Will more counties in the Bay Area ban gatherings like Sonoma?


By invoking the kind of restrictions on activities that marked the first months of the pandemic, Sonoma County will from Wednesday ban large gatherings – indoors and outdoors – in an effort to quell the alarming spread of COVID-19 from the super-infectious omicron variant.

So far, health officials in other Bay Area counties say they have no plans to follow suit, though in many cases their virus transmission rates are worse than Sonoma County’s. But more restrictions elsewhere are not quite off the table.

“There’s so much rapid change. The numbers are rising fast,” Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith said. “I would not be surprised if something came up in the next week or so.”

Stock Photo by Dr. Jeff Smith, CEO of Santa Clara County, Speaks at a Press Event in September 2020 at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, California (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)

Sonoma County’s order begins at 12:01 Wednesday and will remain in effect until February 11th. It prohibits assemblies of 50 or more people indoors and 100 or more outdoors, as well as assemblies of 12 or more persons considered at high risk for severe COVID-19 -19 disease.

This does not apply to regular schooling or leisure time, participation in work, courthouses, services, cafeterias, shopping malls, shops, restaurants and museums.

However, this applies to any other public or private event that brings people together in a single room or space, including in the auditorium, gymnasium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting room or wedding venue, whether they include designated seating with limited access by tickets and gates . Events already planned during the order period must be postponed or canceled.

Like all Bay Area counties, Sonoma is experiencing its highest COVID-19 case rate ever, with a 7-day daily average of 165 cases per year. 100,000 people. In comparison, the county experienced a rate of 58 per. 100,000 below last winter’s high.

But the picture is even worse in other Bay Area counties: The 7-day average case rate is more than 180 per. 100,000 in Santa Clara, Alameda and San Francisco counties, and even higher in Los Angeles, the state’s largest city, where Los Angeles County now reports the state’s highest rate of 285 per capita. 100,000 people. Across the country, the current case rate bursts at 198 last winter’s peak at 112. About 100,000 new infections were reported every day in the past week, bringing California’s total cases past 6 million on Tuesday. Less than three weeks ago, the state topped 5 million.

When he made his decision to limit public assemblies, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari R. Mase that the county’s case rate has risen nearly 400% in two weeks “and is expected to continue to rise.” Mase said the percentage of positive tests for the virus “is higher than at any point in the pandemic,” and hospitalizations have more than doubled. Half of the cases in the last two weeks with known sources of infection were associated with assemblies, most involving more than 12 people, she said.

“Without mitigating efforts, state modeling projections show that the current increase has the potential to lead to more than three times as many individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, which would overwhelm the local hospital bed and staff capacity,” Mase said.

Health authorities in San Francisco, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties all said Tuesday that they are not planning any return to collection restrictions.

“Given the prevalence of COVID-19, a similar order would be disruptive and would not significantly affect the course of the pandemic in Alameda County at present,” said Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss.

Fans will watch the California High basketball game against De La Salle in San Ramon, California, on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. If Contra Costa County were to follow Sonoma County restricting gatherings, students, family and fans at high school basketball games would not be allowed. (Doug Duran / Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip mentioned the city’s high vaccination rates and the relatively low incidence of serious illness seen among those vaccinated as justification for enduring new restrictions for now.

“Of course we will follow the data, especially around hospitalizations,” Philips said, urging people to “be extra careful,” wear high-quality face masks. “Our intention is not to impose further restrictions.”

Sonoma County’s new rule already disrupted events on Tuesday. The Cinnabar Theater announced that it will stream its current production of Cyrano 21-23. January, and the opening of Amy and the Orphans has been pushed back from February 4 to February 11, with streaming still an option for its live performances.

“While we are saddened that we have to do this, we look forward to getting past this current increase,” said Cinnabar Theater CEO Diane Dragone.

The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa said it will postpone, reschedule or cancel 10 major events scheduled for Feb. 11, affecting 5,400 ticket holders. The events included a production of the game show The Price is Right and a performance by Grammy-nominated artist Beth Hart. The Bodega Chamber of Commerce also announced the cancellation of its Chowder Day scheduled for January 28th.

For Sonoma’s acclaimed wine industry, the golden edge of the order is that it comes in the low season before tastings and weddings go into high gear.

“From my perspective and for our overall impact, it’s better for us to have less activity now, so when we hit spring, we’ll be able to be completely open,” said Nick Caston, general manager of Harvest Moon Estate and Winery in Santa Rosa.

But that does not mean it is painless, said Henry Belmonte, owner of VJB Vineyard and Cellars, Wellington Cellars and Kenwood Farms and Ranch.

“It creates situations that become incredibly frustrating for people who have already booked an event,” he said. “For many business owners and for our guests, it’s back and forth, one step forward and three steps back.”

Staff authors Jason Green, Aldo Toledo, Annie Sciacca, Shomik Mukherjee, Harriet Rowan and Jackie Burrell contributed to this report.

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