Sonoma County qualifies to further reopen businesses under state’s orange tier
With the continued decline in coronavirus transmission, Sonoma County on Tuesday qualified to ease more restrictions on businesses and public activities in two weeks.
The state’s four-stage reopening guidelines will enable the county to advance from the red tier to the orange tier on April 13, as long as new daily virus infections and the level of positive COVID-19 tests remain in check.
But Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer, said the pandemic is far from over and urged residents to continue adherence to public health precautions.
“The virus is smart and the virus keeps mutating,” said Mase, the county’s health officer. “We’re still in the stage where we’re trying to figure out what these variants mean and how they’re going to impact the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”
After seven months in the most restrictive purple tier of California’s reopening road map for its 58 counties, Sonoma advanced to the red stage on March 14.
With the county’s adjusted daily virus transmission rate now at 3.6 cases per 100,000 residents, the lowest level since the state launched its reopening plan last August, the overall local virus test positivity rate at 1.6% and the share of positive tests in disadvantaged communities at 2.3%, the county is on the cusp of jumping ahead to the orange tier.
Moving to orange would allow businesses, such as stores, restaurants and gyms, to broaden indoor customer capacity. For example, eateries could expand food and drink service to 50% capacity inside or to 200 people, whichever is less. Notably, bars that don’t serve food finally would be able to reopen outside after a long hiatus.
Wineries, breweries and distilleries where no meals are served could reopen indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. Movie theaters, limited to 25% capacity under the red tier, could expand to 50%.
Ashby Marshall, co-owner of Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol, said she’s hiring several workers, including a tasting room manager, to handle indoor business. The distillery now only has carryout service.
“Our tasting room is quite small, so we’ll be doing a reservation system to manage customers,” Marshall said.
The county could advance even sooner to the orange tier once California gets 4 million vaccinations into the arms of residents of the state’s poorest communities. When that happens, the state will make it easier to gain entry to that tier, and Sonoma would qualify as long as virus transmission doesn’t pick up before then.
County health officials said Tuesday the state could reach that vaccination goal in low-income neighborhoods by Sunday.
Two weeks ago, when the state reached a target of inoculating the first 2 million of its 8 million most disadvantaged residents, the county finally was able to exit the purple tier and further reopen and expand business operations at the beginning of last week.
Under the state’s community reopening plan, there are four colored steps that characterize the spread of COVID-19 in respective counties. Purple denotes widespread transmission, red is substantial spread, orange means moderate spread and yellow denotes minimal transmission.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @pressreno.