Gathering Again: Updated State Guidelines Allow For In-Person Meetings & Events

With vaccinations on the rise and COVID cases in Santa Barbara County continuing to decline, the light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shine brighter, and with it people are looking to gather again in person.

“As vaccinations become more widely available, we hear more businesses and local residents asking about in person meetings and events,” explained Glenn Morris, President/CEO for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber. “Whether it be a ribbon cutting for a small business or one of our monthly mixers, we continue to hear an increased desire for people to transition back to meeting face to face, instead of on zoom.”

Recognizing the state’s progress in turning a corner in the COVID pandemic, the California Department of Public Health recently released updated guidelines for many types of private group events and indoor performances. Santa Barbara County joined the State in making these guidelines effective locally as of April 15th, 2021 through a public health order.

Highlights for private events and group meetings based on the current orange tier include:

Indoor capacity for meetings is limited to 150. All guests must be either fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the event, or show proof of a negative COVID test within the past 72 hours

Outdoor capacity for meetings is limited to 100, or up to 300 only if all guests are vaccinated or tested

Additional details on the new guidelines can be found at bit.ly/CAEventsCOVID

For local hotels and event spaces, the opportunity to host in person events again provides a much-needed boost to an industry hit hard by the pandemic.

“We have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to once again safely host meetings, weddings and other events in person,” said Phil Beitler, Director of Sales for the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria. “The updated guidelines released by the State was welcome news to our business. We are excited to welcome back guests for meeting and events in a safe and enjoyable way.”

Beitler says their hotel is following all state guidelines and that pandemic-level sanitation measures are still being adhered to. “We are currently booking meetings of smaller groups, (under 40 persons), with proof of vaccinations and social distancing measures in place,” Beitler said.

Beitler said over the last month, they have seen an increased interested booking in-person events at their hotel, and they expect to be able to accommodate larger social gatherings by fall of 2021.

Local nonprofits and community groups are also looking forward to being able to transition away from zoom and provide an opportunity to meet in person again.

“We are excited to see these updated guidelines from the state and the allowance of more safe, in person gatherings,” said Alex Castillo, Events and Special Projects Manager for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber.

Castillo says the Chamber is looking at how they can transition to a hybrid event model that offers both in person and virtual options for some of their larger events. “We see many people who are ready to safely gather again in person, but some are still hesitant. We are hoping a hybrid event model will be able to accommodate all community members looking to join our events in whatever way they feel safe and comfortable doing so.”

Morris says that State’s announcement of these updated event guidelines is another milestone in local reopening and economic recovery.

“Regardless of whether people feel ready to gather in person, we can all agree that the State’s updated event guidance allowing for in person gatherings is a positive sign that we are turning a corner in this pandemic,” Morris said. “The opportunity for hotels and event spaces to safely welcome people back is another step in local economic recovery, and something the community should be excited about.”