Coronavirus 4

County encourages virtual New Year’s celebrations instead of in-person gatherings

During this week’s COVID-19 briefing Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase urged people to stay home this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s holiday and to continue following the state regional health and stay at home order, an order she said she doesn’t expect the region to come out of by the Jan. 9, 2021 date.

“I know many people are looking forward to 2021 and the eventual end of the pandemic and a return to normal life. While we are optimistic the worldwide vaccination effort has the potential to end this public health emergency it is not going to happen on Jan. 1,” Mase said. “We need to continue good health and sanitization practices especially during the upcoming New Year’s Eve holiday. We are still in the darkest days of the pandemic and we remain under a regional stay home order.”

Because of the order gatherings with members of other households are currently prohibited in order to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Mase said she was pleased to see that the Graton Casino and Resort cancelled its plans for a 4,000-person indoor New Year’s party and encouraged folks to participate in virtual New Year’s Eve celebrations instead of in-person gatherings.

Mase said the regional stay home order will remain in effect until at least Jan. 9 and probably longer.

“To lift the stay home order the region (Sonoma County is in the Bay Area Region) ICU capacity must reach at least 15%. Today the regional ICU capacity for the Bay Area Region is 7.5%. We are anticipating another surge in cases after the holidays, so realistically the regional ICU capacity won’t be at 15% for at least several more weeks,” Mase said.

The regional order comes down from the state, it is not a local decision.

Mase reminded folks that during the stay home order non-essential travel is prohibited, retail is limited to be open at 20% capacity indoors and dining establishments are only allowed to offer takeout and delivery.

“Outdoor recreation is still allowed, but with social distancing, and Sonoma County Regional Parks remain open and provide a good option for some New Year’s day exercise,” Mase said. 

Mase said staying safe this coming weekend is especially critical as the county and state continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

In Sonoma County the rate of daily COVID cases per 100,000 is now 44, an increase from past month.

While the latest COVID numbers paint a grim picture, Mase said the ongoing distribution of the vaccine is a major reason to be hopeful for an end to the pandemic in 2021.

“We’re swiftly working through Phase 1A of our vaccination distribution plan. Hospitals in Sonoma County are now receiving direct shipments of vaccines, which they are using to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers. The county is using its supply to vaccinate paramedics and other first responders as well as our staff in the crisis stabilization unit with the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital and dialysis clinics,” Mase said.

Separate from the county vaccination effort, CVS and Walgreens began vaccinating residents of long term care facilities this week.   

Mase ended her Wednesday briefing by wishing folks a safe, bright and healthy new year.

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