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News: 03/15/2020

Virus impact mixed so far on local businesses, events



[ED NOTE: pandemic developments are quickly overtaking information gathered even a few days ago. Please stay informed of immediate events through public media and stay safe. — AP]

A survey of northern Sonoma Valley businesses, upcoming events, and local institutions such as schools shows little impact so far from the coronavirus, but everyone is wary of what might be coming that could discourage visitors, spread illnss, or cancel communal gatherings.

Hardest hit have been events in Oakmont, where a number of activities have been cancelled as a cautionary measure, ranging from club meetings, to music events, to a drill that was planned by Oakmont’s Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Oakmont Village Association (OVA) General Manager Kevin Hubred said on March 10 that they are not yet closing any of the OVA facilities, like the Berger Center, but leaving it up to the individual clubs to cancel their events if they choose.

The OVA has installed disinfectant dispensers at the main entrances of all facilities. OVA has also sent information to all residents regarding the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).

The many events going on at the public state and regional parks in the area are still happening.

Jon Roney, park manager for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Kenwood said attendance at the park seems steady. They’re recommending people keep social distance on hikes, and they are disinfecting the bathrooms, visitor center and pay machine three to four times a day. Roney said that buying a parks annual pass online will allow people to go straight to the trailhead so as to minimize contact with others.

Jack London State Historic Park’s executive director, Matt Leffert, said programming at the park will go on as planned, and they have stepped up maintenance in common areas, such as being extra vigilant about disinfecting surfaces.

As of press time, local restaurants for the most part reported that business seemed normal, with owners emphasizing common sense sanitation protocols for staff.

However, Linda Citti, proprietor of Café Citti in Kenwood, reported that she has “definitely noticed a drop” in customers, enough so that she has had to cut staff hours across the board.

In a funny twist, Salt & Stone recently served a couple whose honeymoon trip to Italy had been canceled, so they came to Sonoma Valley instead and stayed at the Kenwood Inn.

Wineries contacted said the number of visitors in tasting rooms seems normal.

“I believe this weekend (March 14-15) will be a better read of what is happening to foot traffic since all the negative news,” said Jeff Kunde of Kunde Family Winery. Kunde did say that a couple of corporate groups had canceled trips to the winery.

So far the elderly and those with chronic illnesses have been the most vulnerable to getting sick.

Joe Hansen of Green Acres Manor residential care home in Kenwood, said on March 9 that it had been hard to get helpful information regarding different scenarios from their state licensing agency and the state’s health officials.

“They basically said we are on our own,” said Hansen.

Green Acres has restricted access to direct family members only – a spouse or a child. In addition, visitor hours have been shortened, residents are not allowed off the property, all appointments have been cancelled, and they do more antibacterial cleaning after visiting hours.

“I wouldn’t be worried too much if I were on my own,” said Hansen, “but since I care for the health and safety of the elderly, it is a true fear.”

Over at the assisted living facility Oakmont Gardens in Oakmont, residential care teams are closely monitoring their residents for illness, and working to minimize any risk. All visitors are being screened and asked if they’ve been ill or have travelled abroad. If the answer is “yes”, then they are asked not to enter the facility.

As for the local elementary schools, both Dunbar and Kenwood have been conducting normal class days.

Kenwood School Principal/Superintendent Bob Bales said that he was told that any decision to close the school would ultimately be made by the county’s health department in consultation with himself and the superintendent of the Sonoma County Office of Education.

All guests to the school are offered hand sanitizer, and staff are “vigilantly educating the students to wash their hands throughout the day.”

Compared to other parts of California, the United States, and the world, Sonoma County has not experienced a frightening spread of the virus. As of press time, there were three confirmed cases of coronavirus, all of whom were in isolation at local hospitals.

Editor & Publisher
Email: alec@kenwoodpress.com

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