The health officer in Solano County, Dr. Bela Matyas, signaled early on in the pandemic that he was going to march to his own drummer when it came to sheltering orders. The county was the last in the Bay Area to issue a stay-at-home mandate, and now it appears it will be the first in the region to defy Governor Newsom's orders and let restaurants reopen for dine-in service.
That's what Fairfield City Councilwoman Catherine Moy tells FOX40, anyway.
"This is breaking news right now," Moy said Thursday morning, saying she had just gotten off the phone with Matyas. She says the change will take effect a week from Friday.
It remains unclear what the rules may be for restaurants that reopen, and it's entirely possible that blowback about this move will get Matyas to change his tune in a few days — kind of like how he stopped quibbling with the "shelter-in-place" designation (the county went with the term "shelter-at-home" instead) and within a week of the rest of the Bay Area issued essentially an identical order back in March.
Solano County is home to around 450,000 people, just a bit less than Sonoma County but more than Napa or Marin counties. And in the city of Fairfield, according to Moy, restaurateurs are itching to reopen.
"Our city alone has lost $7 million so far this year, just over this time with the COVID-19. It’s been really detrimental," she says.
According to Moy — again, we'll see what happens when the actual order drops — servers will need to wear face masks but patrons will not, and tables will be spaced six or more feet apart.
The move by the Solano health officer follows one that was issued last Friday by the joint health officer of Yuba and Sutter counties, allowing businesses including gyms and nail salons — as well as an indoor shopping mall — to reopen this week. Governor Newsom called that move "a big mistake," and he has said that the state is "months, not weeks away" from a Phase 3 in the reopening process that would include things like dine-in restaurants and movie theaters.
But Matyas, who clearly as of mid-March had not been reading broadly about what experts were starting to understand about how the coronavirus is spread, was insisting in the days after eight other Bay Area counties locked down that workplaces with cubicles were perfectly safe. And now he is potentially putting restaurant patrons and workers at risk — though these types are stories are probably going to multiply quickly as lockdown fatigue grows statewide.
Says one Fairfield restaurant owner to FOX40, "Come down and sit down. Don’t be afraid."
Solano County, which is also home to the cities of Vacaville and Vallejo, currently has 286 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and that number grew 5 percent between Tuesday and Wednesday. On Monday, May 4, after not reporting new cases for two days, the county recorded a 20-percent uptick in new cases.
Photo: Valeria Boltneva