As coronavirus cases rise, Sonoma County supervisors urge residents to follow rules, wear masks
Amid a spike in local coronavirus cases and mounting deaths, Sonoma County supervisors are watching, waiting and hoping for the best ahead of a Fourth of July weekend that could bring thousands together to celebrate in backyard barbecues and revel on coastal and river beaches.
Residents shouldn’t expect any new restrictions in public activity this week despite concerns about the recent surge in coronavirus cases, which has yielded the five highest single-day case totals and 282 cases — a quarter of the county’s total — in just the past 10 days, supervisors said Tuesday.
Contact tracing has connected much of the current rise in cases to large gatherings over Memorial Day weekend, Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said. She and her fellow supervisors are challenging residents to take the necessary precautions to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19.
“My biggest concern right now is the community,” Hopkins said. “I really believe if we do the right thing, we can slow this disease down.”
Susan Gorin, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said visitors to Sonoma Valley — her east county district’s premiere tourist magnet — have not consistently worn facial coverings. And Hopkins said mask spotting has become a sort of grim game among her family.
“My kids and I have been playing the game of, ‘How many people are wearing a mask?’ ” she said. “And it’s often less than half.”
Hopkins said she gets it. People want a return to normal. It’s a powerful desire, she said. But she and her fellow supervisors say it threatens to pull the county’s once-low caseload trajectory — built through early shelter-in-place restrictions that shut down much of the local economy — off course.
Supervisor David Rabbitt said some of the backsliding can be attributed to human nature, but he urged residents, including young people, not to let their guard down.
Zane went further, urging caution in the face of “human arrogance.”
“This is science, and this is life or death,” Zane said. “We should be humbled.”
Zane and Gorin said they agreed with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to close bars in a seven California counties, with Gorin calling the move “responsible.” But no county supervisor expected Sonoma County to follow suit and Gorin said she wouldn’t support such a move locally.
“I would encourage us to not consider closing before Fourth of July weekend, but I’m going to be really paying attention to the number of COVID cases we’re seeing, where the cases are coming from and how that is impacting our hospital capacity — especially ICU beds,” Gorin said, adding that she’s confident county Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase will make the proper decision on any rollback of the county’s economic reopening.
Zane, too, said she trusted Mase to make the right call, and stressed that any decisions would be made based on science and numbers.
There are a variety of criteria, including case numbers, that could trigger a state review of Sonoma County’s approach to reopening, but Hopkins said all cases are not created equal. She gave the example of two people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Sonoma County. One was out in the community for 10 days, and had been in close contact with 60 people. Another was tested and quarantined before he or she had contacted anybody.
Hopkins, whose west county district relies on tourists flocking to Russian River and Bodega Bay beaches, said she wouldn’t be supportive of a shutdown to those popular tourist destinations without good data.
“I think we need to make data-driven decisions,” she said. “Are we seeing transmission occur at beaches? If not, why close the beaches? We need to be addressing where the spread is occurring.”
All supervisors felt residents and visitors could do their part to limit the spread, even if that means staying home on Fourth of July weekend.
“The No. 1 thing is to stay home as much as you can,” Rabbitt said. “If you do go out, make sure you’re following (the rules); make sure you have your mask and you’re protecting yourself and your neighbors. I think if we all did that consistently, we’d be much better off.”
Supervisor James Gore could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or email@example.com. On Twitter @tylersilvy.