Sonoma County, Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout is complete and the initial stages of Phase 1B are underway. According to socoemergency.org, 5.8 percent of adults in the county are now fully vaccinated with 21.41 percent having received at least one dose of vaccine. As of this writing 111,372 doses of the vaccine have been administered. Yet, the county still finds itself in the purple at tier one, the highest risk level considered widespread. The vaccine rollout is now moving from those 75 and older, high-risk health care workers and first responders into the agricultural, food service, education sectors and those ages 65 and older, adding momentum to a positive trend.
Vineyard workers from around the county lined up around the Huerta Gymnasium in Windsor on the 11th of February to receive their first round of the Pfizer BioNTec vaccine. It was a carefully coordinated effort between the County Health Department, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, and wine grape growers and vintners. The decision was based on a few factors. One being that, “half of essential workers are over the age of 45,” cdc.gov. The second being that most retirees can safely shelter in place while essential workers can not and make up a high number of contact points throughout the county. The vaccine rollout in the agricultural sector has seen success in large part due to the work of entities like the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. Alerting producers and processors of agricultural products of all kinds to the registration and vaccine enrollment process. “Our challenge is that there are so many small farms across the county. We have been reaching out to our members and non-members. We are excited to get this out to our farmworkers,” relays Sonoma County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tawny Tesconi. The Farm Bureau has also been assisting Spanish speakers navigate technology and transportation challenges to ensure every farmworker who wants the vaccine has access to it.
The county will be opening vaccine appointments to those who are 65 and older beginning on Monday February 22. Although, limited vaccine supply has county leaders encouraging individuals who are not in dire need of the vaccine to wait while workers in high contact jobs and those 75 and older or who are immunocompromised go first. District 3 Supervisor Chris Coursey advises that, “The availability of appointments is still limited due to supply. Please don’t rush to get an appointment. If you can still safely shelter in place, please let essential workers and elders go first.” Inspiring all to employ the common courtesy that has gotten Sonoma County through tough times in the past.
Another bright spot for the county is that the daily case rate continues to decline. Although, according to the Sonoma County Roadmap to Reopening we are currently at 13.8 new cases per day per 100,000. To get out of tier one and into tier two, the county needs to get to 7 new cases per day per 100,000 and stay there for two consecutive weeks. Dr. Sundari Mase the county’s Interim Health Officer indicates, “testing is recommended if you think you have been exposed. We need to continue to follow all mitigation measures. Wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, and follow social distancing protocols.” Despite the good news this is a crucial time and we cannot drop our guard just because we see that statistics are improving.
Another reason to continue to remain diligent regarding the virus is that the state has paved the way to reopen outdoor youth sports. The decision hinges on Sonoma County’s daily case rate mentioned previously. For youth sports to continue in Sonoma County the county needs to stay below 14 new cases per day per 100,000. As mentioned before Sonoma County is sitting at a daily case rate of 13.8, just under the state mandated level of 14, which tempers the jubilation of coaches and players throughout the county.
According to Dr. Urmila Shende, Sonoma County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Chief, there have been those opting out of the vaccine. The current opt-out rate is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. There are those opting out because they want a chance to consult with their primary care physician and others who are opting out due to a distrust of the vaccine itself. Dr. Sundari Mase asserts, “It’s important to understand this is a safe vaccine. There is no reason not to get the vaccine unless you have had a severe anaphylactic reaction in the past.” A message that is important to share if we are to open the economy and get things going again. A lot of work has been done and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Together we can get there. As Tawny Tesconi puts it, “If there is a silver lining from the disasters, we have experienced over the last four or five years in Sonoma County, it’s that we know how to work together. We have stronger communication links, and the ability to respond and engage quickly. It’s what sets Sonoma County apart. It’s a community wide collaborative effort.”