While some states seem eager to reopen their events industry, others have slowed or reversed their reopening plans as Covid-19 cases spike across the United States. Although it is unlikely that the events industry will fully recover in any of the United States in the next six to nine months, let’s talk about states allowing large gatherings to take place under the proper precautions.
Although many gatherings of 250+ individuals in close proximity are subject to intense scrutiny by government officials and disease control agencies, some states simply haven’t accepted the coronavirus’ demolition of the events industry.
These 18 states have allowed their events industry and other businesses to begin to recover, at least in some capacity.
Here is a list of the states that are permitting some or all large gatherings such as corporate meetings, trade shows, conferences, workshops, conventions, and festivals:
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey allows restaurants and retail stores to open up at 50 percent maximum capacity. Beaches are open as long as social distancing guidelines are in place.
There are no limitations on meetings in the state of Alabama. Gatherings of any size are permitted as long as attendees can follow social-distancing rules.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan has allowed most businesses to reopen at full capacity, although a few restrictions are still in place.
While large gatherings of any size are permitted, event officials require strict social-distancing and hygiene practices.
Although meetings of any size are permitted, nonresidents are required to be tested within 72 hours to five days prior to arrival in Alaska — only allowing access to those who tested negative. Those who test positive must self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon their arrival.
If you’re looking to host an event in Alaska, make sure your out-of-state attendees get coronavirus tests, as the state ceased offering tests to nonresidents on August 11.
Arkansas is one of the few states where no statewide stay-at-home order was ever put into place. Although cases have surged since, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has allowed the state to enter “phase 2” of reopening, allowing most facilities to open at two-thirds capacity with social distancing practices encouraged.
As for the events industry in Arkansas, indoor and outdoor entertainment venues are permitted to hold up to 66 percent of any venue’s capacity. However, if you’re looking to host an event of 100 people or more — you’ll have to get approval from the Arkansas Department of Health.
Any events under 100 guests do not require approval from the health department.
Although Gov. Brad Little announced Idaho would scale back reopening further as Covid-19 cases saw a rise, the state remains in phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan. Phase 4 allows for gatherings of any size as long as social distancing and other precautionary measures are in place.
Gatherings, both public and private, of more than 50 people have been permitted since June 14 in Idaho. Large venues can operate under limited social-distancing protocols.
On September 26, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Indiana would enter stage 5 of the governor’s “Back on Track Indiana” plan. Under stage 5, restaurants, gyms, and retail can open at full capacity with social distancing guidelines.
Everyone in Indiana over the age of 8 must wear masks in all public indoor spaces, transportation, and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.
Although there is no limit on social gathering size, events of more than 500 people are required to send a health-safety plan to the Indiana State Health Department.
Though Louisiana has entered phase 3 of reopening, some strict guidelines must be followed in the Bayou State. Under phase 3, theme parks, music halls, and indoor live-entertainment venues must remain closed. However, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses are permitted to operate at 75 percent capacity.
Private social gatherings have been capped at 50 people, but if you’re looking to host a medium-sized event, you could be in luck. The state of Louisiana currently allows indoor gatherings of up to 250 people or 50 percent of the venue’s capacity. Outdoor gatherings of more than 250 people are permitted as long as social distancing guidelines can be maintained.
Although technically, you could probably host an event in Michigan, the state has some strict and specific guidelines as to how you can proceed.
Guidance in Michigan was issued on October 29 that allowed 20 people per 1,000 square feet for indoor facilities and 30 people per 1,000 feet in outdoor venues. However, the state issued a three-week pause on social gatherings and group activities on November 18.
Perhaps the most resilient state in the country, Missouri became the first state to allow the live events industry to resume with Gov. Mike Parson’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” plan.
On June 16, the state of Missouri entered Phase 2, allowing all businesses, including large concert venues and theaters, to resume operations. Though social-distancing practices must be in place, Missouri’s recovery is exciting for anyone involved in the events industry.
Twenty-seven of Nebraska’s ninety-three counties are now in Phase 4 of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ “Steps to Get Nebraska Growing” plan. Under this plan, indoor gatherings can operate at 75 percent capacity and outdoor gatherings at 100 percent capacity. Like Missouri, Nebraska still has to abide by specific social distancing guidelines even though gatherings of nearly any capacity are permitted.
Although the events industry’s future looks bright in much of Nebraska, all counties were issued a Directed Health Measure (DHM) as of December 1, 2020. In the county of Lincoln, Nebraska, for example, the DHM limits indoor gatherings to 25%, but still permits outdoor gatherings up to 100% capacity as long as social-distancing measures are taken.
Still, Nebraska remains one of the most hopeful states for a smooth reopening as gatherings of up to 10,000 people are permitted with restrictions.
Going back to states with strict mandates, North Dakota requires anyone over the age of 5 to wear a face-covering in any public setting — indoors and outside. Gov. Doug Burgum announced that bars and restaurants could operate at 50 percent capacity, up to 150 people.
Although event venues are permitted to operate at 25 percent capacity in North Dakota, these sites must also abide by new capacity limits established based on venue size.
Much like North Dakota, Gov. Mike Dewine issued a face mask mandate that must be worn in all public spaces statewide. Although the state entered the final phase of Dewine’s “Responsible Restart Ohio” plan on June 1, strict safety guidelines are still pressured.
As far as the events industry goes, gatherings in Ohio of up to only 300 people are permitted — or 15 percent of the venue’s capacity.
Perhaps one of the laxest states regarding current restrictions, Oklahoma entered the final phase of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s “Open Up & Recover Safely (OURS) Plan,” which allowed for all businesses to resume with no restrictions other than encouraging social distancing and face coverings.
Event venues, sporting venues, camps, and more are permitted to operate at 100% capacity in the state of Oklahoma, as long as residents “avoid groups that do not readily allow for appropriate social distancing.”
Although strict coronavirus restrictions were imposed on Philadelphia effective until January 1, the rest of the state has allowed for certain operations to reopen.
A maximum occupancy calculator was created for the events industry to determine attendee limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings in the state of Pennsylvania. Based on these calculations, indoor events with fewer than 2,000 guests can operate at 20 percent capacity, while outdoor events can operate at 25 percent.
Since August, Gov. Henry McMaster has required face coverings to be worn in all establishments except when eating or drinking.
Entertainment venues in South Carolina are permitted to host events as long as they don’t exceed 50 percent capacity or 250 people (whichever is less). Masks must be worn at all gatherings.
Unlike North Dakota, which saw strict restrictions, South Dakota has adopted Gov. Kristi Noem’s “back to normal” plan, which permits all businesses to reopen.
Under the governor of South Dakota’s plan, there is no cap for meeting size as long as individuals “consider steps to maintain reasonable social distancing.” South Dakota is perhaps the state with the laxest coronavirus restrictions in the country.
If you thought Texas businesses wouldn’t stay shut down, you were right. On October 14, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order allowing nearly every business to increase their occupancy levels to 75 percent of maximum capacity.
In counties that opt-in, bars are permitted to reopen for indoor service at 50 percent capacity. Though restrictions sound relaxed in Texas, all Texans are instructed to wear face coverings while in public and outdoor gatherings of 10 or more require local government officials’ approval.
On November 23, the state emergency, which prohibited all social gatherings with non-household members, was allowed to expire. The next day, Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order which released limitations on gathering sizes.
As long as event organizers complete the state’s event management template and require all guests to wear facemasks and practice social distancing, there are no limitations on gathering size of any capacity in Utah.
While Gov. Mark Gordon never issued a stay-at-home order, the state of Wyoming sees some strict restrictions on social gatherings.
Although particular gatherings like faith-based events, hotels, and livestock auctions are exempt, the rest of the restrictions have strict guidelines.
In Wyoming, as long as social distancing can be maintained, indoor gatherings of up to 250 people are allowed. As far as outdoor events go, up to 1,000 people or 50 percent of the venue’s capacity is permitted.
When will the events industry recover?
A lot of uncertainty remains as to when the events sector will finally start to appear “normal” again. Only time can tell whether the state and the federal government will ease restrictions that are causing many businesses hardship.
We won’t know when the events industry will truly recover until we know whether various containment measures effectively slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Until then, it’s essential to stay positive, watch how trends are developing, and make a plan for the future.
Make sure you check with your state and local officials for the latest updates on COVID-19 event restrictions and stay safe out there!
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Robert Beagle is a technology enthusiast, author, blogger, and social media guru. In addition to contributing to blog.rentacomputer.com, Robert has also provided articles for blog.rentourlaptops.com, applethis.com, applethat.com, blog.camerasecuritynow.com, smbnow.com, and various other technology, business, and event manager blogs. Robert has vast knowledge and experience in technology applications for businesses small and large.