Sonoma County will lift its restrictions on large gatherings this week as the county’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, county Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said Friday.
Mase issued a health order Jan. 10 capping indoor gatherings at 50 people and outdoor gatherings at 100 people in an effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant.
Like most counties in the state, Sonoma set record highs in COVID cases and hospitalizations during the omicron surge. As of Jan. 28, the county seven-day average of new cases per day sat at 126 per 100,000 residents, down from a high of nearly 250 cases per 100,000 residents on Jan. 10.
On Friday, Mase said local COVID cases and hospitalizations have declined from the omicron surge’s peak last month to the point that it will be safe to lift the restrictions Thursday at 11:59 p.m.
“The temporary restrictions on the size of gatherings have helped keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed any more than they were in early January as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rose to levels that we have never seen before,” she said.
Sonoma County is the only Bay Area county that has issued restrictions on the size of gatherings during this winter’s surge in cases.
Mase tweaked the health order in late January, excluding support staff, performers, athletes and media members from the 50-person cap on indoor event attendance and allowing outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people with social distancing.
Even with the restrictions sunsetting, Mase encouraged the county’s unvaccinated residents, those over age 65 and people with underlying health conditions to continue avoiding large gatherings.
“Omicron is not harmless, and new infections are still occurring at levels that are nearly 400 percent higher than the county experienced during the worst days of the delta surge,” she said. “And it’s our oldest residents who are most at risk.”
At least 25 people have died in the county from COVID since the start of the year, according to county data, more than 90 percent among people who were older than 65 and had underlying health conditions.
Nearly all were also unvaccinated or had completed their initial vaccination series but not received a booster dose.
County health officials encouraged all eligible residents to get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible, to protect them from the omicron variant as well as future variants.
“If you are in a higher-risk group because of your age, vaccination status or an underlying health condition, you need to be aware of the risks you are exposed to every time you gather with strangers, particularly indoors where the virus is easily transmitted,” Mase said. “Assess your risk and take action to protect yourself.”