Boosters, small gatherings among SoCo’s holiday COVID recommendations, as U.S. cases rise

By Brandon McCapes, Staff Writer, , November 24, 2021

Holiday health guidance — With a rise in COVID cases in the U.S., the Sonoma County health officer is advising residents to take steps, such as getting their booster shot, in order to protect themselves and friends and family against COVID during the holiday season.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase is advising Sonoma County residents to take steps to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19 infection while traveling or attending gatherings this week.

Mase said in a press release Nov. 23 that those who have not received a vaccination against COVID-19 should “avoid travel and holiday gatherings.”

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen cases spike around the holidays as people gather to celebrate with loved ones,” Dr. Mase said. “Let’s start the holiday season on the right foot by staying safe this Thanksgiving.”

Mase echoed guidelines from the California Department of Public Health regarding holiday activity, including:

-Those planning to travel or attend gatherings who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested. If you are feeling sick, it’s recommended you stay home. Information on COVID-19 testing in Sonoma County can be found here.

-For those 18 years of age and older who received their full Pfizer/Moderna vaccine dose at least six months ago or their Janseen vaccine at least two months ago, vaccine boosters are recommended. Boosters are available to anyone who wants them, and appointments can be made through the county’s vaccine clinic page or through Residents needing help making appointments can call the Sonoma County COVID-19 hotline at (707) 565-4667.

-Those hosting gatherings are encouraged to keep them small to prevent transmission. If not all guests are vaccinated, or if hosts don’t know the status of guests, it’s recommended gatherings are kept small, short and outdoors. The SoCoEmergency website currently accounts for just over a third of all new cases in the county to have come from gatherings, with small gatherings accounting for 5.32% of new cases and large gatherings accounting for 29.79% of new cases at the most recent count (Nov. 16).

-Wearing masks is recommended when social distancing is not possible, other guests may be unvaccinated (especially indoors) or when around older individuals or those with pre-existing medical conditions which may leave them at greater risk for severe COVID-19 infection.

-While masks “are optional” when everyone at an indoor gathering is fully vaccinated, other steps to improve ventilation, such as opening doors and windows, running HVAC systems and installing high-quality air filters, could help limit potential transmission if someone is infected.

To date, 412 Sonoma County residents have died of COVID-19-related illness, with 40,769 having recovered, for a total case count of 41,181 and a mortality rate of 1.0005%.

Last year, cases in Sonoma County and around the nation spiked during the winter months, as people spent more time indoors to avoid the cold, and also traveled and gathered for holiday events. The rise in cases in California last holiday season prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to lock down most of the state from early December 2020 to late January 2021.

Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday warned of a potential winter surge after U.S. cases rose nearly 30% in the past two weeks. Although the U.S. has not, as of yet, experienced a 2021 winter surge, high case rates in Europe have prompted renewed lockdowns and restrictions.

Cases in Sonoma County have been trending down since a surge beginning to climb in July and beginning to dip in late September saw a high of 3,024 active cases on Sept. 5. On Monday, SoCoEmergency reported 1,224 active cases in the county, compared to 1,651 on Nov. 22, 2020.

However, last year, just after Thanksgiving, active cases began to climb rapidly. Active cases in the county numbered just over 3,000 on Dec. 12, passing 5,000 on Dec. 27. and staying in the high 4000s, low 5000s until once again starting to drop in February.

The Nov. 23 press release also urges unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated, citing a CDC recommendation that everyone ages 5 and up receive one of the three USDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

“All three vaccines approved by the FDA are safe and effective, dramatically reducing the risk of serious illness and death,” it reads.

Residents traveling for the holiday are also advised to observe the CDC’s travel guidelines, and to plan for potential proof of vaccination or negative test result requirements at their destinations. California residents can easily obtain digital proof of vaccination online at