New Sonoma County health order prohibits large gatherings through mid-February

Sonoma County's public health officer issued an order Monday that prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people indoors or more than 100 people outdoors where social distancing is not feasible. 

The order is in effect starting Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. through Feb. 11. 

The announcement comes with a voluntary appeal for residents to stay home as much as possible for the next 30 days due to the current surge of the novel coronavirus.

Residents are being asked to limit interactions with those outside of their immediate household during this time period. 

"Our case rates are at their highest level since the pandemic began and our hospitalizations are climbing at an alarming rate as well," Dr. Sundari Mase said in a recorded message to Sonoma County residents. "We are seeing widespread transmission occurring within unvaccinated groups as well as some transmission among vaccinated individuals."

This is a bit of a throwback to those early pandemic days when people were being advised to only take necessary trips to the doctor or to the grocery store. 

The health order specifies that gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 must be limited to no more than 12 people, except for family gatherings.

Situations exempt from the health order on large gatherings include; schools, outdoor recess, workplace settings, courthouse activities, places of worship, cafeterias, but also shopping malls, stores, restaurants/food facilities and museums.

The focus appears to be private gatherings in uncontrolled settings. The statewide indoor mask mandate in public spaces remains in place until mid-February.

Over the course of the past two weeks, Sonoma County’s case rate has increased from 24.4 per 100,000 to more than 121 new cases per 100,000 per day and is predicted to continue rising during January. 

The county’s testing positivity rate reached an all-time high of 16.5% this week as compared to the previous high of 9.7% during this pandemic, health officials said. 

Public health officials illustrate that while omicron cases have led to a lower percentage of hospitalizations, the sheer volume of cases anticipated can still overwhelm hospital systems. 

"We know what we need to do to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed," Mase said. "The next 30 days will be key to helping us stop this rapid spread of this highly contagious variant in our community. We need to get vaccinated and boosted, wear high-quality masks, avoid large gatherings and stay home as much as possible."

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Mase said unvaccinated people are 18 times more likely to be hospitalized from contracting the virus than those who are vaccinated. 

One way you can be better prepared in your fight against the highly-contagious omicron variant is by upgrading your mask. Mase recommends using a KN95, KF94 or an N95 mask. 

"Those traditional cloth masks that many of us have been wearing are just not as effective in stopping the spread of this form of the virus," said Mase. "We recommend that everyone upgrade to a surgical mask or something equivalent."

Details of the health order are here