SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Pride Parade and Comic-Con are set to kick off just as San Diego County enters the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high transmission level due to a spike in COVID cases.

Pride events have already begun, kicking off the Pride Block Party that began at Pride Plaza in Hillcrest Thursday night and another one from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday. The ticketed, outdoor event is anticipated to draw about 2,000 people.

On Saturday, the Pride parade in Hillcrest is expected to draw about 300,000 spectators and the weekend events continue with the Pride Festival in Balboa Park.

“There were really no issues relative to COVID spreading last year, so we don’t anticipate any this year,” Hillcrest Business Association Executive Director Benjamin Nicholls said. “We’re permitted for about 2,000 people and we are probably going to hit that. We certainly did last year.”

Just as the organization did last year, the block party is a two-night event.

“We have a lot of exciting things going on and we’re not telling people to not have fun,” said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, chief medical officer for acute care operations at Scripps Health. “That’s the last thing we want to tell people after two-and-a-half years of being in this phase. We are just asking for extra caution. Do what you want to do in a safe way.

“Before we said if you’re outside, you’re relatively safe. Now the message is a little different. If you’re outside in a large crowd, highly encourage you to wear a mask, even if you’re vaccinated.” 

She said this new variant is highly contagious.

Pride events are outdoors and masks are not required, but Comic-Con, which happens next weekend and is known to bring thousands as well, requires masks and proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test.

“If it’s recommended, I think everyone should take the right countermeasures to take care of themselves and the ones they love,” Pride block party attendee Alexis Simpson said.

“It sucks but if it’s recommended for masks, I feel like we should wear them,” another attendee Raul Chavez said. “But also like, we shouldn’t not enjoy life.” 

Asked if a mask mandate potentially is on the table, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s deputy public health officer, said, “We’re always thinking about what’s the best approach to keep the community safe.”

We are still going to make sure that that recommendation is out there, and we are going to be hammering it harder over the next few days because of the change in tier,” Kaiser said. “We want people to be as safe as possible and masks absolutely work.”