Gov. Gavin Newsom just gave Californians more regulations for an early Christmas present — and anyone hoping to celebrate the holidays with family better hope there’s a gift receipt.
Just in time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities, when most families gather with loved ones, California’s Democrat governor has issued a new set of regulations that bans gatherings of more than three households. Additionally, no indoor gatherings are permitted, so don’t plan on eating around the dining room table unless you lug it out into your backyard.
Newsom’s ban on gatherings of more than three households means that a family with more than two grown children can only have two visit at the same time. According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of mothers in their young forties in 1976 had three or more children. If those mothers are grandmothers now and their children are grown, that means up to two-thirds of families would be banned from bringing all their children under one roof for the holidays.
Ashley Pollard lives in Orange County, California, and her family’s gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas usually include several households coming in from all over the state and beyond. “For most of my family, we look forward to the holidays, as it is often the two times of year that we are able to see each other,” she said. But this year, that won’t be able to happen. “Our holidays will be celebrated individually,” Pollard said. “No cousins, aunts, or uncles.”
Beka Helm is from Sanger, California, and her family’s gatherings normally include about 25 people. This year, she expects they can only have less than half of that. “The holidays are all about family,” says Helm. “If you try to enforce every single one of these rules, the focus turns from family to keeping the rules.”
Not only is California limiting the number of households that can come for Thanksgiving, the state also requires hosts to write down the names of all attendees for contact tracing. For families who want to celebrate the holidays with both sets of in-laws, “participating in multiple gatherings with different households or groups is strongly discouraged.”
In addition to limiting how much of your family can gather, California is mandating that all gatherings happen outside. That means families can’t congregate in the kitchen to cook together, serve food in the kitchen, or sit around the dining room table. Family members can leave your backyard and enter your house to use the restroom, but only if the restroom is “frequently sanitized.”
Unlike some states, California’s winter climate isn’t necessarily hostile to outdoor gatherings, but it can dip below freezing in November and December. Families who have a backyard can gather there; families who live in condos or apartments will have to look elsewhere. “We have been blessed with enough space to have it outside if that was what we wanted,” Helm said. “It probably isn’t realistic for the average resident of California.”
Even outside, the regulations also mandate at least six feet of distance between members of different households at all times, including when family members are sitting. So good luck passing the Thanksgiving turkey down the table, much less having a conversation with the people seated around you.
Speaking of Thanksgiving turkey, Newsom’s regulations require that “as much as possible, any food or beverages at outdoor gatherings must be in single-serve disposable containers.” And no serving your own plate — if food can’t be served in single portions, then someone wearing a face covering must be there to dole out servings.
Attendees should also put their face masks back on as soon as they finish eating. And make sure to keep your gathering short, even if it’s been months since you’ve seen your extended family. “Gatherings should be two hours or less,” Newsom’s rules stipulate.
Finally, don’t count on singing Christmas carols at any holiday parties this year. Singing is “strongly discouraged.” If you do sing, you must wear a face mask the entire time. Further, you’re “strongly encouraged” to sing quietly, and standing far apart from everyone else.
If these rules weren’t severe enough, the regulations also give “local health jurisdictions” permission to enforce even stricter rules. Which raises the question: how is this going to be enforced? Are neighbors going to be encouraged to rat each other out — as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did — or is this just a political stunt with no real teeth?
Some of Newsom’s rules might be fine as recommendations or suggestions. It may be wise for certain families with at-risk members to follow some of these precautions this year. But that should be a decision left to individual families — not mandated by the state.