In California, rules for resuming in-person gatherings are finally emerging from a fog of silence. Perhaps at least partially in response to a call to Gov. Gavin Newson by the state’s hospitality industry to lay out concrete plans for reopening, Newsom has announced plans to fully reopen the state June 15, with a few restrictions.
On that date, gatherings greater than 100 people will again be allowed if attendees are wearing masks. Participants at gatherings of 5,000 or more at convention centers, arenas and other facilities will be required to provide a negative Covid test result or proof of vaccination.
The June 15 date is dependent on adequate availability of Covid-19 vaccines and a downward trend of hospitalizations, according to Mark Ghaly, California’s director of health and human services. “Those who are vaccinated [yet contract the virus] generally have seen very mild symptoms. If we continue to see that and see the stabilization in data, then we will move forward with the June 15 date,” he says.
In a call with reporters, Ghaly emphasized that if the state sees any concerning rise in hospitalizations, it will take “necessary precautions.”
Meeting professionals and hospitality leaders in the state were vocal in their disappointment when Newsom announced April 1 that gatherings in California could occur but were limited to 100 people, with no road map for how conventions and trade shows were to resume then or in the future. A study conducted by Oxford Economics estimates that every month conventions are paused, the state loses $1.4 billion in direct spending and $130 million in local and state taxes.
With the long lead times in meeting planning, California travel and hospitality worry that their state is still behind others, such as Texas and Mississippi, whose governors have lifted mask mandates and have allowed all businesses and facilities to operate at 100 percent capacity; despite this, these two states, in particular, have also seen the lowest number of Covid cases in a year.
Newsom also cautions that California could need to reapply restrictions if virus variants cause cases to increase. “We’re always going to be led by data, led by reality and the lived experience on the ground,” Newsom says. “But our expectation is, if we’re vigilant, if we don’t spike the ball, if we don’t announce mission accomplished, and continue to do the good work that we’ve done, that by June 15, we’ll be beyond that blueprint, and we’ll be back to a sense of normalcy.”