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Nightspots are a source of outbreaks and hops on Petaluma bars despite closures throughout California


The couple hugged, put their masks aside and kissed outside the petaluma roaring donkey. Inside the bar, under dim lighting, unmasked patrons sifted cocktails to fill almost all seats, unaware of the blue tape, which should indicate 6 feet from the floor.

“Clean your hands with filthy animals,” read the sign next to the entrance at the front of the bar with a bottle of antiseptic on your side. The masked DJ bowed his head to the beat, and the masked bartender played the music loud while mixing the drink.

On Saturday nights, in bars across downtown Petaluma, the owner installed a Plexiglas partition between the bartender and the customer. Still, people moved between groups, hugging each other and shaking hands.

The bar, identified as the source of the coronavirus, is of national interest. In Florida, where the number of cases has soared, patrons from several bars have recently tested positive. In Louisiana, a hotspot, almost 100 people tested positive after shopping at Baton Rouge.

On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newtham of California has ordered bar closures in seven counties (Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, Tulare). He also recommended closing the bar due to a surge in eight other counties in the Bay Area, including Santa Clara and Contra Costa. Health officials in Sacramento, San Diego and Riverside counties announced Monday that they would close the bar.

Most people in the bay area can’t go to the bar unless they sit outside and serve food. However, with state approval, Sonoma County’s bars, indoor restaurants, wineries and breweries are open from June 19th.

Sonoma County officials are monitoring the number of cases and say they have no plans to close them again. Nevertheless, the numbers look worrisome.

On average, according to the chronicle analysis of county data, the number of new daily coronavirus cases doubled in June compared to May, from 10 to 20.

“Sure, it puts pressure on everything,” said David Rabbit, county supervisor for Petaluma, on the increase in the incident. “At the same time, we can’t stay locked forever, we need to find ways to move forward, and keep our business safe. It doesn’t mean that risk is zero, but we do minimize risk. It needs to be suppressed.”

In Sonoma County, 1,118 people were infected with the coronavirus and five died.

Civil servants predict that the weekend of July 4 will be approaching and visitors from outside the county will be flooded with indoor businesses and infected with the virus.

“I am worried? Absolutely,” said county supervisor Linda Hopkins. “We don’t have a big cluster in the hospitality industry yet, but it’s only a matter of time. We know that outbreaks in a variety of businesses occur.”

Infectious disease experts say the recent surge of new cases throughout California is being caused by adolescents. New cases under the age of 35 surged 73% in the last 2 weeks of June compared to the first 2 weeks. Experts blame new social gatherings at bars and other indoor locations as a possible cause.

“They are beginning to enter indoor gatherings where there is no environment, especially the social distances that are practiced.” George Lemp, an epidemiologist for infectious diseases and former director of the University of California’s HIV/AIDS Research Program in California Said.

“Youths are less likely to wear a mask and pay attention because they tend to feel invincible,” he added.

COVID-19 Guidelines posted on Saturday, June 27, 2020, at McNear's Saloon and Dining House, Petaluma, CA.

Newsham said Monday that the increase in the proportion of positive cases was “concerned.”

“When we restart the economy, there’s a new interaction,” he said.

The Saturday night downtown Petaluma scene was quieter than usual. To many, it felt like a weekday night. No one had the fear of an infectious virus that could slip through the facility.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you do,” said Sebastopol’s 57-year-old Tom Peden, from Barstools in the Gales Central Club, a bar in downtown Pebasulma. “You can wash your hands, wear gloves, wear a mask. Once you get it, you can get it. It will or will not.”

Peden is wrong. Health experts believe that masks help prevent the spread of the virus. Because when a sick person wears it, their droplets do not spread. Wearing it on a healthy person can prevent the virus from inhaling. Experts know that people can also get the virus without showing symptoms.

But he wasn’t worried because his 70-year-old friend was infected by the virus and “looked like a really bad flu,” Peden said.

“I have a really good immune system, so I will get sick for a week,” he said.

In fact, the data show that many other healthy people can suffer The devastating effects of coronavirus, including organ damage Sometimes it goes far beyond the flu-like symptoms.

Robert Siegel, an infectious disease expert at Stanford University, said neglecting the effects of the virus is dangerous and represents a denial. Bars can be outbreak zero, he said, as people are usually approaching without masks and need to speak louder to loud music. It was This makes it easier for the water droplets that carry the virus to spread.

“If we get back to full normality, the virus will spread very effectively, and more people will die, so the virus is very happy,” Siegel said. “Bars are an important sign of a more widespread phenomenon and are associated with negatives about viruses.”

He added that Barhopping is also dangerous because people can spread the virus from one office to another.

For workers and patrons, resuming brings back a normal sensation to their lives. Most bars in downtown Petaluma had walls taped to keep them away from the public. All bartenders wear masks and if you walk around the bar or walk into the bathroom you can take your mask off and have a cocktail, but patrons were asked to wear a mask ..

Throughout Sonoma County, officials say most bars operate below capacity to accommodate social distances. The Hideaway Petaluma Diving Bar, Plexiglas Partition, has separated people from the only bartenders who mix drinks. A new hand sanitizer dispenser has been installed by the door. About every hour, workers cleaned the table with bleach and sanitizer.

The 39-year-old Amanda Syrah stood by the hideaway bar and said there were no “clear rules” and too many “grey areas” wearing masks inside the bar. She raised her eyebrows as the bartender cleaned the countertop.

“Now we’re smelling bleach,” Sailer said, rolling her eyes. “That’s interesting.”

It took a long time to reopen at the nearby Macniars Salon and Dining House. “The facility manager,” said Shenon O’Donnell.

Workers’ roommates tested positive when the salon first opened only outdoor seats, so they closed again and all staff were tested. When the test became negative, they resumed, O’Donnell said.

“It was a very emotional roller coaster for everyone,” she said. “It’s a whole new world.”

Roommates Brennan Kunkel (left) and Jonickerson joined the McNear's Saloon in Petaluma, CA on Saturday, June 27, 2020 at the McNear's Saloon and Dining House in Petaluma, CA on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Have a drink and play at the And Dining House.

By Saturday at 11pm all seats in the bar were reserved. The bartender mixed the drinks behind the Plexiglas partition at the end of the bar before giving the drinks to the customer.

Upstairs, roommates Jo Nickerson (36 years old) and Brennan Kunkel (37 years old) played billiards. Tension increased between the two at home as Nickerson refused to wear a mask at the grocery store.

“I said,” If so, you can get f from my house,” Kunkel shook his head.

“All the rules are ridiculous,” Nickerson said, and perhaps people should “take vitamin D, get the sun, do the exercise, and get the sleep.”

But that night, the two roommates shared the shot pool with a beer of prinny beer, with the difference and a mask set aside.

“He’s a buddy,” Kunkel shrugged. “It will reach a point like “OK, don’t talk about this at all”. “

Sarah Ravani is a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] twitter: Azuki



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