SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento County is adjusting its parameters for so-called “mega events” as the omicron variant sweeps through the country, pushing the demand for COVID-19 tests and temporarily crippling businesses.
In a briefing with reporters Thursday, Sacramento County Public Health officials said indoor events with more than 500 attendees or outdoor events that exceed 5,000 attendees will need to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Prior county guidance set those numbers at 1,000 people for indoor events and 10,000 outdoors.
Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye also issued a health order Thursday for public boards, councils and commissions to hold meetings virtually.
“This is a measured step that we can take that would allow us to be able to continue providing access to public services without cutting off that access for the public,” Kasirye said.
The order specifically says it applies to public entities like the Sacramento City Council and the county commissioners. However, it also recommends private businesses voluntarily follow the same guidelines and do away with in-person meetings.
But Kasiriye stopped short of calling on businesses to fully return to work-from-home models.
“We do anticipate for the next couple of weeks that we will continue to see an increase, and so that’s why it’s really important that all businesses look at their operations to see how they can continue to protect their employees,” Kasirye said.
At the county’s 13 managed COVID-19 sites, county officials said staff is struggling to keep up with the demand for tests. People have been waiting in one- to three-hour lines as staffers and their families are forced to stay home due to falling ill themselves.
Businesses, schools and public transportation are also feeling the strain on staffing. The Sacramento Regional Transit District said Thursday the “national workforce shortage is having a tremendous impact on Sac RT operations and staffing.” Riders have been told to be ready for delays and cancellations.
While the county expects to do 15,000 COVID-19 tests this week, the ability to supply those tests has been a challenge, officials told the media. Right now, Sacramento County does not have any at-home tests available and they could not say when they would get more from the state.
The rush to get at-home COVID-19 tests was seen at Sacramento County public libraries this week, which were supplied 91,000 test kits to hand out and ran out of all of them over the course of 24 hours.
“In the past hour since we’ve opened, we’ve distributed nearly all of the test kits we’ve had available from the Sacramento County Public Health Department,” said Sacramento Public Library Communications Manager Lisa Martinez on Wednesday morning.
Much of the state’s focus is making sure schools are stocked, so it’s unclear when if at all those take-home tests giveaways will happen again.
Sacramento County, along with the rest of the state and the country, is experiencing a major spike in COVID-19 cases and seven-day average case rates. While hospitalizations and deaths have not experienced as much of a dramatic increase, the most recently-recorded case rate in the county stood at 83.7 per 100,000. During the last major spike following the 2020 holiday season, the county reached case rate numbers just above 63.
As far as what’s next for public health orders, Dr. Kasirye said at this point, they are not planning any further restrictions.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify details about “mega event” attendance.