Sonoma County bars, indoor dining and museums ordered to close Monday
State public health officials on Sunday ordered Sonoma County bars without food service to close and put a halt to indoor dining service as well as visits to museums and entertainment centers, marking the latest and most significant regression for the county into pandemic prohibitions with the coronavirus resurgent in the community and deepening its toll on livelihoods.
The highly anticipated health order from the state Department of Public Health goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and adds Sonoma County to a list of at least 29 other California counties facing reinstated restrictions driven by a wave of summertime coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
The county reported 116 new COVID-19 cases late Sunday night, marking the single largest increase in a 24-hour period so far, reaching a total of 1,819. The tally has increased sharply since Memorial Day and contributed to the state’s decision to add Sonoma County to the growing list of counties being ordered to dial back indoor business activity.
“The current data reflect that community spread of infection is of increasing concern across the state,” California Public Health Officer Sonia Angell stated in the order signed order dated Sunday.
The latest closures will remain in effect through at least Aug. 2.
Patio dining service, outdoor wine tasting and other open air commercial activities are still allowed. Bars that don’t serve food must close all operations, indoors and outdoors.
The rate of infections in Sonoma County has increased sixfold since early June from 20 cases per 100,000 residents to more than 120 cases per 100,000 as of July 12, Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said in a county news release.
Two additional county residents died from COVID-19, the local health department reported late Saturday, bringing total known death toll to 16.
More than half of those people have died in the past two weeks.
Both of the residents had been living at skilled nursing facilities prior to their deaths, according to health department spokesman Rohish Lal. A woman died at a unnamed residential facility and a man was transferred to a hospital where he died, according to Lal. Both were over 65 years old.
Additional details were unavailable Sunday.
Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said she hoped the state’s order will motivate people to do what they can as individuals “to flatten that curve.” She also acknowledged the restrictions, though anticipated, will hurt local businesses.
“It feels like we’re in a grown-up game of red light, green light with very serious consequences both economically and for public health,” Hopkins said.
Bert Rangel, proprietor of River’s End Restaurant and Inn in Jenner, said the closure of businesses along the Russian River like his during the crucial summer season will be devastating.
Rangel questioned how the new restrictions will help Sonoma County specifically since no outbreaks have been publicly linked to the types of establishments being closed.
“How does that relate to Jenner, a town of 90 people where nobody has COVID?” Rangel said, addressing state and county health departments. “What are you doing to attack where COVID exists in communities versus let’s close a restaurant again in the middle of our time to make a living?”
The closures will mean Russian River Brewing Co. must shut down its Windsor pub for all but takeout and the gift store, requiring they furlough a yet-to-be-determined number of staff, president and co-founder Natalie Cilurzo said.
The brewery’s flagship pub in downtown Santa Rosa, which serves food on its patio, will increase its table seating on Fourth Street, which the city closed to traffic so that businesses might increase outdoor dining options. All in all, Cilurzo said they have been preparing for this possibility and the business will survive, but the toll will be much greater on some of their employees.
“That has really been the hardest part for us, our employees are our family,” Cilurzo said. “We care very much about them, their health and wellbeing. They rely on us to make a living.”
The order also applies to hundreds of Sonoma County wineries, allowing only those with outdoor tasting rooms to continue to welcome guests. A representative of Sonoma County Vintners could not be reached Sunday for an assessment of how the new restrictions would impact the industry during high season for summer visitors.
In the state order, Angell, California’s health officer, explained the state’s strategy of limiting community spread in order to protect the people most vulnerable to the virus. She said that they focused on businesses where “groups mix with other groups” and where alcohol is consumed because it “slows brain activity, reduces inhibition, and impairs judgment.”