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Sonoma County enacts voluntary stay-home order, bans large gatherings as COVID spikes

Sonoma County Health Officer Sundari Mase announced the health measure Monday.
(Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Sonoma County health officials have enacted a 30-day ban on large gatherings in response to a dramatic spike in coronavirus infections.

The health order, which begins Wednesday and includes both indoor and outdoor gatherings, does not require residents to stay at home as they did during the first few months of the pandemic in 2020, but county officials hope the guidance breaks some of the alarming trends they are seeing.

Under the new health order, large gatherings of more than 50 people will be banned, along with outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people. Half of all reported cases in the last two weeks that have a known source of infection have been linked to gatherings — especially gatherings with more than 12 people, health officials said.

The order is being put into effect in the hopes of not overcrowding local hospitals and medical facilities in the next few weeks, as the Omicron variant sweeps across California.

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The arrival of Omicron has pushed daily caseloads to their highest levels and sent a stream of new coronavirus-positive people to the hospital.

On Monday, California reached a new milestone in the pandemic: More than 6 million cumulative coronavirus cases have been reported, according to data compiled by The Times.

Like the rest of the nation, Sonoma County has seen an explosion of new coronavirus infections. In the last two weeks, Sonoma County’s case rate jumped by nearly 400%, going from roughly 24 new cases per 100,000 residents per day to a staggering 121 new cases.

Testing positivity in Sonoma County is at its highest since the start of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations in Sonoma County nearly tripled in six days, jumping from 28 to 76. The county of roughly half a million residents, saw a peak of 104 hospitalizations in January 2020.

Despite 78% of Sonoma County residents being fully vaccinated, the spike in new cases does not show any signs of slowing down, according to Sonoma County health officials.

California would spend $2.7 billion on new efforts to respond to COVID-19 cases under a budget proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom will send to lawmakers next week.

Sonoma County Health Officer Sundari Mase announced the health measure Monday.

“First, I want to acknowledge that I, like the rest of you, am tired of dealing with COVID,” Mase said in a video announcement. “I know how you’re feeling. We’ve been at this for nearly two years now. It’s frustrating to be dealing with all the masking, social distancing, and other safety measures.”

State health officials forecast local hospitals in Sonoma County could be overwhelmed with more than three times the number patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

The health order does not extend to public schools, work, courthouses, places of worship, cafeterias, shopping malls, stores, restaurants or museums. But health officials advise residents to postpone or cancel smaller gatherings as well.

The restaurant owners are hoping monetary prizes will induce 486 employees across seven restaurants, including one in Santa Ana, to get inoculated.

Sonoma County is not alone in asking its residents to reconsider gatherings for the next few weeks.

On Monday, Los Angeles County reported more than 2 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. Health officials reported over 43,000 new cases on Monday. More than 3,400 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19.

L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer asked residents to avoid activities where people are unmasked and in close contact with others.

“Gatherings should also be postponed for a few weeks, especially if there are participants who are not fully vaccinated, and everyone cannot test before getting together,” Ferrer said in a statement.


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