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New state coronavirus rules clamp down on Sonoma County as second shutdown begins

New Pandemic Restrictions From The State

The following industries must modify their operations for outside service or pick-up only in order to remain open:

• Dine-in restaurants

• Wineries and tasting rooms (Wineries and tasting rooms may be able to operate outdoors and food is not a requirement)

• Movie theaters

• Family entertainment centers (for examples: bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades)

• Zoos and museums

• Cardrooms

• Fitness centers

• Worship services

• Offices for non-essential sectors

• Personal Care Services (for examples: nail salons, body waxing, and tattoo parlors)

• Hair salons and barbershops

• Malls

In addition, bars, clubs, breweries, brewpubs, and distilleries must cease all alcohol service. However, these businesses may continue to serve alcohol outdoors if the service is done in the same transaction as a meal.

Read the order at www.abc.ca.gov/public-health-orders-regarding-licensed-premises-closures.

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Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Sonoma County business owners and political leaders grappled Monday with a sudden state pandemic order that shuttered a wider swath of businesses, at least indoors, as Gov. Gavin Newsom sought to reverse reopening, with his strongest measures reserved for more than 30 counties where coronavirus cases have risen most sharply, including Sonoma.

The top-down move, a surprise to local representatives, places Sonoma County and up to 32 million fellow Californians in what amounts to a second shutdown expected to last at least several weeks. The reversal comes less than two months after much of the state began to reopen.

Statewide, Newsom closed bars that don’t serve food outside, while also halting indoor service at restaurants, tasting rooms, and breweries, and shutting down movie theaters, entertainment centers and museums. Those rules had already taken effect early Monday in Sonoma County and 31 other counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list.

The second, stronger rollback targets those most closely watched and populous counties, forcing indoor operations at gyms, houses of worship, non-critical offices, hair salons and indoor malls to shut down.

Newsom’s order amounted to an unexpected broadside for county representatives and business officials, with no warning from the state, they said.

“I think that we are all in a state of whiplash, and having just had a new announcement at 12:01 a.m., and 12 hours later, we’re in a new world,” said county Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “I think it’s really challenging for small businesses to keep up with a news cycle that, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour is changing their ability to earn a living.”

The move to rein in portions of the economy comes six weeks after Sonoma County began reopening under a series of phased moves overseen by local health authorities and allowed by Newsom, who said at the time that he wanted to give counties more discretion over their pandemic restrictions.

Monday’s announcement from Sacramento represented a clear departure from that approach. For many local businesses, it will mean a hard closure or another major overhaul of operations. County health officials say it will take weeks to determine whether the closures have worked.

“It’s absolutely hard to adapt to,” said Adam Gutsch, co-owner of Flagship Taproom in downtown Santa Rosa’s Brickyard Center. “One week we’re waking up and it’s business as normal, and then the next week, I’m looking at the news every morning wondering if I’m going to have to shut my restaurant down.”

The governor’s order is tied to an alarming increase in key coronavirus benchmarks statewide, including 8,358 new coronavirus cases Sunday. Total cases have increased 47% over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations have jumped 28% during the same time period.

“The data suggests not everybody is practicing common sense,” Newsom said in a noon briefing announcing his orders, which took effect immediately.

The county’s sharp increase in cases since Memorial Day propelled it onto the state’s watch list, a group of counties comprising about 80% of the state’s population. In the past month, the county has reported a six-fold increase in its infection rate, and half of the 16 local deaths attributed to the disease have occurred in the past two weeks.

Acknowledging those grim metrics, Supervisor Susan Gorin said she understands Newsom’s decision.

“I asked hospital executives what they’re anticipating,” said Gorin, chair of the Board of Supervisors, referring to a Monday morning Zoom call with the county’s top hospital leaders. “They’re increasingly nervous, and I am as well.”

“I’m hopeful that with this action, if we take it seriously enough with our facial coverings, sheltering in place if we can, stopping indoor activities, we can move that curve down and open again,” Gorin said.

Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s health officer, said the package of restrictions could be in place for two weeks to a month before COVID-19 case data show whether the clampdown is effective.

“We’re in a watch-and-wait mode right now to try to see what’s going to happen to our case numbers, and then we’ll have a much better idea of how long these restrictions need to be in place,” Mase said Monday afternoon.

For now, local businesses must again modify their operations to stay open, shifting to outside service or pick-up only. The order impacts dining and drinking establishments that have only begun to see their sit-down clientele return. For those that specialize in alcohol sales, all business must cease cease, except for outdoor service with food, according to the order.

New Pandemic Restrictions From The State

The following industries must modify their operations for outside service or pick-up only in order to remain open:

• Dine-in restaurants

• Wineries and tasting rooms (Wineries and tasting rooms may be able to operate outdoors and food is not a requirement)

• Movie theaters

• Family entertainment centers (for examples: bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades)

• Zoos and museums

• Cardrooms

• Fitness centers

• Worship services

• Offices for non-essential sectors

• Personal Care Services (for examples: nail salons, body waxing, and tattoo parlors)

• Hair salons and barbershops

• Malls

In addition, bars, clubs, breweries, brewpubs, and distilleries must cease all alcohol service. However, these businesses may continue to serve alcohol outdoors if the service is done in the same transaction as a meal.

Read the order at www.abc.ca.gov/public-health-orders-regarding-licensed-premises-closures.

______

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

The shutdown had no such loopholes for personal care services, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, card rooms, zoos, museums, nail and hair salons, tattoo parlors, barbershops and indoor malls, all of which were simply shut down. Gyms and houses of worship can continue to welcome members outdoors, according to the order.

Petaluma Hair Company owner Jesy Diaz said salon staff on Monday spent part of the day canceling Tuesday appointments and fielding calls from people hoping to schedule last-minute visits.

“It’s definitely one foot in front of the other,” Diaz said, noting that the state order did not include a date for salon reopening. “We’re taking the news as it comes and acting accordingly.”

Mike Haney, CEO of Sonoma County Vintners, a trade group for wineries, said most of the group’s membership has already adapted to new ways of doing business, with a focus on outdoor service, where the risk of viral transmission is far lower.

The same is true for restaurants, which have sought to expand outdoor dining options. In downtown Santa Rosa, for example, three blocks of Fourth Street is now closed until a least mid-October to vehicle traffic to allow restaurants and storefronts more outdoor space.

At The Spinster Sisters south of Julliard Park, chef and co-founder Liza Hinman said the restaurant was more prepared for a second shutdown of indoor dining.

Still, the loss of indoor service represents a setback that spurred Hinman to take a risk: developing an adjacent lot to expand outdoor seating capacity.

“While we were eight years in, I feel like we had only just found a stable business model in the past two or three years,” Hinman said. “With one disaster after another, it’s been a real challenge to stay afloat. And this (pandemic) is really testing everything.”

Robert Eyler, a Sonoma State University economist, said the shutdowns target portions of the local economy that account for thousands of lower-wage service jobs, which could further strain government safety net programs and deliver an outsized blow to small businesses, he said.

“This upends what they maybe saw as the beginnings of their own recoveries,” Eyler said.

Lauren Cartwright, of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, said her agency was scrambling Monday to offer information and resources to the business community.

“The fact that it’s an immediate closure…folks have literally had hair and nail appointments today,” Cartwright said. “It’s almost like when a tornado hits, there’s no warning.”

County elected officials and business groups have repeatedly sought greater clarity and communication about health orders amid the pandemic. Some bristled at Newsom’s latest unexpected announcement Monday.

Supervisor David Rabbitt said the governor and his administration provided no warning to counties most impacted by the new closures.

The end result is that local businesses and communities aren’t getting timely and accurate forecasts from their elected leaders.

“Everyone is trying to show leadership in their own way, but there’s no coordination,” Rabbitt said.

In the wake of the governor’s order, Hopkins and Gorin expressed interest in finding space for a board discussion on steps the county could take moving forward.

Hopkins said a key to easing restrictions going forward will be the county’s ability to find cases and trace their origin, an activity hampered nationwide by delays in testing and long turnaround times for results.

“I’m concerned about the lack of testing capacity hindering our ability to contain the disease in realtime,” Hopkins said, before pivoting to target the federal response. “I don’t understand how there has been a national failure to manufacture the equipment we need. Not to have scaled up by now, when we are seeing increasing numbers of cases, it’s unacceptable.”

Protracted problems with testing could delay the county’s emergence from the new shutdown, perhaps mirroring the 8-10 week timeline of the first, from mid-March to late May.

At the Montecito Heights Health Club, the return to outdoor-only operations was already taking shape Monday, said manager Catherine DuBay. She noted that she and other club officials would have to consider whether to lay off fitness instructors — some of whom already have been laid off and brought back amid the pandemic — as well as securing a tent or shade structure to allow for outdoor exercise during the midday heat of summer.

“It’s kind of like red light, green light,” DuBay said, alluding to the children’s game characterized by abrupt changes in pace. “It’s very difficult as a manager because not only are you making decisions and trying to scramble, but it’s so abrupt and last-minute.”

Staff Writers Julie Johnson and Nashelly Chavez and the Associated Press contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

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