Lonely beach

Alamitos Bay's "Horny Corner" traditionally has huge crowds on the Fourth of July, but this was the scene around noon Saturday, July 4, this year. Beaches were closed due to fears of spreading the coronavirus.

Private gatherings with members of up to three households are now allowed in Long Beach, officials announced late Thursday, Oct. 15.

Officials updated the city’s health order, which regulates gatherings and other activities to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. The order previously prohibited all private gatherings of more than one household.

The change went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.

The new rule, though, does have restrictions. The gatherings must be held outside and should be limited to two hours or less; they cannot be coordinated with other private gatherings.

And though three households can now privately gather, Long Beach’s health order still requires people to wear face coverings when not eating or drinking and to remain 6 feet from others. Singing, chanting, shouting and physical exertion are also discouraged, officials said, because those activities release respiratory droplets into the air.

The updated health order also notes that any group of three households that gather should remain stable over time. Similar concepts of “social bubbles” or “pandemic pods” have been allowed by health orders elsewhere in the country, including the Bay Area, to limit the number of people who could be exposed by a coronavirus outbreak.

Long Beach has reported 254 coronavirus-related deaths and 2,547 cases since the pandemic began, as of Thursday. Its positive testing rate was 3.1% and its new daily case rate was 6.9 per 100,000 people.

The city was not scheduled to update its numbers Friday.

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