Some leaders in the Santa Rosa business community say they were never consulted before Sonoma County issued its health ordinance banning large public gatherings, even though it will cost local businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars. dollars or more in lost income.
Peter Rumble, chief executive of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, told The Press Democrat on Thursday that he and his members were particularly furious at the bluntness of the 30-day order, which went into effect on Wednesday.
The order has left many businesses scrambling – especially those in the events industry – and saw an increase in tour cancellations, which Rumble called “absolutely infuriating.”
Dr Sundari R. Mase, the county health officer, issued the order on Monday afternoon. It prohibits indoor gatherings of 50 or more people and outdoor events of 100 or more people.
Since the pandemic, the county has generally issued such public health orders in concert with other Bay Area counties, but this time it has acted unilaterally in the face of the alarming spike in cases.
“I think people are trying to figure out what’s going on because the county decided to do it without talking to anyone and without understanding what kind of impact it will have,” said Rumble, who previously worked as the county’s deputy administrator. .
“Somehow they think all the knowledge and knowledge would be within the four walls of the county complex.”
Rumble stressed that the House supports health protocols to limit the spread of the coronavirus and that his organization supports the requirement to vaccinate employees.
His comments came on a day when the U.S. Supreme Court barred the Biden administration from implementing requirements for large private companies to require their employees to be vaccinated or tested regularly.
Rumble said, however, that he would like to see more emphasis on targeting the unvaccinated, especially as 78% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older are fully vaccinated and 8% are partially vaccinated. .
Rumble said the effects of the order have gone beyond the tourism industry, where group bookings are now at risk for the foreseeable future as headlines for the order have appeared statewide and in the world. -of the.
“We even have local businesses that are not dependent on tourism and travel, members and clients canceling them because of this post… but (also) an extremely mixed post suggesting that you shouldn’t even leave your home. And it’s absolutely maddening for businesses and other organizations trying to adjust to it, ”Rumble said.
In addition to the county health order, authorities have asked residents to voluntarily shelter in place and limit themselves to only essential travel, such as work, school or the doctor.
Rumble said he had had “very limited” discussions with Mase over the past two years, but made his position clear to board supervisors, although he noted that the five members were generally not so savvy.
“I express my frustration to supervisors quite frequently,” he said.
An attempt to reach Mase for a cell phone comment was unsuccessful Thursday evening. Her voicemail was full and she did not immediately respond to a text message.
Supervisor James Gore, chairman of the board, and supervisor David Rabbitt said the county’s communication about the order could have been better.
The Sonoma County Economic Development Board, which reports to the county government, was also not notified prior to the health order, Gore said.
“This is something that needs to be corrected immediately,” Gore said.
The board is expected to hold a virtual public meeting on Wednesday to review the current health order. They are expected to review the details of what motivated the order and discuss potential improvements to the process.
Supervisor Chris Coursey said business owners have contacted him to voice concerns since the health ordinance was announced.
“Looking back, yes absolutely, I think it would be better for our many companies, our trade associations to try to get the word out directly to people rather than have them read in the headline of the morning newspaper,” Coursey mentioned.
Gore and Rabbitt said they support the order but are looking to establish more clarity regarding the county’s process for sharing information.
“We can’t belittle it for people, and we really have to put all the facts and data on the table and say ‘here’s what’s going on right now here’s why it’s a good decision, this is how we will measure success in this move forward and monitor this, ”Rabbitt said. “If we do this, we will have a lot more membership. “
Gore and Rabbitt said they understood the companies’ frustration with the latest order, but reiterated it was intended to prevent the county from reverting to what Gore called “the dark days,” when meals at the indoors were banned and businesses closed.
The ordinance has had a particular effect on companies that organize events even during the slow winter of the tourist season.
Most notably, Russian River Brewing Co. has delayed its release of popular Pline the Younger beer until the end of March, co-owner Natalie Cilurzo making the announcement on Wednesday after consultations with Gore.
Santa Rosa’s Epicenter sports and entertainment complex had to cancel two upcoming comedy shows and lost scheduled corporate events due to the order, CFO Brad Bergum said in an email.
Bergum declined to comment on the order itself, but noted that Epicenter would comply.
The order also puzzled Rohnert Park city councilor Gerard Giudice, who is also a co-founder of Sally Tomatoes restaurant and cafe company from SOMO Village. He said he was primarily concerned about the rules for hosting outdoor events and noted that the local Rotary club has scheduled a crab festival at their site next Saturday.
After reading the full order, he’s not sure if he’ll be in breach, even though he has a four-acre site where he can enforce social distancing protocols. He mentioned that Rabbitt gave him Mase’s phone number, but had no response from her Thursday afternoon.
“It absolutely crushes us. I don’t know how to do it. The county hasn’t contacted us, especially the businesses that are unique, ”Giudice said. “I need clarity.”
Editor-in-chief Martin Espinoza contributed to this story.