Sonoma County tweaking plans in hopes of reopening restaurants, wineries other businesses
Sonoma County is revising its latest reopening plan to allow businesses including restaurants and wineries to open for outdoor seating, another step toward getting more people back to work and refueling the local economy hit by coronavirus pandemic closures.
Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said she believes the county is still on track to receive approval from state health officials to move forward with these new rules before the end of the week when she hopes to issue a new health order. She plans to submit the county’s final application Wednesday after incorporating state feedback and adding letters of support from some local hospitals and the Board of Supervisors.
The move comes on the heels of a series of loosened rules that have reopened Sonoma County parks and some businesses, steps broadly welcomed in the community, and as neighboring Napa County on Tuesday received state approval to reopen restaurant dining rooms. Yet allowing more public activity may have already triggered an uptick in illness caused by the coroanvirus in the community, Mase said.
“We’re having more cases being diagnosed due to community transmission — in other words we don’t know where they got COVID-19,” said Mase, adding that the increase is “ what we expected with relaxing shelter-in-place (rules) and having more people in the community.”
Over the past week, the county has reported 78 new local cases of COVID-19, including 20 new cases in the past 24 hours.
All told, there are 411 local cases of the coronavirus since the first case was announced March 2. Of those, 203 are active cases and 204 people have recovered as of Tuesday night. Four people have died.
The county’s shelter-in-place public health orders, effective in Sonoma County March 18 followed by statewide orders one day later, are intended to protect populations most vulnerable to the disease and prevent a surge of patients from overwhelming hospital resources.
The isolation orders sharply curbed the spread of the virus, especially in places like Sonoma County, but dealt such a devastating blow to the economy that calls for relaxing those rules have mounted even while the threat remains strong from the new illness that has no well-established treatment or vaccine.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a less strict set of criteria that would allow counties to restart some economic activity.
State officials have already begun allowing some counties to further relax local rules.
In Napa County, which has reported 92 local cases of COVID-19, officials Tuesday evening announced they have met the state’s readiness criteria to allow more businesses to reopen with modifications. Those now allowed to operate include dine-in restaurants, child care centers, office businesses when telework is not possible, residential cleaning and maintenance services, outdoor museums, retail stores and schools.
Sonoma County, with nearly 4½ times more cases of the virus compared to Napa County as of Tuesday night, is so far on a slower reopening track.
Mase has said her new order, if approved by the state, will allow some lower-risk activities to resume, such as patronizing restaurants, breweries or wineries with outdoor seating; drive-thru religious services or other ceremonies and modified summer camps for children.