Sonoma Co. leaders say new COVID health order could hurt business, tourism

"This is a kick in the teeth."

ByCornell Barnard via KGO logo
Saturday, January 15, 2022
Sonoma Co. leaders say new COVID health order could hurt business
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Business leaders in Sonoma County say the COVID health order banning public gatherings surprised many, and it could hurt business and tourism.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, there is anger and confusion in the business community over Sonoma County's recent health order prohibiting large public gatherings.

It's it's all meant to slow the spike in COVID cases, but some say the order has taken some businesses surprise and it's leaving many paying the price.

"This is a kick in the teeth," said Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO, Peter Rumble.

RELATED: 'Moral responsibility': Some Bay Area restaurants temporarily closing for months over COVID surge

It's been a frustrating week for Rumble who says he was caught off guard by Sonoma County's recent public health order banning large public indoor and outdoor events for the next 30 days to slow the spread of new COVID-19 cases.

"The order was a complete surprise and if the county took time to talk to those impacted, we could have mitigated a lot of negative impact that's coming," he said.

Rumble worries the order, which doesn't impact other Bay Area counties, could hurt Sonoma tourism and event planning long term.

RELATED: Long wait time for COVID testing, limited testing supplies add to frustration in North Bay

"The message is Sonoma County is unsafe, that couldn't be further from the truth," said Rumble.

The order left many businesses scrambling. Epicenter Sports and Entertainment Complex had to cancel two upcoming comedy shows and lost some upcoming corporate events and private parties.

"I think frustration is where we're at now, we want to do what's right and comply with health orders, but they're not very clear," said General Manager Jenny Ogston.

RELATED: Sonoma County's new COVID restrictions met with disdain from residents, businesses

The Mystic Theater in Petaluma canceled all upcoming concerts. Its website says it was working to reschedule.

On top of the health order, officials have asked residents to voluntarily shelter in place and limit themselves to essential travel only.

The public health officer says the county is seeing the biggest COVID surge yet. More than 80 people are in the hospital and giving advanced warning to business leaders, wasn't possible.

"We understand the order went into effect quickly, we needed to get ahead of it, I fear we're already behind due to the increase in hospitalizations," said Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase.

RELATED: Sonoma County urges residents to stay home amid COVID surge

The Russian River Brewing Company has pushed back the annual Winter rollout of of Pliny the Younger beer until March 25.

"It was the responsible choice to make, we don't feel comfortable inviting 25,000 people to visit our brewpubs while the county is asking people to stay home," said brewery co-owner Natalie Cilurzo.

The county hopes the 30-day health order will help slow the spread of the omicron variant allowing people to return to semi-normal life.