COVID demographics in sonoma county march 27

There’s a lot of confusion over what is and isn’t allowed under the current virus tier. Find out the current rules.

As the pandemic wears on and health orders — state and local — are altered or updated, it can be hard to figure out what is allowed and what isn’t, when you should wear a mask, what business activities are allowed and which should be reported to county officials. To try to provide some clarity, we’ve compiled a list of what is and isn’t allowed and what restrictions there are as of today, Oct. 27, and for as long as Sonoma County remains in the purple or most restrictive tier. The information below is compiled from the California Department of Health and the Sonoma County Department of Health.

While there are laws and rules, the “letter of the law” doesn’t completely encompass “best practices.” In general, one should stay away from people not in their household (and if they can’t, practice strict mask wearing and physical distancing, even if outside), avoid unnecessary travel and exposure to others and do everything in your power to prevent the spread. 


Family and small group gatherings are allowed outdoors with the following modifications:

• Masks and physical distancing required

• No more than three separate households attend (including the host’s)

• Gatherings should be two hours or less

• Those with symptoms must not attend

• Those at high risk of severe illness strongly encouraged not to attend

• Singing, shouting, chanting or exercising strongly discouraged

State public health directives also permit in-person outdoor faith-based services or protests as long as face coverings are worn and physical distancing of six feet between persons or groups of persons from different households is maintained at all times. 

The general rule of thumb is to keep numbers as small, and distancing/masking as large as possible. It is also recommended that if you are going to be doing these types of gatherings to keep the cohort of people you are gathering with stable. However, any gathering with a group outside of your immediate household, should be considered a risky activity, especially when Sonoma County remains in Tier 1.

Exercise/outdoor recreation

It’s okay to go outside to go for a walk, to exercise and participate in healthy activities , but you must maintain a safe physical distance of six feet and gather only with members of your household. Masks are required when physical distancing cannot be maintained and when near those not in your immediate household. (In other words, if you go walking with a neighbor, wear a mask and stay six feet apart).

Visitors to outdoor community playgrounds and skate parks must comply with the following requirements:

• Face masks over the mouth and nose are required for everyone 2 years of age or older with caregiver supervision at all times to ensure face mask use.

• Do not use the playground when different households are unable to maintain a physical distance of six feet or when the capacity limit has been reached.

• Caregivers must monitor to keep adults and children from different households at least six feet apart.

• Consider coming on different times or days to avoid wait times and potential crowded times.

• No eating or drinking in playground, to ensure face masks are worn at all times.

• Wash or sanitize hands before and after using the playground. 

• Elderly and persons with underlying medical conditions should avoid playground when others are present.

• Limit visit to 30 min per day when others are present

Additional considerations for playground use include if there is a pre-scheduled activity that will access the playground, the playground must be closed to the broader public during that time. 

Child care programs, schools, out-of-school time programs and other programs for children and youth where children must remain in cohorts may not use playgrounds during times when they are open to the public.  However, if the playground operator permits, the childcare, school or other program may reserve a time for the exclusive use of the playground by the program. While on the playground, cohorts should maintain separation and avoid mixing.  


The following entities are closed completely while the county is in the purple tier: amusement parks, bars, breweries with no food, concert venues, convention centers, distilleries where no meals are provided, festivals, higher education institutions (closed for indoor lectures and student gatherings. Some courses conducted in certain indoor settings, like labs and studio arts, may be open), indoor playgrounds (bounce centers/ball pits/laser tag), live theater, nightclubs, professional sports with live audiences, racetracks with live audiences, saunas and steam rooms, schools (see sidebar) and theme parks.


The following entities are open with limited services when the county is in the purple tier. A limited service is one that generally does not require close contact. Examples include: laundromats, dry cleaners, auto repair shops, car washes, landscapers, door-to-door services and sales, pet grooming and dog walking.

This guidance also applies to: residential and janitorial cleaning services, HVAC services, appliance repair, electricians, plumbers, mechanical tradespersons, handypersons and general contractors.

Faith-based counseling can reopen within the following parameters:

• Counseling services are permissible in-person where the service cannot reasonably be practiced remotely;

• Counseling services should adopt state guidance on limited services, where applicable;

• This designation does not permit gatherings beyond counseling to members of a single household.



Some entities are allowed outdoor operations only, with some modifications: museums\zoos/aquariums, card rooms, cultural ceremonies, dance studios, drive-in theaters, family entertainment centers (Kart racings, mini-golf, batting cages), gym and fitness centers, movie theaters, places of worship, dine-in restaurants, satellite wagering sites, swimming pools (outdoor pools only, physical distancing should be practiced face covering required when not in pool, do not share any items or equipment), weddings (ceremonies only), wineries and yoga studios.

Youth sports

Beginning July 30, the California Department of Public Health is allowing youth sports training, conditioning and physical education under specific circumstances. 

Youth sports and physical education are permitted only when the following can be maintained: (1) physical distancing of at least six feet between participants; and (2) a stable cohort, such as a class, that limits the risks of transmission.

For sports that cannot be conducted with sufficient distancing or cohorting, only physical conditioning and training is permitted and only where physical distancing can be maintained. Conditioning and training should focus on individual skill-building (e.g., running drills and body weight resistance training) and should take place outside. Indoor conditioning and training is not allowed in counties in the purple tier.   

In addition, outdoor and indoor sporting events, assemblies, and other activities that require close contact or that would promote congregating are not permitted at this time. For example, tournaments, events or competitions, regardless of whether teams are from the same school or from different schools, counties, or states are not permitted at this time.

This impacts all youth sports and activities, including school-based, club and recreational youth sports. 

Adult recreational team sports are not permitted at this time with guidance coming soon. The state has issued separate guidance for collegiate sports.


While the county remains in the purple tier, retail locations can open with modifications, including limiting capacity to 25%. Grocery stores can be at 50%.

Personal services

As of Oct. 20, expanded personal care services, which includes personal care that requires touching a client’s face, e.g. facials, electrolysis, and waxing, are allowed. This guidance applies to esthetic, skin care, electrology, nail services, body art professionals, tattoo parlors, and piercing shops and massage therapy (in non-healthcare settings). Businesses in these industries are open across all tiers but must follow modifications for face coverings, cleaning and disinfection, social distancing and more.

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