California Governor Calls For Canceling Public Gatherings Of More Than 250 Through March

Governor Gavin Newsom
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

California Governor Gavin Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday night (March 11) called for canceling or postponing mass gatherings of 250 or more across the state until at least the end of March based on the findings of the state’s Department of Public Health.

“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know,” Governor Newsom said in the statement. “That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease. 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.”

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The guidelines allow for smaller events if the organizers are able to implement social distancing of 6 feet per person.

Additionally, gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines, the experts said.

Earlier today, Seattle and Washington, D.C. took similar actions in banning mass gatherings.

The California Department of Public Health’s findings were as follows:

“To protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, gatherings as described below should be postponed or canceled across the state of California for at least the remainder of the month of March. The California Department of Public Health finds the following:

• Large gatherings that include 250 people or more should be postponed or canceled.
    o This includes gatherings such as concerts, conferences, and professional, college, and school sporting events.

• Smaller gatherings held in venues that do not allow social distancing of six feet per person should be postponed or canceled.      
    o This includes gatherings in crowded auditoriums, rooms or other venues.

• Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people.
    o This includes gatherings such as those at retirement facilities, assisted living facilities, developmental homes, and support groups for people with health conditions.

• A “gathering” is any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.

This applies to all non-essential professional, social, and community gatherings regardless of their sponsor. Gatherings that do not meet the aforementioned criteria should only be conducted when they are essential—that is, if the activity is essential and could not be postponed or achieved without gathering, meaning that some other means of communication could not be used to conduct the essential function.

What will this achieve?
The timely implementation of aggressive strategies that create social distance and those that reduce close contact of people not regularly together, including limiting gatherings, has proven effective in prior pandemics at delaying rates of transmission and reducing illness and death.

By decreasing the prevalence of disease across California we will:
• Reduce the number of Californians who contract COVID-19 before an effective treatment or vaccine is available. • Protect those most likely to experience severe symptoms, such as older Californians and those with underlying chronic conditions.

• Preserve and protect our health care delivery system, including our health care workforce, so they can care for the least healthy individuals in the community for any medical condition, not just COVID-19.

• Minimize the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 over the long run.

How long will these limitations apply?
This guidance will remain in place at least through the month of March.

As with all guidance that relates to COVID-19 response, authorities will revisit this guidance on a regular basis to evaluate the continued public health need for it and to evaluate if any elements need to be changed. To stay informed, continue to monitor this link: