UPDATE 4/2, 5:00 PM – The guidance we have been waiting for from the State was released shortly after this message was posted. City staff is reviewing the new guidance for gatherings, receptions and conferences – effective April 15th – and look forward to providing more information to our event planners and organizers soon.
I have received lots of questions and interest from many in our community who want to know when the special events we look forward to every year will be allowed to return. Graduations, Independence Day, the Tuesday night markets and annual Plaza festivals…events like these are a huge part of what makes our town so special, and after the challenges we faced last year, we all could use a good Sonoma celebration.
The short answer is, we just don’t know yet. Currently, there isn’t any guidance or policy for special events from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to refer to or follow, and large gatherings are not allowed under any of the four tiers (purple, red, orange, or yellow) in the States Blueprint for reopening.
Unfortunately, the lack of guidance means that the City cannot determine if any particular event will be allowed, whether that be the 4th of July, Flag Day Celebration or a traditional Tuesday Night Market. We’re hopeful, however, that new guidance from the CDPH and from the County of Sonoma on markets and larger events will come soon, just like it did a week ago for in-person graduations.
Our COVID-19 numbers countywide are improving, vaccinations are ramping up, and we are likely to move to the less restrictive ‘orange’ tier soon. There is a sense of optimism in the air and it feels like we have nearly reached the light at the end of the tunnel, but the reality is that we run the risk of backsliding if we reopen too quickly. In other countries, like Germany, where protocols were relaxed too early, they are seeing the third wave of COVID-19 cases and another round of shutdowns. I think it is safe to say that no one wants to go through another shelter order.
Right now, the virus and its variants are racing against the vaccinations. It will take time to reach the 80% of the population that will need to be vaccinated to reach the herd immunity threshold. In the meantime, we need to keep wearing our masks, keep social distancing, and keep our focus on outdoor activities in smaller groups.
By holding steady and following safety protocols, we can continue to make the progress needed to return to something closer to normalcy and also to the events we are all eager to get back to. If our metrics continue to improve as I believe they will, we could see – in just a few weeks – the State and the County start to open the door to more activities for late Spring and Summer. But until then, the City of Sonoma is not able to promote events and activities outside of the guidance from the State and County.
We’ve made so much progress in the last few months. We started the year under a shelter order and just 3 months later schools are reopening, indoor dining is phasing back, grandparents are visiting with their grandkids, and more and more vaccines are on the way. So, take a breather, go for a hike, check out a new beach, grab a meal on the plaza, and keep your eyes on the prize. If we can hang on a bit longer, we could finally put this tough year in our rear-view mirror. Thank you for your continued cooperation and understanding.
Logan Harvey, Mayor of the City of Sonoma