Officials: Shelter-in-place ordered to combat coronavirus spread in Sonoma County
Sonoma County’s public health officer is ordering residents to stay at home and limit all but essential business and government operations for three weeks, a mandatory directive that goes into effect at midnight and is aimed squarely at the growing threat of coronavirus to the community.
Interim Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase issued the order at 5:12 p.m. Tuesday, an anticipated yet dramatic step that aligns the county with the rest of the Bay Area — which has California’s greatest concentration of coronavirus cases. The shelter-in-place order will remain in effect until April 7.
“In light of the recent cases of local transmission of COVID-19 in the County, we are taking proactive action to curtail the spread of the virus,” Mase said.
Sonoma County has documented four cases of community spread of the virus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. Three of those people work in health care, including one person who is an employee at the Rohnert Park Health Center, a nonprofit clinic. Mase said in a statement of community transmission of the disease within the community led her to take this step.
“If we don’t put in any preventative measures, we would have this peak of cases,” Mase said, saying every sick person is going to infect three others. “The worry with this is that our healthcare system capacity would be surpassed.”
The move follows a similar, unprecedented step by six other Bay Area counties Monday to implement shelter-in-place orders, locking down business and travel in all but emergency or so-called “essential” cases, a term that has not yet been defined locally.
County spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque said the eight-page order provides overall guidance on what the county views as an essential businesses and are otherwise “asking businesses to use their best judgment.”
The order includes exceptions tailored to the county’s top industries and agricultural sector, allowing some businesses like dairies, wineries and breweries to stay operational.
The measures are the strongest mandatory limits on travel and businesses enacted in the United States to combat the coronavirus.
The county has released little to no other information about those four cases of coronavirus contracted in the community, withholding basic, general details under a the banner of patient privacy. It has not specified where the second health care worker who tested positive works.
County officials do not yet have accurate modeling data to forecast the virus’ spread locally, but Director of Health Services Barbie Robinson said they’re working to hire a consultant to do that work.
A county order to shelter in place will shut down nonessential businesses, giving local teeth to state guidance that has advised gathering places including bars, winery tasting rooms, movie theaters and gyms to close.
A violation is a misdemeanor crime although the county is directing law enforcement officers to use compassion when determining whether to pursue a criminal charge, Larocque said.
Late Monday night, the state added restaurants to that list, while allowing take-out and delivery service.
Robert Pittman, Sonoma County’s assistant county counsel, said the County Counsel’s Office would be given authority to interpret the order, and would urge consistent, “compassionate enforcement” of the policy, meaning “there is some leniency in terms of enforcement.”