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Photograph: Time Out editorsCoachella

California is calling for a ban on events larger than 250 people due to coronavirus

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

Late Wednesday night, the office of governor Gavin Newsom released a new update to its public health guidelines surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic: Large gatherings of 250 people or more should be postponed or canceled, as well as smaller events that are unable to implement a six-foot social distancing rule. The California Department of Public Health is suggesting the policy stays in place at least through the end of March.

The state is defining a “gathering” as any event that sees people coming together in a single room or single space at the same time, including “an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.”

“Large gatherings” specifically includes concerts, conferences and all sporting events, from school leagues to the pros, that include 250 people or more. To put that into perspective: That technically includes any concert venue larger than the Echo (and even a little bit smaller than that, as the Echo Park spot holds about 350 people).

As for smaller events, the policy applies to “crowded auditoriums, rooms or other venues” in which attendees can’t be kept at least six feet apart. And events events catering to high-risk individuals should be limited to no more than 10 people.

Los Angeles County has, as of its latest release on Wednesday, reported 27 cases of coronavirus, as well as one death from the disease. The outbreak has already impacted major events like Coachella, which has been postponed until the fall. And on Wednesday evening, the NBA announced it was shutting down for the rest of the season.

Now, we’re not legal scholars, but this is where we imagine the phrase “should be postponed or canceled” in the official policy will be key for many event organizers. Should every event larger than 250 people be canceled according to the state’s new policy? Yes. But will they actually? That remains to be seen; as it’s still early in L.A. at the time of publication, many have yet to respond to the new guidance. Hamilton still opened at the Pantages Theatre last night and Tame Impala packed in the Forum—but we imagine those are the sorts of events that could be most impacted by the state policy.

We still have a lot of lingering questions: What events will actually be canceled or postponed? Will this affect movie theaters? What about tightly-packed restaurants or museums or theme parks? We’ll update this post as the story develops, as well as our FAQ about the coronavirus and our ongoing list of canceled events.

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