‘Summer surge’ prompts indoor mask mandate in Sonoma County, Bay Area

By Brandon McCapes, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, August 4, 2021

nichole skalski

California Sister owner Nichole Skalski asked Sebastopol's small but vocal anti-vax/covid denying minority to take it easy on her staff.

Sonoma County’s new mask mandate went into effect yesterday, Aug. 3.

“This Order requires all individuals to wear face coverings when indoors in workplaces and public settings, with limited exemptions and recommends that businesses make face coverings available to individuals entering the business,” reads the order from the county.

Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County health officer, joined officials from the City of Berkeley and Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to announce the return of the mask mandate amid rising case numbers and hospitalizations caused primarily by the delta variant.

According to the Sonoma County Health Department, the orders are intended to reduce community transmission of COVID-19 amid a recent surge throughout the region. The order includes vaccinated persons because, although their chances of catching the virus and developing severe symptoms are substantially decreased, they may still be able to transmit the virus to the unvaccinated.

“We know that face coverings work to prevent the circulation of the virus, and with contagious variants spreading it has become clear that mask wearing is again necessary,” Mase said.

The new health orders will essentially return the region to the restrictions imposed on June 14, one day before Gov. Gavin Newsom removed all statewide restrictions. While masks will be required for anyone in indoor workplaces and public spaces regardless of vaccination status, there are at this time no restrictions on business activities.

Mase and her cohort urged unvaccinated residents who are more likely to be infected with the delta variant and experience more severe complications than vaccinated residents to get the widely available vaccine, in addition to masking.

“Masking and vaccinations are the most important tools we have to end the pandemic. The vaccine is safe, effective, free and widely available. We encourage all residents to do their part in wearing their masks to keep themselves, their families and their community safe,” Mase said.

According to Mase, over 80% of those currently hospitalized for COVID-19 infection in Sonoma County are unvaccinated, and of those, 100% of COVID-19 patients in the ICU are unvaccinated.

Of the 330 COVID-19-related deaths in Sonoma County since the start of the pandemic, only two were among vaccinated patients, both of whom were over the age of 90 and suffered from severe underlying health conditions. Mase also said the vaccinated patients currently hospitalized for COVID-19-related complications had underlying health conditions.

Paul Gullixson, Sonoma County communications manager, told SoCoNews that the county’s vaccinated population is experiencing four cases per 100,000 residents, while the unvaccinated population is experiencing 25 cases per 100,000 residents — a test case rate more than six times that of the vaccinated population. The rise in cases shows the importance of increasing vaccination rates, even as Sonoma County reached 70% vaccination rate on July 27, and the unvaccinated population is greatly skewing the test positivity and case rates despite being less than half the size of the vaccinated population.

Using the now-out-of-use Blueprint for a Safer Economy tier system implemented by the state until June 15, Sonoma County’s new case rate is well above the threshold for the most restrictive purple tier. As of July 23, the new case rate per 100,000 residents in Sonoma County, vaccinated or unvaccinated, was 15.7, 5.7 higher than the former purple tier’s threshold. Test positivity rates are solidly in the former red tier’s range, rising from 3.7% July 10 to 5.8% July 23.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health recommended that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks while indoors.

Health officials said they will continue to monitor the situation, and decrease or increase instructions in accordance with the severity of this “summer surge.”

Sebastopol businesses respond to mask mandate

By Laura Hagar Rush

In Sebastopol, home to a small but vocal anti-vaccine/covid-denying minority, reaction from local merchants was swift over social media.

While most businesses hewed toward a bland announcement of the new mask mandate, others came loaded for bear.

“We have zero tolerance if you fail to comply when asked, end of conversation,” wrote Retrograde owner Danielle Conor on Facebook. “Kindness and compliance is the policy around here.”

California Sister owner Nichole Skalski struck a philosophical, if somewhat pleading, note on Instagram.

“Ok, well masks are back,” she wrote. “Yeah, we’re not happy about it either. I never imagined I would serve as a bouncer and mask enforcer someday in my dream of a shop, but here we are! Please let’s get through this Delta surge friendly and together? And please be nice to our staff. They didn’t sign up for this either. It’s no fun and we all know it. Now, who needs a new plant friend?”

Fern Bar was ahead of the game in requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining — and paid for it with a storm on social media. Today, Hopmonk announced that it was requiring proof of vaccination (or a negative covid test within the last 48 hours) in order to be admitted to its concerts.

“Thanks in advance for your cooperation,” read their facebook post. “Let’s work together to keep live music alive. This too shall pass!”

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org