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California Relaxes Guidance on Private Gatherings amid COVID-19

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — New guidance from the California Department of Public Health states private outdoor gatherings of people from three (or fewer) households are now compliant with State health orders. Gatherings of individuals from more than three households are still not allowed with the State orders.

“We consider this a welcome relaxation of previous rules that banned any gatherings of people outside of an immediate household,” said Board of Supervisor Chairman Curt Hagman. “However, residents should carefully follow specific guidelines for these gatherings. Let’s face it, at this point into the pandemic, there’s a certain degree of common sense that goes into practice after so many months of living with these guidelines.”

Following are some of the specific guidelines issued by the State:

Gatherings limited to outdoors

To be in compliance with State health orders, gatherings must be held outside, and may occur in outdoor spaces that are covered by umbrellas, canopies, roofs or other shade structures as long as three sides of the space (or 75%) are open to the outdoors. Such gatherings are permitted in public parks or other outdoor spaces — even if (unrelated) gatherings of comparable groups are also occurring in the same location. Mixing between such groups is not allowed.   

Individuals at high risk, and those feeling sick, should not attend

People experiencing any COVID-19-related symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, tiredness, headaches, loss of sense of taste/smell), must remain at home and avoid contact with anyone outside their immediate household. Those at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with preexisting medical conditions, are strongly urged not to attend any gatherings.

Continue practicing physical distancing and wash hands frequently

The space for any gatherings are to be large enough to permit attendees to maintain adequate social distance. The opportunity to frequently wash hands or use hand sanitizer must be easily accessible for participants.

Participants should carefully avoid sharing items; for example, food and beverages must be provided in single-serve disposable containers. Self-serve items from communal containers should not be used meaning the traditional potluck needs to be reimagined. If there are communal dishes, a gloved server with a face covering should be the only person serving foods.

Remember to wear a face covering

It might seem awkward at first, but the State mandates that face coverings be worn at multi-household gatherings. When eating or drinking, attendees are to stay at least 6 feet away from others outside their own household. Seating can be arranged so that households can sit together while dining.

Keep gatherings short in duration

The science shows that the longer a group gathers, the higher the risk of virus transmission, specifically if there is an asymptomatic carrier in the group (someone not showing symptoms). Gatherings should be two hours or less. 

“We encourage people to get outside and enjoy the fresh air,” said County Public Health Director Corwin Porter. “However, it’s important to remember that gatherings increase the risk of spreading of COVID-19 when people mix from different households and communities. People who choose to get together should agree upon specific rules before getting together. And the host should collect names and contact information for all attendees just in case contact tracing is needed later.”

Visit this California Department of Health webpage for more information on the State’s guidelines for outdoor gatherings.

(source: SBCounty news release)

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