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County Administrator's Office
For Immediate Release

Health Officer Advises Canceling Large Indoor Events for Certain Individuals to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus

Santa Rosa,CA | March 11, 2020

In an abundance of caution to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Sonoma County Health Officer advises cancelling or postponing non-essential indoor gatherings of 50 people or more for older adults over the age of 60, and those with chronic medical conditions. 

Some nonessential events may need to be modified -- for example, conducted as a video webinar -- canceled or postponed.

The recommendation is for these specific groups as they are at higher risk for severe illness than the general public. 

The recommendation will last two weeks, starting on March 11, 2020 and may be re-evaluated at that time, based on the ongoing need for public safety.

“During a public health emergency, our number one priority is to keep the public safe,” says Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin. “Since attendees at large indoor events are often in close proximity to others, they are at a higher risk of getting ill. We can’t risk the spread of the coronavirus in our community, so we are asking event organizers to cancel or postpone their indoor events until a later date.” 

The risk for contracting the virus at outdoor events is low, though staying six feet or more away from others is still recommended. County public health officials recommend that those who choose to hold events follow the California Department of Public Health guidelines for mass gatherings that was issued on March 7. 

If indoor events are not cancelled, organizers should consider:

  • Promotion of preventive health practices, such as hand-washing, to attendees and staff.
  • Recommend minimizing close contact and touching, such as no hand shaking or hugging.
  • In event invitations or marketing, discourage people who are sick from attending.

Sonoma County currently has three patients with coronavirus in isolation at local hospitals. Investigators have traced their exposure to coronavirus to international travel on cruise ships.

“The Department of Health Services is working closely with our partners at the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to ensure we are providing the most up-to-date information and advice,” said Sonoma County Interim Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase. “County staff are also working with cities, schools and other organizations to educate residents in the simple, effective actions they can keep them healthy and prevent the spread of the virus.”

The County continues to encourage preventative measures whenever possible, including:

  • Wash your hands frequently or use anti-viral sanitizer.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands. 
  • Wash your hands every time you use a tissue for your nose.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands.
  • Clean any surface that is touched often, such as countertops or door handles.
  • Limit close contact with those who are sick.
  • If you are sick, quickly report your symptoms to your medical provider and stay away from others. You may need to stay home from work or school.
  • Your medical provider may recommend using a face mask when you are near other people. However, face masks are not recommended for the public, as they do not provide protection from coronavirus.

For the latest information about the coronavirus in Sonoma County and advice from health experts on prevention and care, call 2-1-1, text your zip code to 898-211 or visit Updates and videos are also on the County of Sonoma Facebook page and twitter feed @countyofsonoma.