Los Angeles County will now allow outdoor gatherings for up to three households

Hanging out with your friends is finally legal again—if you follow some specific rules.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
Editor, Los Angeles & Western USA
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Britt Gaiser

With the cancellation of California’s regional stay-at-home order in late January 2021, distanced and masked outdoor gatherings with up to two other households are once again allowed. Our original story from October 2020 appears below; though time has passed since then, all of the guidance mentioned about gatherings remains the same today.

Believe it or not, even though shopping malls, zoos, and restaurant and brewery patios have all been allowed to reopen in Los Angeles, you technically haven’t been allowed to gather with people outside of your house. Indeed, even with all of the sector reopenings, rollbacks and re-reopenings, the county’s public health order has been clear since the spring: “gatherings of people who are not part of a single household or living unit are prohibited.”

But that’s about to change. To bring the county in line with state guidance issued last Friday, Los Angeles will now permit private outdoor gatherings between no more than three households, as long as everyone is wearing a mask and households maintain six feet of distance. L.A. County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced the change on Wednesday and said that the county would officially amend its health order on October 15.

In the meantime, Ferrer said that the local guidelines will suggest that you keep social gatherings to the same couple of households to create a semi-bubble, and that if food is involved you should use single-serve disposable containers. The gathering-allowing guidelines won’t apply to dorms, residential care facilities, boarding homes or hotels, nor do they affect houses of worship or public protests, which already have outdoor guidelines in place.

Ferrer really stressed that semi-bubble aspect in Tuesday’s public health conference, noting that the guidelines are really intended for celebrations like birthdays and weddings or regular activities with the same group of people. “It was meant to address this limited number of times that people may need to gather, as well as the fact that, for some folks, they want to create a larger unit where they regularly share an activity together amongst more than one household,” she said.

In addition, Ferrer noted that all gatherings with people who are not in your household still increase your risk the risk of transmission or infection, and she also urges that anyone who’s attended a protest or celebration recently (like, you know, for the Lakers) should avoid such gatherings for the next two weeks.

The guidelines come at a time when L.A. is still stuck in the purple, most restrictive tier of the state’s reopening plan, and as Ferrer herself noted that case numbers have been increasing specifically because of small gatherings, as the L.A. Times reported. “I think it is appropriate for us to try to do some of the activities that people are desperate to do with absolute adherence to the guidance,” she said in defense of the less restrictive guidelines.

Regardless of what the law says, families have been preparing to get together for the holiday season—so the state’s new guidelines largely focus on helping to keep you, your family and your friends safe and healthy in the process. These measures include, among others: making sure that shade structures have at least three sides open to the outdoors; having access to soap and water or hand sanitizer; staying home if you’re feeling unwell; avoiding singing, chanting or shouting; and limiting gatherings to two hours or less.

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