State, county health officials suggest statewide ban of large gatherings

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State and county public health experts have suggested that gatherings of 250 people or more be canceled or postponed for the coming weeks. 

This suggestion is in effect until at least the end of March, but will likely be extended, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference on Thursday. 

As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 32 confirmed cases of the virus in Los Angeles County, according to L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. 

“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know,” Newsom said in a prepared statement. “Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects, saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now. The people in our lives who are most at risk, seniors and those with underlying health conditions, are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”

This protocol does not apply to schools or workplaces, according to Ferrer. 

The state’s updated policy defines a “gathering” as any event that brings individuals together into a single space. These spaces include: auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, large conference rooms, meeting halls, cafeterias or any other indoor or outdoor space.

“When you don’t have vaccinations, we have social distancing,” Ferrer said in a press conference Thursday. “That is the ability that we all have if we do this well to not congregate and be in spaces where we are able to expose large numbers of people to a novel virus.” 

“If the event has less than 250 people, you need to be able to show that you in fact can implement significant social distancing, so much so that people are a general 6 feet apart from each other in enclosed spaces for long periods of time,” said Ferrer. 

If the gathering is essential, and cannot be postponed, state officials suggest that it be done over video chat or live stream so the gathering can still serve its purpose. 

“I want to reiterate that these actions are not intended to create panic or fear. Rather, this is about mitigation and containment,” county Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a press conference Thursday. “These protective and cautious measures are being put into place to help us mitigate further the (spread of) the virus and contain the transmissions as much as possible.” 

At this time, the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League have suspended their seasons and the National Collegiate Athletic Association has canceled its conference championship tournaments. The Big West Conference has also suspended all spring sports competitions, according to a Big West news release. 

“That’s the choice before us,” Newsom added. “Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease.”

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