San Francisco-area county bans large gatherings

A California county has prohibited gatherings of over 50 people indoors and over 100 people outdoors in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant. 

In addition to the limits on gatherings, Sonoma County has also recommended that residents voluntarily shelter in place and avoid contact with people outside of their households for 30 days in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

The ban begins at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday and is set to remain in place until Feb. 11.

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“Our case rates are at their highest level since the pandemic began and our hospitalizations are climbing at an alarming rate as well,” Sundari Mase, who is the Sonoma County health officer, said. “We are seeing widespread transmission occurring within unvaccinated groups as well as some transmission among vaccinated individuals.”

Mase also warned of potential surges at local hospitals despite omicron seeming to lead to less hospitalization than previous variants of the virus. 

“We know what we need to do to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” Mase added. “The next 30 days will be key to helping us stop this rapid spread of this highly contagious variant in our community.”

Sonoma County is the first in California's Bay Area to return to a limit on gatherers as the highly contagious omicron variant contributes to the rapid spread of COVID-19, the San Francisco Chronicle reported

The new policies come after Sonoma County saw COVID-19 case rates increase by 398 percent in 14 days, and test positivity rates are higher than they have been at any point in the pandemic.