Newsom’s Thanksgiving rules offer Californians little to give thanks for

The California Department of Public Health released updated guidance last Friday regarding private gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hopes of battling over a turkey wishbone with extended family members are likely to be dashed, at least under new rules issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.

The California Department of Public Health released updated guidance last Friday regarding private gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Private gatherings are defined by the state as “social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place.” 

Specifically, the state is concerned that certain activities that happen in private gatherings, such as laughing and loud talking, will contribute to the spread of COVID-19. 

“All gatherings pose a higher risk of transmission and spread of COVID-19 when people mix from different households and communities,” the guidance reads. “The likelihood of transmission and spread increases with laughing, singing, loud talking and difficulty maintaining physical distance.” 

The guidance includes seven mandatory requirements for private gatherings:

  1. Gatherings that include more than three households are prohibited. 
  2. All gatherings must be held outside, although the state will allow attendees to use an indoor restroom as long as it is frequently sanitized. If there are multiple gatherings happening concurrently in a public space – such as a public park – those groups are not allowed to mix. 
  3. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms must stay home. 
  4. Families should maintain six feet of physical distancing from other families, and a place to wash hands or hand sanitizer must be available at all gatherings. 
  5. Face coverings are required, all though the state is allowing people to remove their coverings briefly to eat or drink as long as they stay at least 6 feet away from everyone outside their own household. People are allowed to remove their masks for emergency medical purposes, such as using an asthma inhaler or to take medication. 
  6. Gatherings should be two hours or less. 
  7. Singing, chanting and shouting are strongly discouraged, but if they occur, anyone participating in those acts must wear a face covering. 

“COVID-19 continues to pose a severe risk to communities and requires all people in California to follow necessary precautions and to adapt the way they live and function in light of this ongoing risk,” the guidance reads. “The safest way to gather is to spend time with people in the same household or to gather virtually.” 

The full guidance can be viewed at the CDPH website, and the state did not say how it will enforce the requirements.

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