Despite California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s calls earlier this afternoon for the state’s bars, nightclubs and breweries to close down, establishments throughout Humboldt County remained open as of 4 p.m.
Newsom made the call during a press conference early this afternoon in which he also called for all California residents over the age of 65 and those with chronic disease to stay in home isolation, calling the “deep social distancing” a “pragmatic response to the moment.”
In a series of Journal calls to Arcata’s bar row, as well as watering holes in Eureka, McKinleyville and Fortuna, it appeared as though many establishments were operating as usual despite the governor’s call and warnings from health officials that social distancing is necessary to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“We’re open until the government shuts us down,” one bartender said.
The Mad River Brewing Co. Tap Room, meanwhile, was open but with some modifications. A bartender said the brewery had removed all its bar seating and re-arranged tables to be at least 6 feet apart in accordance with social distancing recommendations from the California Department of Public Health.
Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville, meanwhile, has similarly modified operations to comply with the governor's request.
Newsom urged restaurants to operate at reduced capacity and to focus on take-out service and home deliveries. He also said the state will be setting up a system to help deliver food to home-bound seniors in need.
“We recognize that social isolation for millions of Californians is anxiety-inducing,” he said, adding that the state needs to “meet this moment head on” and take actions commensurate with the risk. He stopped short of ordering establishments to close, which has drawn some criticism. He said he was confident the “guidelines” would be “well received.”
“If it is not being (done), we will do what we need to do,” he said.
Governors in Ohio and Illinois went a step further, ordering bars and restaurants in both states to close, while Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ordered restaurants to open for takeout only beginning Tuesday.
Also Sunday, the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he would like to see a 14-day "national shutdown" that would require most Americans to isolate themselves at home and avoid any nonessential outings.
Locally, St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals have set up triage screening tents adjacent to their emergency rooms to see patients suffering from COVID-19 symptoms — including trouble breathing, fevers and runny noses. From there, hospital staff are either taking swabs to be sent off to local laboratories for testing or urging patients to head home to self monitor symptoms. Almost all local schools have announced they will be closed this week in an effort to promote social distancing and prevent spread of the virus.
The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services has also launched a hotline for residents with questions about the virus. It can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (707) 441-5000. Residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing are asked to contact Public Health at email@example.com or at (707) 445-6200.
Watch the full video of Newsom's press conference below:
Editor's note: This post has been updated with additional information.