Petaluma events canceled amid coronavirus concerns
Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus hit Petaluma hard this week as events were canceled and healthcare workers prepared for the outbreak.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced all public gatherings of 250 or more people should not take place, setting off a wave of cancellations that included all shows at Petaluma’s Mystic Theater through March. The Butter & Egg Days parade, Petaluma’s marquee event scheduled for April 25, was postponed, and organizers hoped to reschedule it in August.
Updated federal and state guidelines announced this week include avoiding groups of 10 or more people and closing bars and wine tasting rooms. Sonoma County residents Tuesday were ordered to shelter in place.
Petaluma City Schools canceled all events, including field trips and dances, through April 30. School district officials extended spring break, which began Friday, until March 30, and were preparing for remote learning after that. Santa Rosa Junior College canceled classes, including those at the Petaluma campus, through March 29.
The city of Petaluma ?declared a state of emergency, allowing it to marshal resources to deal with the outbreak. So far, Sonoma County has confirmed eight known cases of coronavirus. Several other Sonoma County residents, including a couple from Petaluma, were among the passengers on a cruise ship that experienced an outbreak and are in quarantine at U.S. military bases.
Meanwhile, the Petaluma Health Center and Petaluma Valley Hospital initiated triage procedures to deal with patients that present symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The Petaluma Downtown Association, which organizes the Butter & Egg Days parade and Antique Fair, on Tuesday postponed the event that typically draws 20,000 people to the city.
“We didn’t make this decision lightly,” said Marie McCusker, executive director of the Downtown Association. “It’s about more than a parade right now. The most important thing is the well being of the community. We’re here to support our local business owners who are scared not knowing what to do.”
The Mystic Theater on Petaluma Boulevard said in a statement Thursday that it decided to cancel all shows through the end of the month based on the new state guidelines. The Phoenix Theater, Petaluma’s other large music venue, followed suit, displaying a sign on its marquee that read “See you in April, stay well.”
Tom Gaffey, the general manager, said the cancellations will take a toll on the theater.
“We’re operating on razor thin margins. It will impact us greatly,” he said. “It’s crazy times.”
Cinnabar Theater canceled performances through the end of March. The Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park closed indefinitely.
Copperfield’s Bookstore canceled all events through April, and closed its stores. An Easter celebration planned for March 28 at East Washington Place shopping center was canceled.
The Sonoma County Library, including the Petaluma branch, closed to the public through March 31.
The decision “comes after a week of increasingly strict notices and advisories, including the current County of Sonoma Department of Health Services advisory to not allow public gatherings of more than 10 people unless participants can practice social distancing,” said Sonoma County Library Director Ann Hammond.
The disruptions and general guidelines for “social distancing” could make people less inclined to shop and dine in Petaluma, having a devastating affect on the city’s tourism economy, said Onita Pellegrini, executive director of the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Our restaurants are experiencing a downturn,” Pellegrini said. “They’re canceling things left and right. It’s not good for business.”
The Petaluma Hotel has had a few cancellations, but nothing concerning for general manager Dustin Groff. But, he said, the economic impacts of the pandemic are only beginning to be felt.
“We’re still in the beginning of this,” he said. “It’s going to affect our economy for sure. The local economy relies on tourism.”
The Petaluma Health Center, which serves 39,000 patients annually, set up a tent outside its North McDowell Boulevard facility to intake patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Staff were checking patients’ symptoms at the door, and directing those with respiratory symptoms to an isolated waiting room, said Amy Anderson, the nurse manager.
An employee with the health center’s Rohnert Park site on Sunday was the first person in Sonoma County to test positive for COVID-19 through community spread.