows people infected with the variant are roughly 1,000 times more contagious than people infected with the original coronavirus.

California is averaging 27.5 cases per 100,000 people per day — a roughly eleven-fold increase over the past two months. Hospitalizations are also climbing, but both indicators are still far below the previous peak in December and January.

The memo detailing the new rule says it does not apply to venues like shopping malls or museums “that are open to public circulation as part of their regular operations,” unless they host an indoor event of 1,000 people or more.

The new rule is recommended, but not required, for churches and places of worship. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in April banned California from capping the number of people who can attend indoor worship services.

The rules also are recommended for outdoor events of 10,000 people or more.

“The immediate and primary call to action continues to be for eligible Californians to get vaccinated,” according to the memo from the California Department of Public Health. “A secondary call to action is for all unvaccinated Californians to comply with indoor masking requirements and for all Californians to consider their personal choices around harm reduction and risk tolerance in the face of the Delta variant and the likelihood of additional variants emerging in the future.”