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California rules now allow for 3 households to socialize

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is easing its coronavirus restrictions to allow up to three households to socialize outdoors, an expansion of rules aimed at people tempted to have even larger gatherings around Halloween, Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Three households can gather so long as they wear masks and follow other safety precautions designed to stem the spread of the virus, under the new guidelines from the California Department of Public Health. State health officials previously discouraged gatherings outside of a single household.

The goal is not to encourage larger gatherings, Newsom said, but to recognize the increasing pressure for get-togethers and provide ways for people to act appropriately. There’s no limit on the number of people within any three households, though state officials say smaller is better.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, said the guidelines are meant to recognize that many close friends and relatives have been apart a long time and want to be together.


All such gatherings should be outdoors, although it’s OK for guests to use indoor restrooms as long as they are frequently sanitized.

While much of the country and European nations are seeing a resurgence, coronavirus indicators in California are near their record lows. Hospitalizations are at their lowest level since early April and those in intensive care at their second-lowest level since officials began keeping track in late March. The rate of positive tests has been hovering at 2.6% for two weeks.

California has recorded about 850,00 positive tests and has seen more than 16,500 deaths. The number of weekly cases has flattened after a precipitous drop from peak levels during the summer. Average daily deaths have been falling and were at 60 for the most recent seven days.

Newsom said officials want to keep the numbers low.

“We are entering into the holidays, but also we’re entering into part of the year where things cool down and people are more likely to congregate back indoors in settings that put their physical proximity and likelihood of transmission and transmitting disease at higher risk,” he said.

Even the less restrictive guidelines advise that it’s best to stick to the same three households over time.

“Participating in multiple gatherings with different households or groups is strongly discouraged,” the department said in the guidance released late Friday.

People can gather under awnings, roofs or shade structures so long as at least three sides are open to outdoor breezes. Gatherings should be two hours or less to reduce the risk of transmission.

Guests who aren’t from the same household must socially distance and food should not be shared. Masks should be worn except when people are eating or drinking. Singing, chanting and shouting “are strongly discouraged” because those activities increase the release of respiratory droplets and fine aerosols. Hand sanitizer or a place to wash hands must be available.

People who are sick or medically vulnerable should not attend. Those who come down with coronavirus-like symptoms within