Although the calendar year will add a number in a few days, Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan is channeling his inner U2 by telling the city that “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.”
Although New Year’s Eve has been known for big parties and large gatherings, whether in Times Square, a club or just a house party, Sampayan is urging people to social distance and stay at home in small numbers on Dec. 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m very concerned about the coronavirus spreading more in Vallejo,” Sampayan told the Times-Herald on Monday. “With two new strains coming out I’m more fearful that more people will get infected. I encourage residents to stay home this New Year’s Eve. Yes, I know we all want to have fun and celebrate the holidays, but we need to think of our families and the elderly right now.”
There has been 17,330 COVID-19 cases and 95 deaths in Solano County according to the county website at about 3 p.m. on Monday. The 7-day positivity rate is 20.7.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday warned that the state’s regional stay-at-home order would be extended in certain parts of the state as early as Tuesday. For the regional order to be lifted, hospitals’ ICU capacity four weeks out must be projected to meet the state’s 15% threshold of available beds.
The Bay Area region, which covers Solano County, has a 9.5 ICU availability as of Monday at 3 p.m., according to the state site https://covid19.ca.gov.
Over the past week, the state has averaged about 37,500 new coronavirus cases per day and about 230 deaths a day from the virus. Following the holiday slowdown, California’s case count remains about 17% shy of its pre-Christmas peak but still three times higher than it was a month ago.
With this in mind, many Vallejoans are taking Sampayan’s advice and switching up their plans on New Year’s Eve. Some are taking old plans and revising them like Elizabeth Mathern — a former Vallejo resident who now lives in Suisun City.
“Ordinarily, my group of about 20 or so friends gathers for a fancy ‘pot luck’ meal at one couple’s home, overlooking the Bay in the El Cerrito hills,” Mathern wrote. “We are all avid cooks, and for our meal our hosts pick a theme or idea or favorite chef and develops a menu. They then assign the courses to the attendees and we have a rather spectacular meal. We have been doing this for 16 plus years, and we all look forward to it every year.
“Cut to the Time of Covid,” Mathern continued. “What do we do? Our group includes many actual scientists — including biologists and physicists. One person has been on the forefront of the COVID-19 vaccine research. Needless to say, we are not meeting as per usual. We got creative. We are having a Zoom gathering. Our hosts have curated a “greatest hits” small-plates menu from prior dinners and assigned the recipes. We will meet around 2 p.m. on Dec 31 at one central location (another home, with a big backyard) masked-up and socially-distanced, of course. We will then collect our meal kits and depart by 3 p.m. At 10:25 p.m., the Zoom festivities will begin. And, as is our tradition, the dishes will be described by the cook of the recipe as we move through the courses, toasts will be made, and we will ring out this horrible year, and ring in a bright new year.”
Many others have decided to spend the entire day at home.
“I’ll be at home with a good bottle of wine and some live music via livestream,” Crockett resident Greg Keidan said on the Times-Herald Facebook page. “I’m grateful I had lots of chances to celebrate New Years with crowds and in-person concerts while I was young. Hoping this darkness passes, but not optimistic due to the lack of critical thinking among my compatriots.”
Bonnie Montgomery felt the same way.
“Haven’t gone out in many years. And being a long termer, I’m staying in as I have been for many months. It’s not that important,” wrote Montgomery.
Napa native Kellie Fuller wrote, “I only like to go out on New Year’s Eve when I have a gig. Since that won’t be happening, I will be safe at home enjoying a quiet evening.”
“I’ll be at home with my husband and doggies eating a great dinner and watching the countdown,” said Vallejoan Jackie Arnold.
Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park planned to have a private 4,000 person “private” party on New Years Eve, but canceled it after word got out on social media.
However, there are still people who do not believe in the coronavirus and on the Times-Herald Facebook page many said they would still “gather with friends and no masks” or have massive block parties. Sampayan had a message for those people on Monday:
“Folks, this is real. Science has proven it real over and over again,” Sampayan said.”If you go out, have the coronavirus and get somebody sick and they die because you being irresponsible, what do you then tell the family? Sorry? No, it doesn’t work that way.”
Sampayan urged everyone to get tested in the next few days as well.
“Get tested! It’s free!,” Sampayan said.
Maggie Angst of the Bay Area News Group contributed to this article.