By Miriam Raftery
Photo, left: Woof N' Rose Winery in Ramona wil now be able to remain open, serving wine on an outdoor patio, under the county rule change allowed today.
June 30, 2020 (San Diego) – One day after ordering bars, breweries and wineries to shut down, county health officials today revised that order to allow most to stay open. That’s a big relief to East County wineries, which can now continue to offer winetasting outdoors without food. Wineries, breweries, distilleries and bars with indoor seating can also stay open, provided they serve alcohol with food. Those without food service licenses can team up with a restaurant or food truck.
The changes came after East County Magazine published an article quoting prominent wine owners voicing concern over the future of our region’s wine industry and hours after ECM's editor reached out to Supervisor Dianne Jacob to inform her staff of the winery owners' concerns. ECM's editor also posed a question on this issue during a virtual press conference with county health officials.
Today, the County also imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on all restaurants, bars and other eating/drinking establishments that serve alcohol. Patrons in the door by 10 p.m. may stay until 11 p.m. nightly. Violators are subject to a $1,000 fine.
At a virtual press conference today, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the requirement to serve food with alcohol aims to cut down on crowding and judgment impaired by alcohol consumption. Bars are particularly problematic, he notes, due to “intensity of exposure, also people tend to have more socializing and intermingling.” Establishments are urged to require reservations for contact tracing if needed.
The County will reassess the new limits at the end of July.
Susanne Sapier, president of the Ramona Vintner's Association, sent ECM's editor an email voicing gratitude for our efforts that resulted in these changes. "Thank you for writing that article. I appreciate you," she wrote.
Linda McWilliams, past president of the San Diego County Vinterns Association, called and advised ECM that she does not believe the changes would have occurred if ECM's editor had not asked a question on the disparity in treatment of rural wineries during a press conference with County Public Health Director Dr. Wilima Wooten.
Photo: Susanne Sapier, president of the Ramona Valley Vintners Association, wears a mask as she prepares to greet visitors at Vineyard Grant James, where she is the winemaker.
The restrictions aim to reduce spread of COVID-19 amid a rise in local cases and spiraling rates of the coronavirus in three neighboring counties: Riverside, Orange, and Imperial. California now accounts for 2% of the world’s coronavirus cases, with 224,000 Californians who have tested positive for the disease and 5,188 who have died.
San Diego County reported 149 new cases today, down from yesterday’s all-time high of 317, but also reported four new deaths and four new community outbreaks.
There have been 10 community outbreaks in seven days, above the trigger of seven community outbreaks in seven days which mandates actions. Of the new outbreaks, two were in businesses, four in restaurants or bars, with the rest in healthcare, grocery, and a private residence. Despite large protests across the county in the past month, no outbreaks have been tied to protests, though 28 people with COVID countywide indicated they attended a protest.
Hospitalizations are also rising, as well as the rate of positive test results and the number of ICU beds occupied by patients with COVID-19. The number of hospitalizations and deaths will likely rise, officials warn, since there is a lag between reported new cases, outbreaks and hospitalizations as well as deaths.
Dr. Wooten, the County's top pubic health offical, notes that the rise in local cases follows a rapid reopening of many sectors of the economy. “People are going out in larger numbers and interacting with people outside their household.” That’s especially true of people in the 20s, the age group with the largest increase in cases lately, she adds.
“This pandemic is not over. Our actions have power and can save lives,” Dr. Wooten says.
With the holiday weekend approaching, she urges residents, “Please, no dinner or house parties or gatherings of individuals that are not of the same household.” She also reminds everyone to wear masks, wash hands frequently, and stay six feet away from others.
Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting, including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/.
You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.