Lakers welcome fans back to Staples Center – attendance to remain strictly limited

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - When the Lakers host the Boston Celtics tomorrow night at Staples Center, they'll be greeted by something they haven't seen for more than a year -- fans in the stands.

The state and Los Angeles County have both eased COVID-19 restrictions to again allow spectators at indoor events, beginning Thursday. The Lakers will be the first major Southland sports franchise to reap the benefits of the change, welcoming back fans to the team's 7 p.m. tip-off.

But attendance will remain strictly limited, and fans who do get into the arena will have to adhere to a host of rules -- and they will have to prove they are either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have had a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of tip-off.

A person is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

According to the Lakers, about 2,000 fans are expected to attend Thursday night's game. Normal capacity at Staples Center for a Laker game is about 19,000.

Since Staples Center is requiring fans to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test, county guidelines allow attendance of up to 25% of the venue's capacity. State guidelines allow up to 35%, but the county is imposing a tighter restriction on attendance.

State and county rules limit attendance to in-state residents only.

Fans will also need to adhere to various other restrictions.

-- All fans must have digital tickets on their mobile device.

-- Everyone over age 2 must wear a face covering at all times, except when eating or drinking in a designated area. Neck gaiters, bandanas and masks with exhalation vents are prohibited. A face shield is not a substitute for an actual mask. People unable to wear a proper face covering will not be admitted.

-- No bags of any kind will be permitted, including clear bags. Fans should only bring items that can fit in their pockets. Medical and child-care bags will be permitted, but will be X-rayed upon entry. Rental lockers will be available outside the arena for people to store non-permitted bags.

-- Six feet of physical distancing must be maintained from other groups at all time. Spacing markers have been installed at the arena and fans will be seated away from others.

-- All transactions will be cashless, meaning fans must use credit or debit cards or contactless mobile payment methods. For people without cards, "cash-to-card" kiosks are located in the arena.

-- Food and drink must be ordered on a mobile device by scanning the QR codes located at the concession stand or at seats. Fans will receive a text message when their order is ready for pickup. No outside food or beverages are permitted, except for a single sealed, plastic water bottle, 1 liter or smaller.

-- Eating and drinking must be done in designated areas, NOT in seats.

The same restrictions will be in place for all Staples Center events, including Clipper and Kings games.

Similar rules will also be in place at other indoor venues, as the state and county again allows attendance at other events starting Thursday, such as theater performances, concerts and conferences.

For smaller indoor venues that hold up to 1,500 people, capacity is limited to a maximum of 15%, or 200 people. The capacity can increase to 35% if everyone has proof of a negative COVID test or of being fully vaccinated.

For private events such as meetings, receptions or conferences, outdoor gatherings can be held with 100 people, or up to 300 if everyone is vaccinated/tested. Indoor activities are permitted only if all guests are vaccinated or tested, and attendance is limited to a maximum of 150 people.

For informal private social gatherings, the new rules allow outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people, with required masking and physical distancing. Indoor social gatherings are "strongly discouraged," but can be held with a maximum of 25 people or 25% of the venue's capacity, whichever is lower, with required masks and no eating or drinking unless everyone attending has been vaccinated.