California moves to lift vaccine, test verification at sizable indoor events

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Fans line up before the start of a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets at Arena on Christmas Day in Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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California will lift a rule next month requiring attendees to show proof they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the coronavirus as a condition of entry for significantly sized indoor events, such as concerts, conventions and sporting contests, health officials said.

That requirement, which will instead transition to a strong recommendation on April 1, had applied to all indoor happenings with more than 1,000 people — which the state refers to as “indoor mega events.”

Operators will still be urged to screen guests as “indoor mega events continue to involve several factors that increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” according to updated guidance announced Friday by the California Department of Public Health. But the shift acknowledges the progress California has made in turning the tide of the Omicron wave.


Southern California recorded the highest coronavirus case and COVID-19 death rates of any region in the state throughout the winter surge, a Times analysis found.

March 18, 2022

“These recommendations will continue to be updated as CDPH continues to assess conditions on an ongoing basis,” officials wrote. “California must be vigilant to maintain situational awareness through surveillance and be ready to pause or reinstate a higher level of protective mitigation recommendations or requirements.”

Friday’s announcement continues a momentous few weeks in which California has shed virtually all mandatory measures imposed in hopes of tamping down transmission of the coronavirus.

California lifted its universal mask mandate for indoor public places about a month ago. Starting this week, students and teachers were given the option to take their masks off in class, as well. At Los Angeles Unified, where masks were still being worn, officials announced Friday the practice would become optional on Wednesday.

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March 17, 2022

Though still strongly recommended indoors while in public, masking is now only mandatory in a handful of places statewide: healthcare settings, nursing homes, homeless shelters, jails, prisons and emergency shelters. A federal order requiring masks to be worn on public transportation, including planes and buses, also remains in effect through at least April 18.

The state’s rules provide a sort of benchmark that individual counties have to meet. However, nothing stops local health authorities from imposing stricter rules if they feel it is warranted — so it’s possible some could keep vaccine/test verification in place.

That may be unlikely, however. Even places like the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County have widely eased their once-expansive masking and vaccine-verification requirements as pandemic conditions have improved.


Asked for comment Friday, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said it was still reviewing the state’s changes.

Over the last week, California has reported an average of a bit more than 3,400 new coronavirus cases per day — down 41% from two weeks ago and a mere fraction of the record infection counts reported during the worst days of the Omicron surge, according to data compiled by The Times.

Once-crowded hospitals also have gotten some much-needed relief in recent weeks.

As of Thursday, 2,057 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized statewide. That’s the lowest since July, and less than one-seventh the Omicron-era peak.

But while the pandemic’s trajectory is promising, officials say they still strongly recommend some precautions, such as masking or vaccine verification, in certain settings to give residents an extra layer of protection.

“We know that our progress is helped by the protective measures taken by so many of our residents, businesses, schools, healthcare providers and others before, during and after our surge,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters Thursday. “And while this is not forever, we are encouraging a continued focus on sensible safety measures for a little while longer until we have less virus circulating.”