LA County’s tighter coronavirus vaccine rules spark at least one organizer to cancel ‘mega-event’ – Orange County Register

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The Los Angeles County Department of Health’s anticipated changes to its coronavirus-spurred health order has led at least one event organizer to cancel, citing a lack of resources to carry out the new mandate.

Organizers of the 2021 Antelope Valley Fair, which was scheduled to begin on Oct. 1, announced the cancellation on Friday, Sept. 17, saying new mandates from Public Health would cause too many logistical problems.

County health officials planned to release the amended health order on Friday, but it had not been formally posted as of 3 p.m.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, however, described the changes in detail during a livecast briefing Friday. The order will require, she said, proof of vaccination to enter certain indoor business spaces in Los Angeles. Under the new guidelines, outdoor large concerts, sports events and other activities of 10,000 people or more will also require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test starting Oct. 7.

The updated health officer order, Ferrer said, also mandates that customers and employees at the indoor areas of bars, nightclubs, breweries and lounges must show verification of at least one vaccination dose by Oct. 7 — and a second by Nov. 4.

Restaurants are not included in the mandate — though, officials plan to strongly recommend that they also follow the requirement.

“Our hope with this is that we get more people vaccinated,” said Ferrer. “It is the most powerful tool for preventing this constant cycle of new variants of concern.

The Antelope Valley Fair typically takes place over 10 days in August but was moved to eight days in October to accommodate COVID-19 health and safety protocols and mandates. The event also was also scaled back to have a reduced number of vendors, exhibitors and concessionaires, and the arena concert series was already canceled.

“While our staff and volunteers have made countless changes and efforts to hold this event safely, the continued obstacles Los Angeles County Health Department imposes on safe, outdoor events like ours forces us to make this very difficult decision,” said Antelope Valley Fair & Event Board President Drew Mercy.

People who have already purchased tickets will receive automatic refunds, fair officials said.

“The health and well-being of our community has and always will be our top priority. We’ve been carefully preparing this year’s event with stringent safety protocols at the forefront of all of our planning. However, these recent Los Angeles County mandates are the tipping point in terms of resources, forecasting reduced attendance and other burdens that impact our ability to move forward,” said Antelope Valley Fair & Event Center CEO Dan Jacobs.

“Saying we’re disappointed is an understatement. We sincerely appreciate how our fair fans, sponsors, concessionaires, vendors, exhibitors and volunteers have supported us through these last two very tumultuous years.”

Ferrer said she was surprised by fair organizers’ decision because county health officials had indicated that the fair would be exempt from the mandate because of its early October start date.

“I’m not really sure what the reason for cancelling is but we’re happy to talk with them,” she added.

Ferrer said county officials will work with others event organizers to provide tool kits that walk organizers through testing procedures, as well as vaccine and testing verification.

Meanwhile, county officials reported another 25 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, raising the total to 25,799 since the pandemic began. The new 1,823 cases raised the county’s total to 1,440,721.

The county’s COVID-related hospitalizations dropped by 31 on Thursday, according to the state’s dashboard, totaling 1,125. Patients in intensive care decreased by four, to 337.

The county has the network in place to offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to people eligible for them, Ferrer said, adding she was not surprised by a federal recommendation to limit the boosters to older residents and those at high risk of severe illness from the virus.

Ferrer said the county has 1,300 fixed vaccinated sites in its network, with the overall capacity to administer 130,000 shots a day — and quickly able to expand if needed to 200,000 per day.

But access to booster shots is reliant on approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An FDA committee on Friday recommended that booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine be limited to people 65 and older and people who are at particularly high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

“The FDA has indicated for the last couple of weeks that they’re looking for more information and more data, particularly information from the experiences in this country and not relying so heavily on the experiences and the data that’s coming from other countries,” Ferrer said. “And we appreciate their due diligence. That affords all of us a sense of security that they are looking very thoroughly at the evidence as they make their recommendations.”

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