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Sonoma County business leaders say COVID health order banning public gatherings surprised many and could hurt business and tourism

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

It’s all meant to slow the spike in COVID cases, but some say the order surprised some companies and many are paying the price.

“It’s a kick in the teeth,” said Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Peter Rumble.

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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 indoor and outdoor public events for the next 30 days to slow the spread of new COVID-19 cases. .

“The order came as a total surprise and if the county took the time to talk to the people involved, we could have mitigated a lot of the negative impact to come,” he said.

Rumble fears the order, which does not affect other Bay Area counties, could harm Sonoma’s tourism and event planning in the long term.

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“The message is that Sonoma County is not safe, that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Rumble said.

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

“I think the frustration is where we are right now, we want to do the right thing and follow the health orders, but they’re not very clear,” chief executive Jenny Ogston said.

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The Mystic Theater in Petaluma has canceled all upcoming concerts. His website says he was working on rescheduling.

In addition to the health order, the authorities have asked residents to voluntarily shelter in place and to limit themselves to essential travel only.

The public health officer says the county is experiencing the biggest surge of COVID yet. More than 80 people are hospitalized and it was not possible to notify the business leaders in advance.

“We understand that the order came into effect quickly, we had to anticipate it, I am afraid that we are already behind due to the increase in hospitalizations,” said Dr Sundari Mase, public health officer. of Sonoma County.

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

The Russian River Brewing Company has pushed back the annual winter rollout 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 breweries when the county asks people to stay home,” said Natalie Cilurzo, co-owner of Brewery.

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

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