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Re-opening Isn’t One Size Fits All

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In many parts of the country, state and local governments have been lifting various closures and other restrictions on public spaces. Declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases and increasing numbers of vaccinations are combining to reduce risk across the board. It’s a big change from a year ago when most of the U.S. was under the strictest lockdowns of the pandemic. However, since the federal government has left pandemic policymaking to the states, there can be quite a bit of difference between what one state allows and another does not. In fact, what one state allows may change week to week based on the latest available data concerning infection vaccination rates. Still, the news is mostly positive, with businesses, venues, and people eager to return to social gatherings in a safe, yet reasonable manner. 

Here’s a look at what four states which are top event destinations are doing as of mid to late April:

Florida

Throughout most of the pandemic, the state government for Florida has left a wide framework for individual counties and municipalities to restrict, open, or monitor their areas as they see fit. As of the end of summer 2020, nearly all state beaches were open. In the majority of counties, outdoor dining has been allowed for approximately the same time frame.

Current status: Open for business with social distancing and sanitization procedures in place – in most counties 

State-wide regulations: No state mask mandate is in effect, though individual counties and private businesses may choose to enforce mask wearing at their discretion. 

Local regulations of note:  Miami-Dade County recently lifted its midnight curfew for all businesses (April 13, 2021). It was the last county to do so.

What’s open as of 4/27/2021:   

  • Retail, malls, salons, personal care, offices, schools – all with social distancing and other health and safety protocols in place.
  • Movie theatres, Hotels, Restaurants, Stadiums, Outdoor Performances, Entertainment Centers, Bars, and Indoor Venues – all allowed to operate at 100% capacity.
    • Individual counties and cities may limit attendance based on local case rates and other factors.
  • Theme parks – most are operating at reduced capacity, though are not under orders by the state to do so. Most are also enforcing their own mask mandates within the parks, except while seated at theme park dining establishments.
  • Cruise lines – while no official order has been made yet, cruise lines are hoping to resume partial operations by June or July, with possible restrictions including proof of completed vaccination for passengers.

What’s important to remember, regardless of restrictions, conditions may change without warning. Such was the case when the City of Miami Beach experienced a huge influx of spring breakers that caught national news attention for gathering in tightly packed groups of hundreds of people, often without masks (which were required by the city at the time). As a result, the city enacted a strict “dusk to dawn” curfew which effectively shut down venues and operations during the evening hours.

Such restrictions are possible again at any time, in any state or destination, should infection rates return to dangerous levels. Italy and other parts of Europe have already experienced a “bounce back” round of lockdowns as new variants of the virus continue to move through the population. As well, it is worth remembering that the U.S. has yet to allow open travel to the country from China, Iran, the majority of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa.

newyork skyline

New York City

Moving separately from the rest of the state, the New York City/Five Burroughs area has been slowly lifting many of its strict regulations, through several restrictions main in place. Travelers are no longer

required to quarantine upon entering the state or city, but most domestic and international travelers must complete a traveler health form

Current status: Phase 4 in the New York Forward Plan. City-wide mask mandate remains in effect for all public/workplace settings.

What’s open as of 4/27/2021:   

  • All low-risk outdoor activities such as parks, botanical gardens, and zoos – with some capacity restrictions in place for certain attractions.
  • Outdoor Stadiums and performing arts venues such as amphitheaters: 20% capacity
  • Indoor restaurant dining: 50% capacity
  • Outdoor dining: 100% capacity with social distancing and sanitation protocols, recently announced sidewalk dining and closed streets to be permanent in some areas.
  • Indoor areas and spectator venues: 10% capacity
  • Event venues: up to 20% capacity or maximum of 100 people with mask wearing mandatory as well as assigned seats and negative COVID-19 testing within 72 hours of event.
  • Broadway: All Broadway shows remain closed until at least May 30, 2021. Estimated full re-opening of Broadway is anticipated for September 2021.
  • Maximum capacity limits may be expanded and/or waived in the future with verification of vaccination. 

Though the State of New York has seen declining rates of infection and hospitalizations, there has been an uptick in cases of the “British Variant” of the virus. Known to be more contagious than the initial virus, the ongoing restrictions are the result of concerns over rapid spreading while much of the city’s population has yet to be fully vaccinated (only 25% of NYC dwellers are fully vaccinated as of 4/22).

california street

California

Since the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., California has had some of the strictest orders in place to try and minimize spread of the virus. The state has been working under varying degrees of “stay at home” orders and a color-coded system that changes in response to county-wide case levels.

Current status: Orange/Moderate Tier for 87% of the state

State-wide regulations: Mask mandate for all persons when in public and/or workplace settings

What’s open as of 4/27/2021:   

  • Retail, malls, salons, personal care, offices, schools – all with social distancing and other health and safety protocols in place.
  • Movie theatres: 50% capacity, no more than 200 people.
  • Hotels: Open with protocols in place. Pools & fitness facilities at 25% capacity.
  • Restaurants: 50% capacity, no more than 200 people.
  • Wineries/breweries: 25% capacity, no more than 100 people.
  • Outdoor stadiums: 33% capacity
  • Theme parks: 25% capacity
  • Outdoor performances/amphitheater, etc.: 33% capacity, very limited indoor capacity depending on size of venue
  • Entertainment centers/arcades: 25% capacity, distanced activities (bowling, rock climbing) only
  • Bars: outdoor only

At the beginning of the month, the state government announced an intention to lift all pandemic restrictions except it’s mask mandate on June 15th. This would shift decision-making about capacity sizes and similar requirements from the state’s government to local ones. So, the City of Los Angeles, for example, may decide to continue stricter safeguards while a less populated county or city may not.

colorado mountain

Colorado

Colorado has also been using a color-coded dial ranging from green (few restrictions) to purple (strong restrictions) throughout the pandemic. They have also instituted a 5-star state certification program to help provide both guidance and oversight that businesses are adhering to the standards and protocols recommended at each level. 

Current status: Green or Blue level for most major metro areas, some counties with fully lifted restrictions. Summit County (Breckenridge, Keystone, and surrounding areas) and Pueblo County (southwestern portion of state) remain at yellow level.

State-wide regulations: Mask mandate for all persons when in public and/or workplace settings – set to expire at state level on May 3, 2021.

What’s open as of 4/22/2021:   

  • All Blue and Green Level Counties are allowing most businesses to operate at 100% capacity with social distancing and additional sanitation protocols in place. This includes restaurants, gyms, hotels, theatres, and other facilities.
  • Blue Level Indoor Events: 50% of venue capacity, no more than 500 people
  • Green Level Indoor Events: No restrictions
  • Yellow Level Counties are operating at 50% capacity with a maximum cap of 150 persons in a single venue.

Recent news has reported that case levels are already on the rise again in many parts of Colorado, some as much as 5% higher than the state’s recommended levels for reducing transmission. Going forward, counties have been given the authority to decide for themselves which level their current situation fits best, and individual businesses may choose to enforce stricter rules at their discretion.

About the VIBE Agency: The VIBE Agency is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in the creation and orchestration of live and virtual experiences for the corporate industry.   The agency is forward-thinking and was recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019 and 2020.  Most recently, Valerie Bihet, founder of the VIBE was named a Smart Women in Meetings 2021 Hall of Fame honoree by Smartmeetings, for her consistent work advancing the industry.  If it can’t be live, make it VIBE!

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