California continues to inch back to pre-pandemic normalcy.

Vaccine verification and testing requirements for indoor mega-events will be lifted effective April 1, per new guidance issued by Tomas Aragon, state public health officer and director with the California Department of Public Health. That means for gatherings of 1,000 or more — concerts, sporting events, award shows, conferences, conventions and the like — guests no longer need to prove they have received vaccines or boosters or submit negative COVID-19 test results prior to admittance. Instead, officials have shifted the guidance to “strong recommendation,” citing declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state.

That said, concerns have been a topic of conversation in places like New York and China. A new variant, dubbed BA.2, accounts for approximately 30 percent of new cases in New York City, per the New York Times. But Dr. Aswin Vasan said in his first press conference after assuming his post as health commissioner that he was not alarmed by the data, offering, “Community spread remains low.”

The news of relaxed mandates comes as Hollywood is prepping for the 94th annual Academy Awards, a telecast that could be categorized as an indoor mega-event, as the capacity of the Dolby Theatre is 3,400. However, Academy officials have cut invites this year and won’t be filling the venue to capacity. Furthermore, the event is categorized as a filmed production and thus operates with different mandates.

Still, it’s unclear if and when Los Angeles County will follow suit with the updated guidance from the State of California. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A. County’s Department of Public Health, has sometimes had stricter mandates than the rest of the state as the area has been hardest hit by the virus. More than 31,408 people have died in L.A. County due to COVID-19, followed by San Bernardino County with 6,775. Earlier this week, indoor masking protocols were updated to “strongly recommended” for TK-12 schools and childcare settings for staff, students and teachers.

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