East Bay tasting rooms prepare for Friday’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Public health officers in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties are easing some COVID-19 restrictions beginning Friday.

At the Darcie Kent Vineyards in Livermore that is finally some good news from the Alameda County health officer.

"This is a big step, definitely for us. It is something we haven't been able to do or entertain since March," says Amanda Tonkin, who is in charge of the tasting room at the Darcie Kent Vineyards.

Alameda County will be allowing wineries to have outdoor tastings without having to serve food, provided social distancing and other safety precautions are in place.

Darcie Kent will open Labor Day weekend for its members only, then eventually the general public.

"For us, we have to get our staff back. Get them trained up. Get things rolling with the new protocols have put in place," says Tonkin.

In addition to tasting rooms, the new health order permits outdoor swimming, and outdoor hair and nail salons.

But we found that's no help for most hair places, including Maven & Co in Pleasanton, where the salon sits on the second floor.

"I don't know how we would get our hydraulic chairs downstairs. Or setup and not block the entire sidewalk. And then the busy streets. It's just not feasible," says stylist Marisa Cabrera.

Alameda County has been among the slowest Bay Area counties to loosen some of its restrictions. As of Wednesday they have 17,385 COVID-19 cases, and 243 deaths from the disease. 

In a statement, Alameda County Interim Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss says, "These outdoor activities we are allowing to reopen are relatively low risk, but whenever we increase opportunities for people to mix, we see an increase in cases.”

Neighboring Contra Costa County eased those same restrictions in July, but is about to go even further.

Beginning Friday hotels will open to the general public, not just essential workers. And gyms will be allowed to operate outdoors.

The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests and hospitalizations have decreased this month. There, the county has 13,259 cases, with 172 deaths.

"So we are heading in the right direction. We have a long haul and a long way to go. But it means less risky outdoor activities can start to open Friday," says Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna, Contra Costa deputy health officer.

But the outdoor openings are coming while the Bay Area is blanketed in smoke from the wildfires.

"Outdoor businesses, massage, nail salons, gyms fitness centers can operate. Whether or not they should changes by the hour," says Radhakrishna.