On Wednesday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced that Los Angeles County will follow California’s new at-home gathering rules this holiday season and allow up to three families to be together outside for up to two hours.
Health officials noted that L.A. County, which has had some of the strictest rules in terms of gatherings and crowds throughout the pandemic, will keep many of it’s standards high, such as a recommended 14 days of isolation after interacting with a large group, as well as mask protocols in public and during such gatherings.
“It is recommended that if you do gather with two other households, you do so with the same households, each time creating a quasi bubble,” said Ferrer. “That can reduce the risk of spreading.
“As a community, we need to keep in mind the obligations to each other, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Dr. Ferrer also stressed certain California restrictions, such as those against singing or chanting, as it could help spread COVID-19 in LA County.
“If you were in a crowd with non-household members, especially if people weren’t wearing their face coverings and were chanting, cheering or singing, you may have been exposed to COVID-19.
“This is not the time to be complacent — we still have a great deal of transmission of COVID-19 across our communities.”
Los Angeles is due to allow the lowered restrictions in time for Halloween. California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly noted earlier this week that while traditional Halloween events such as trick or treating are not advised, other activities, including small gatherings, can be done as long as proper health protocols are met.
“Covid-19 continues to impose an important risk as we say time and time again, so some of the traditional Halloween celebrations such as parties, door-to-door trick-or-treating, we know pose a high risk of spreading COVID and are therefore strongly discouraged,” stated Ghaly on Tuesday. “But we suggest families should plan now on safer alternatives. We also know that state guidance will be supplemented and local guidance and health departments may have additional restrictions.”
LA County residents, organizations reactions
LA County residents and organizations that were planning events around Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, Thanksgiving and other holidays in the next few months had mixed reactions after the announcement on Wednesday.
Some praised the County’s decision, with many even noting it went above and beyond what they had expected.
“We thought they would keep in those restrictions barring households coming together,” explained Patrick Crispin, a Los Angeles Halloween costume store leasing consultant. “Now a lot of people who depend on holiday-oriented work can now at least make something during this time. Small gatherings are better than nothing, especially since it encourages decorating, costumes, and other activities that just staying in with your family wouldn’t have brought.”
However, many others denounced the decision, saying that it would only hurt many groups, including charities, in the coming weeks.
“Our canned food drive was just derailed,” explained Lex Nilsson, an organizer for several LA charities. “For huge drives we need to be able to have mobilization, but also big events to bring food in. Our Oktoberfest event brought in a quarter of our cans collected each year for example. And this year we planned it all around smaller gatherings, but that really doesn’t work either remotely or in small groups of a handful of people.
“We might see more digital donations, but a lot of donors, big donors, really only come out for events. And we won’t get that. And with so many more in need this year due to less donations and more people needing extra food due to COVID-19, we needed larger groups. But the County just ended that today.”
Other counties not currently meeting the new California standards are expected to switch to the new gathering guidelines soon following the lead of L.A. County.
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