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Newsom Bars Large Events To Slow COVID-19 Spread

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on Feb. 27, 2020 in Sacramento. Late Wednesday, Newsom called for large gatherings to be canceled (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Gov. Newsom upped his guidance on large gatherings to a mandate. In an executive order released today and signed last night, Newsom ordered that all residents "heed any orders and guidance of state and local public health officials ... to control the spread of COVID-19."

That includes guidance issued by California public health officials last night calling for public gatherings of more than 250 people to be canceled or postponed through "at least" the end of March.

It also includes potential guidance that could be issued by state or local public officials requiring "social distancing" -- in other words, space between people -- at smaller gatherings.

State public health officials said smaller gatherings can continue if it's possible for attendees to have 6 feet of space from each other.

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Newsom said he didn't anticipate the state having to enforce the guidance on gatherings but said they would, if necessary. "I have the ability as governor to enforce, but I don't expect we'll need to do that," he said.

The new recommendations on gatherings are aimed at ensuring "concerts, conferences and ... sporting events" at all levels -- from youth sports to professional leagues -- do not continue as planned.

Newsom said Thursday that amusement parks, theaters, casinos and card houses are thus-far exempt from the guidance. "They're not getting a pass," Newsom said in response to a reporter's question about why these entities are exempted. He said places like Disneyland are already taking precautionary measures and that conversations were ongoing with Native American nations about measures to avoid the virus's spread at casinos.

"I assure you we're leaning in," Newsom said. "We're not going to allow people to be separate and above if it puts the health of the people of California at risk."

Disney announced soon afterwards that it was closing Disneyland and Disney California Adventure beginning March 14 through the end of the month.

State public health officials have also called for a 10-person limit on gatherings of older adults and people with compromised immune systems.

Read the full executive order here.


Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced the guidance on large gatherings late Wednesday night, saying the move could save lives and preserve "critical health care resources."

Newsom said:

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"Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know. 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 guidance from state officials is aimed at shutting down events hosted in auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, meeting halls or cafeterias -- spaces where people tend to gather in large numbers "in a single room or single space."

Other gatherings could continue, officials said, "such as attendance at regular school classes, work, or essential services."

"Certain activities are essential to the functioning of our state and must continue," the guidance said. "Hence, this does not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel, or shopping at a store or mall."

But officials recommended limiting some gatherings of fewer than 250 people:

"Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. 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."


Many California colleges and universities have already announced their own plans to cancel in-person instruction. We put together a long list of how different campuses are responding.

The state's current guidance to K-12 schools still stands, Newsom said Wednesday. Late last week, state officials laid out recommendations for how local school officials should respond to various scenarios, including considering canceling classes if one student or staff member tests positive.

On Wednesday, leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District -- the state's largest -- announced all school assemblies are canceled and spectators will be barred from school sporting events. For the time being, though, LAUSD will continue to hold regular classes.

Jill Replogle contributed reporting.




2:09 p.m.: This article was updated with the news that Disneyland would close starting March 14.

1:08 p.m.: This article was updated with information about Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order limiting gatherings.

This article was originally published at 4:17 a.m.

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