COVID-19 Update 09/03/20
Our latest update on the pandemic and our business does not bring any news regarding a set reopening date for us. At this time we still cannot operate our wine tours. However we remain hopeful that we will return sooner than later. We are anxious to be open again and sharing our beautiful wine country with all of you! But for now, we have to remain patient and continue to wait…
What’s Happening in California and Sonoma County?
The governor of California spoke on Friday, August 28th. In his announcement, the state has released a new “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” which changes our previous one tier monitoring system, to a 4 tiered system. Per the state pandemic website, https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/ here is their explanation:
“The Blueprint for a Safer Economy replaces the County Data Monitoring List for determining what business can and cannot open.
So why change? We learned a lot over the first several months of the pandemic about COVID-19 and how it spreads. For example, we know how much safer outdoor activities are than indoor ones and that it’s critical everyone wears a mask to limit the spread of the disease. This blueprint incorporates what we’ve learned.
The Blueprint for a Safer Economy is the next evolution of our response. We’ve revised the criteria and the time between changing tiers. We’ve made it easy for counties to see how changes affect the disease’s trajectory and for businesses and customers to plan ahead. And we’ve given Californians one place to look up whether a business or activity is allowed near them.”
Sonoma County was placed on the old monitoring list back in July. And with this new tiered system, we not only remain on it, we are on the highest level (purple – widespread). So, nothing has changed for our current status, except it will be a longer process to move down to an acceptable tier for greater reopening.
The 4 color coded tiers:
Activities and businesses that have a lower risk of spreading COVID-19 are allowed to open sooner. Higher-risk activities or businesses aren’t allowed until later tiers. An activity or business’s tier depends on whether it can:
- Accommodate mask wearing at all times (for example, eating and drinking requires removing masks)
- Allow physical distance between individuals from different households
- Limit the number of people per square foot
- Limit time that an individual is at the business or activity
- Limit time of exposure
- Limit mixing of people from different households
- Limit amount of physical interactions of visitors/patrons
- Increase airflow (such as operating outdoors or opening windows and doors)
- Limit activities that are known to increase virus spread (like singing, shouting and heavy breathing)
The complex process is not something we need to fully explain here. If you wish to learn more about it, as well as what is currently allowed/not allowed in Sonoma County, you may visit the government website:
Tiers Explained: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID19CountyMonitoringOverview.aspx
Tier Map of CA: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/
Are Wineries Operating?
Many are, some are not. Wineries in both the widespread category (which Sonoma County is currently in) and the next category down (substantial) may only be open for outdoors with modifications. Add in our current fires (poor air quality) and unusual excessive heat warnings, outdoors can be challenging.
In order for tastings to move indoors, the county has to be in the Moderate category. Then, the wineries may move indoors with modifications, but with only 25% capacity. Lastly, in the Minimal category, they can be indoors with modifications at 50% capacity.
Many of our winery partners are attempting outdoor tastings. However, some have decided to temporarily close their tasting rooms until the new year. Hopefully by then, the county will be in a better place with the pandemic containment. And then fire threats causing poor air quality and weather concerns (excessive heat and then winter temps and rain) will be reduced as well.
Passenger Carrier Licensing and Rules
What are passenger carriers? They are companies engaged in “passenger transport for hire,” which includes taxis, ride sharing companies, limos, shuttles, tour companies, etc.
In conjunction with the above guidelines, both the CDC and Department of Public Health and Safety have provided reopening guidelines for all business types, which includes passenger carriers. The CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is the licensing board for passenger carriers (which we are), and have formally adopted these guidelines and require all licensees to comply or they will have their operating licenses suspended or revoked.
For the full guidelines:
Also per the CA guidelines for reopening passenger carriers, “pooled rides” (different travelers sharing one vehicle) “should be suspended until further public health guidance is provided for restarting such rides”. This means that only people from the same group may travel together. Which for us means, we cannot reopen our shared group tours at this time.
What’s Happening with Wine Country Journeys?
It has been a long 6 months so far…but we will eventually return, and can’t wait!
Unfortunately for now, it will be even longer before we can reopen our doors. While we have now cancelled all tours for September, we are not currently cancelling October. It is too far out to know what life and COVID will look like then. We continue to hold on to positivity. 🙂
If we have to cancel tours, we try to give a minimum of a two week notice, that way guests’ have time to alter their plans. However, our guests have all the way until just 7 days before their tour date to make any cancellations on their end.
Wine Country Journeys will be back!!!
Our top priority remains the health and safety of our workers, guests and the greater community. We hope everyone is doing the responsible thing and helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 to save lives and shorten the time it will take for us all to reopen. We’re doing our part here and looking forward to seeing you in the future! Until then, wear your face masks and stay physically distanced.