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County Administrator's Office
For Immediate Release

Sonoma County to let restrictions on large gatherings expire on February 10

Santa Rosa,CA | February 04, 2022

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations declining, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase made clear today that a health order temporarily restricting the size of large gatherings will expire as scheduled at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 10.

“The numbers are trending in the right direction, and there are clear signs that we are now past the peak of the winter surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer. “I am confident we will be able to safely lift our temporary restrictions on the size of gatherings starting Feb. 11.”

However, Dr. Mase strongly encouraged residents, particularly seniors over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions and people who have not yet been boosted or vaccinated, to avoid large gatherings and continue wearing masks indoors around people outside their household, noting that the omicron surge is not yet over. 

“While COVID-19 case rates have declined over the last three weeks, transmission levels remain substantial,” said Dr. Mase. “Omicron is not harmless, and new infections are still occuring at levels that are nearly 400 percent higher than the county experienced during the worst days of the delta surge. And it’s our oldest residents who are most at risk.”

On Jan. 12, Dr. Mase placed limits on the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings for 30 days in an attempt to prevent superspreader events as COVID-19 cases soared to unprecedented levels in Sonoma County, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. At the time, more than half of the positive cases, where the source of transmission was known, were coming from large gatherings. Since then, the spread of COVID-19 has slowed significantly and hospitalizations have declined. The county is now detecting 126 new cases of COVID-19 every day per 100,000 residents, down from an all-time high of nearly 250 cases per day in early January but still almost four times higher than the 34 cases per day experienced during the delta peak in August 2021. There are 95 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Sonoma County today, down from a peak of 116 nearly two weeks ago, but still higher than the 84 hospitalizations recorded during the delta peak last August.

“The temporary restrictions on the size of gatherings have helped keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed any more than they were in early January as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rose to levels that we have never seen before. They also helped to protect the people who have been disproportionately hurt by this pandemic — our seniors, our essential workers and people who have been disadvantaged by inequities that exist in our county,” Dr. Mase said. “I want to commend the businesses, schools, parents and students who were directly impacted by these restrictions and yet worked together for our common good to follow the guidelines set by our Public Health team.”

Since the health order took effect, Dr. Mase and other Public Health officials have been meeting regularly with local health and education leaders and representatives from the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, Sonoma County Tourism, the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the hotel and meeting venue community to review COVID-19 safety guidelines and provide feedback on mitigation measures. On Jan. 27, Dr. Mase clarified her order and explicitly excluded support staff, performers, players and news media from the temporary 50-person limit on indoor events. She also made it clear that outdoor gatherings exceeding 100 people are allowed where social distancing can be accommodated.

Ethan Brown, interim executive director of the county Economic Development Board, recognized businesses that have implemented and maintained protective measures that reduce risks of infection among employees and the general public. Resources for businesses are available at sonomaedb.org.

“We applaud the many local businesses and organizations that have put measures into place to protect the public during large events, including adherence to best practices for masking, social distancing, vaccine verification and testing,” Brown said. “Their vigilance and dedication to reduce transmission of COVID-19 play an important role in keeping our community safe.”

Vaccination, including a booster shot when eligible, offers the best protection against COVID-19 transmission and serious illness. Wearing a well-fitted N95-style or surgical mask indoors in public places can help protect you and those around you. Maintaining social distance and avoiding poorly ventilated spaces also reduces the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Seniors over the age of 65, people with underlying health conditions and people who have not yet been boosted or vaccinated are exposed to the highest risk of serious illness. Since Jan. 1, at least 25 people have died from COVID-19 in Sonoma County. Of those, 96 percent were over the age of 65, 92 percent had underlying health conditions and 52 percent were unvaccinated. An additional 40 percent were fully vaccinated but had not received a booster shot. Only two of the 25 deaths involved people who were fully vaccinated and boosted.

“If you are in a higher-risk group because of your age, vaccination status or an underlying health condition, you need to be aware of the risks you are exposed to every time you gather with strangers, particularly indoors where the virus is easily transmitted,” Dr. Mase said. “Assess your risk and take action to protect yourself. The best thing you can do is get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. The next best option is to avoid non-essential gatherings until we see further reductions in transmission. If you must gather in public, wear a good mask and maintain social distance.”

The vaccine is safe, effective and free for everyone age 5 and older, regardless of immigration or insurance status. Visit SoCoEmergency.org/vaccine or call 2-1-1 for information.

 

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