ANAHEIM, Calif. — On the same day that Anaheim officials urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to release reopening guidelines for the Anaheim Convention Center, a spokeswoman for the governor's office said they plan to release reopening guidance for indoor meetings, events, and conventions in the coming weeks.
In an email to Spectrum News 1, the spokeswoman said they have yet to release guidance for reopening convention centers and hotel meetings due to an increased risk of spreading COVID-19 indoors.
"As you know, we have yet to provide guidance for larger social events, due to the increased risk of indoor disease transmission at large gatherings where it can be harder to enforce consistent masking, particularly during meals, and physical distancing," the spokeswoman said.
"That said, conditions are improving, as we learn more about COVID-19 and how it spreads, more people are vaccinated, Californians continue to adhere to safety protocols, and business continue to take substantial measures to keep their employees, customers, and guests safe," the statement added. "As such, we expect to release new guidance for events such as conventions in the coming weeks."
The statement came on the same day the Mayor of Anaheim and business and union officials pushed the governor's office to reopen the Anaheim Convention Center after a year of it being closed — and to release information on when hotels can resume indoor meetings.
The Anaheim Convention Center, one of the largest on the West Coast, is a major economic generator for Anaheim and Orange County.
In 2019, convention visitors spent more than $2.7 billion in Orange County, according to Visit Anaheim, the city's tourism arm.
Business meetings, trade shows, and conventions are also significant sources of tourism in the state, accounting for $66.1 billion in direct spending and 457,000 jobs in 2019, said Visit Anaheim President and CEO Jay Burress.
At a press conference on the Westin Anaheim rooftop, with a Disney California Adventure roller coaster in the background, officials urged the governor to release the guidance finally.
"California is the only state in the nation not to open convention businesses," Burress said. "All other states have been able to poach conventions, meetings, and events that otherwise would have taken place in California."
So far, Burress said, the state's inaction and lack of reopening guidelines have resulted in a loss of $900 million in economic impacts from events that were to take place at the Anaheim Convention Center in the first and second quarter of 2021.
"California is potentially at a catastrophic economic disadvantage if the governor delays much longer to release guidelines and a timeline to reopen conventions and meetings and events at hotels," Burress said.
The call for action comes a week and a half after California modified its four-color coded Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan and released new guidance for reopening theme parks and live sporting events.
Under the new guidance, theme parks such as Disneyland can reopen, starting at 15% capacity, when their home county reaches the red tier. As a county's coronavirus case rates go down, capacity can start increasing — 25% in the orange tier, and 35% in the yellow tier.
Hoteliers and businesses celebrated the news of reopening Disneyland and Angels baseball. Reopening the convention center and indoor meetings is the final piece for local businesses and tourism to rebound from the pandemic's effects.
"Right now, if there are not decisions made on the guidelines for conventions, we're going to lose more," said Todd Ament, the president of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. "We're going to lose those conventions and businesses and we're not going to get future business. And those [local] businesses that are hanging on by a thread can't wait. We need the state to issue the guidelines for conventions and meetings so those people can stay in business."