COVID-19 continues to be widespread in Tulare County, fueled by the latest Omicron variant of the virus. Tulare County Public Health officials are reporting some of the highest COVID-19 case rates and positivity rates ever during the ongoing pandemic. During this current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, public health officials urge everyone to take precautions and be safe at indoor social events and at large gatherings, including mega-events taking place in Tulare County.
The California Department of Public Health has released updated requirements for attending and hosting mega-events, such as concerts, expos, and sporting events. The current threshold for indoor mega-events is 500 attendees and for outdoor mega-events it is 5,000 attendees. For any indoor event that meets the threshold for indoor settings, attendees are required to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test—either a negative rapid antigen test within one day of the event or a negative PCR test within two days of the event. In addition, it is highly recommended to implement these safety measures for outdoor settings meeting the 5,000 threshold.
“This guidance emphasizes added layers of protection as the Omicron variant spreads widely across Tulare County, California, the United States, and worldwide. It is important that we continue to protect our communities by ensuring that everyone attending mega-events has taken all required measures to protect themselves and those around them, to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 and amplifying the impact on our local hospitals and health care system,” stated Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County Public Health Officer.
Ongoing vigilance is necessary to protect against COVID-19. This continues to be the case for large, indoor events and gatherings, which have the potential to cause large, substantial, and severe outbreaks. Several factors increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including:
- Persons attending often travel from outside the immediate area, even from areas with higher levels of virus transmission, and some types of travel may increase the risk of exposure.
- Participants and attendees are spending extensive periods of time physically close to large numbers of people they don’t usually interact with.
- Face masks are a very important protective measure, and when they are removed for eating or drinking there is increased risk of exposures.
- Effective contact tracing may be difficult, given the high potential for uncontrolled mixing between groups of attendees and individuals who are unlikely to be together again.
- The larger the number of people gathered in crowded settings, the greater the potential of exposure to the virus and spread of infections within their families, communities, schools, and workplaces.
How can people safely attend social events and gatherings?
The risk of spreading COVID-19 is decreased when all attendees and participants are vaccinated. Vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result verification, especially indoors, is an additional, important strategy to reduce transmission in events and large gatherings, especially where masks are removed for eating or drinking, and where activities (like singing, yelling, or cheering) that increase transmission risk are occurring, even when masks are being worn.
The California Department of Public Health has developed guidance for event organizers and attendees to help lower the risk of people getting sick at these events, which is available at: https://bit.ly/CDPHMegaEvents.
With the concerning levels of transmission throughout Tulare County and the ongoing risk of large gatherings, it is important that attendees and organizers use all available mitigation strategies and resources to prevent further spread of COVID-19. If you choose to attend a social event or large gathering, we encourage you to do so safely by getting vaccinated, getting tested, and attending knowing your test result is negative for being infectious with COVID-19, wearing a well-fitting face mask to protect yourself and others, and frequently washing your hands. If you test positive for COVID-19, have a recent close exposure, or are feeling sick, please stay home and do not attend any social event or gathering.
Anyone who would like to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or would like to get a COVID booster vaccine can visit Myturn.ca.gov to find a vaccine location. Alternatively, you can get your COVID vaccine from your health care provider or at your local pharmacy.
Persons seeking testing for COVID-19 can contact their health care provider or local pharmacy, or visit one of the many community testing locations in Tulare County. A full list of testing locations is available online at: https://covid19.tularecounty.ca.gov/covid-19-testing-sites/. At-home rapid tests are also available at local pharmacies, and anyone can order four free at-home COVID-19 tests directly at: https://www.covidtests.gov/. Orders will usually ship in 7–12 days. Order your COVID tests now so you have them should you need them.
People with high-risk health conditions and people over the age of 65 should be especially mindful and take the necessary precautions to prevent COVID-19 infection, especially now, with such high rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Tulare County. Public Health officials continue their efforts to ensure that all Tulare County residents and those visiting our county are knowledgeable about protecting themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19.