California has cleared the way for fans to attend opening day baseball games and for tourists to return to Disneyland, nearly a year after coronavirus restrictions closed major entertainment venues.
On Friday, the state relaxed guidelines for reopening outdoor venues as the fall and winter surge appeared to be ending, with Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths plummeting and vaccination rates. increasing.
The new public health regulations would allow live concerts in stadiums and sports arenas to reopen with limited attendance beginning April 1. Amusement parks will also be able to reopen in counties that have dropped from the state’s most restrictive purple tier to the red tier. In all cases, the park’s capabilities will be limited and Covid-19 safety rules, such as mask use requirements, will apply.
The move followed a week of milestones, with California increasing vaccinations for poorer neighborhoods, counties reopened more businesses, and Governor Gavin Newsom passed a measure aimed at encouraging schools that have restricted students from online learning to classrooms reopen this month.
“The constant openness is consistent with the data. As cases decline, we want to go back to work and school, ”said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, clinical professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California. “Outdoor activities in particular have always been low risk. Opening these sites makes sense. ”
Thousands of workers were laid off by Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm and other large locations. Ten thousand lost their jobs at Disneyland alone and its related attractions in Orange County, not to mention the ripple effect at nearby restaurants and hotels.
Andrea Zinder, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union representing Disney workers, said employees were “excited to get back to work and bring Californians a little more magic in their lives.”
Most of the major theme parks are in Southern California, which is still in the purple category. However, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties expected to reopen in the coming weeks as Covid-19 numbers drop.
Only 16 of 58 counties are on the red tier and two small counties are on the orange tier. None are yet at the yellow level, the lowest and least restrictive. Theme parks on the red tier will be limited to 15% of their capacity. Outdoor sports will be limited to 100 people on the purple level, but will increase up to 67% on the yellow level.
The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland As everyone announced, they will have fans in the stands for opening day on April 1. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants begin their road seasons and said they would announce plans later.
Teams and event organizers can only sell tickets regionally on the purple level. At the other levels, teams and organizers can sell tickets to anyone living in California. No concessions will be allowed on the purple tier, while on others, concession sales will only be available on seats.
The faster pace of reopening is tied to a new plan to vaccinate California’s most vulnerable residents. Once 2 million people in 400 zip codes in the poorest neighborhoods receive at least one dose of vaccine, it will be easier for counties to get out of the most restrictive tier in the state. Once 4 million people in those neighborhoods are vaccinated, counties can open up even more.
A year ago, Newsom imposed a state stay-at-home order that restricted travel, closed businesses and forced millions of people into unemployment. California still has one of the most severe restrictions of any state and continues to discourage visitors from other states.
The state is pinning its hopes for a full reopening on vaccinating enough of its 40 million residents to stop widespread infections. More than 10 million doses had been given just three months since the first injection was given, the state’s public health department said. Just over 3 million people have been fully vaccinated, or about 10% of the population aged 16 and over.
There are hopeful signs. This week, the seven-day average rate of positive test results dropped this week to 2.2%, a record low. Although pressure has mounted to reopen the economy, health officials said the changes to the guidelines were a cautious and measured approach rather than a blanket approach.
“We … will keep our foot on the brake, not the accelerator, our eyes on the road, our hands on the wheel, and we will navigate based on data and science,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state agency. health and human services.