Sonoma County Lifts Capacity Caps on Indoor, Outdoor Gatherings

North Bay county was the only one in Bay Area to issue restrictions on large gatherings during the omicron surge

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Sonoma County on Friday lifted restrictions on large gatherings as the county's COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, but health officials warn certain groups should remain extra cautious.

The county issued a health order Jan. 10 capping indoor gatherings at 50 people and outdoor gatherings at 100 people in an effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. That order expired at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Like most counties in the state, Sonoma set record highs in COVID cases and hospitalizations during the omicron surge.

On Friday, county health officials said local COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have declined by about half from the omicron surge's peak last month, so the health order expired on schedule. But there's a caveat for certain groups.

"The unvaccinated population was clearly at risk, but even the vaccinated senior citizens also were at risk," county spokesperson Paul Gullixson said. "We experienced over 40 deaths last month, and 40% of them were over 65 who were vaccinated but many of them not boosted."

Sonoma County was the only Bay Area county that issued restrictions on the size of gatherings during this winter's surge in cases.

County health officials encouraged all eligible residents to get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible, to protect them from the omicron variant as well as future variants.

"If you are in a higher-risk group because of your age, vaccination status or an underlying health condition, you need to be aware of the risks you are exposed to every time you gather with strangers, particularly indoors where the virus is easily transmitted," county Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said. "Assess your risk and take action to protect yourself."

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