Officials: Shelter-in-place to combat coronavirus spread imminent for Sonoma County
A shelter-in-place order that would have residents largely stay in their homes and limit all but essential business operations across Sonoma County is imminent and slated to take effect as soon as midnight, top county officials confirmed Tuesday at a Board of Supervisors meeting.
Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s interim public health officer, stopped short of issuing the order during the Board of Supervisors meeting, clarifying afterward that she planned to issue the order “as soon as possible.”
It’s not yet clear how long such an order would last, or what such an order would cover, as county leaders batted ideas back and forth Tuesday morning in an effort to ensure the measure reflects local concerns, including carve-outs for farm and dairy operations, as well as questions about parks, farmer’s markets and more.
“If we don’t put in any preventative measures, we would have this peak of cases,” Mase said, referencing a chart displaying a sort of worst-case scenario for a wider outbreak. “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.
The measures are the strongest mandatory limits on travel and businesses enacted in the United States to combat the coronavirus.
Sonoma County has documented four cases of community spread of the virus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. Two of those people work in health care, including one person who is an employee at the Rohnert Park Health Center, a nonprofit clinic.
The county has released little to no other information about those four cases, withholding basic, general details under a the banner of patient privacy.
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 is likely to 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.
Late Monday night, the state added restaurants to that list, while allowing take-out and delivery service.
It’s unclear how far reaching Sonoma County’s order will be, and it’s unclear exactly when the local order will be given.
When Supervisor David Rabbitt sought to clarify whether Mase was issuing the order to shelter in place during her remarks before the Board of Supervisors, Mase initially said “yes.”
“I propose that we should move to that here in our community,” she said. “If we put that in place now, we are way ahead of the game. We could prevent cases. I think it’s something we need to consider.”
But Mase, who was officially hired as interim public health officer just a week ago, yielded to County Administrator Sheryl Bratton when pressed again about whether the order would come Tuesday.
Bratton, in turn, deflected back to Mase.
“As the public health officer, she has full authority to issue the order, but indeed we are looking at the order to be effective at midnight tonight,” Bratton said, adding that staff had heard board comments, and would incorporate circumstances unique to Sonoma County in the order.
Mase said she planned to provide more information at a 7 p.m. Tuesday virtual town hall.
“I think we can speak to what people should do and shouldn’t do, and give them some guidance,” she said.
The order, when it comes, will be the most drastic step yet for Sonoma County, which has seen its coronavirus caseload more than double since Saturday, with seven cases, including one Diamond Princess cruise ship passenger who was transferred from Travis Air Force Base, hospitalized locally and has since been transferred out of the county.
That leaves six other cases at present, including two local passengers of the Grand Princess cruise ship that is now moored in San Francisco Bay, and four cases of local residents who contracted the virus from within the community.
Mase said the outbreak was “almost exponential,” adding that she expects more cases.
“I think moving forward more quickly is probably best at this point,” Mase said. “We had four cases in three days, and I fully expect more this week.
This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.
You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or email@example.com.