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Serving: West
Coronavirus
CFBF centennial celebration at the Calif. Capitol Tim Hearden
A California Farm Bureau Federation celebration is held in front of the state Capitol in Sacramento in 2019.

Wineries restricted, ag events cancelled amid virus fears

Updated: The California Fresh Fruit Association rescheduled its 84th annual meeting from mid-March to November

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered all wineries and other drinking establishments to stop serving liquor on-site amid the novel coronavirus scare.

The order, which covers bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs, is "guidelines" that "we have the capacity to enforce if necessary," Newsom said, according to the Associated Press.

"The safety of our visitors, communities, employees and their families is the number one priority of the California wine community during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic," the San Francisco-based Wine Institute said in a statement issued Sunday night.

"We are working with the governor’s office to implement recommendations to reduce the exposure and spread of the disease by limiting visitor access to winery tasting rooms for purchase and pick up only, intensifying cleaning and sanitation procedures and following the guidance of the CDC and California Department of Health," the organization stated.

The Institute explained in a news release the closure recommendation applies only to winery tasting activities and events. The purchase and pick-up of wine and winery business and production operations are not impacted.

Newsom also called on restaurants to reduce occupancy by half to facilitate social distancing. A restaurant is defined as a business that derives 51 percent or more of gross sales from food prepared on site, the Wine Institute explained.

Following the governor’s announcement, Wine Institute representatives participated in a call with his office and offered the following advice to members based on current information:

  • Discontinue consumer tastings and events.
  • Allow consumers into the winery only for the purchase and pick up of wine.
  • Intensify cleaning and sanitation procedures to ensure visitor and employee safety.
  • Implement social distancing in operations, defined as maintaining a distance of six feet or more from another person.
  • Follow the recommendations of the CDC and California Department of Public Health– wash hands frequently, avoid close contact, avoid touching the face, cover sneezes and coughs, remain at home when sick, and take additional precautions if elderly or at-risk.

Cases increasing

As of Tuesday, March 17, California had confirmed 589 cases of the virus and recorded six deaths, according to health officials. In many cases the virus only causes a moderate fever and cough, but health officials warn that those over 65 and those with chronic health conditions are particularly vulnerable.

California has more than 4,600 wineries, ranging from small boutique wines to large corporations.

Newsom's latest move comes as the White House is expected to issue its own new guidelines Monday that could resemble orders issued in some places in Europe, including the closing of restaurants, bars and schools, according to the Daily Caller.

California health officials on Saturday urged movie theaters to keep attendance under 250 people and ask strangers to sit 6 feet apart, the AP reports. Gambling venues were told to limit 250 people per room and clean chips and slot machines more frequently, while theme parks and attractions were told to thin out crowds by staggering attendance, according to the wire service.

As fears of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, began to spread last week, California officials cancelled Wednesday's scheduled Ag Day events at the state Capitol.

The decision followed a recommendation from public health officials that large public gatherings be canceled or postponed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the state Department of Food and Agriculture announced in a news release.

Ag Day has provided opportunities over the years for members of the public to celebrate the bounty of agriculture, and for farmers and ranchers to meet with members of the California Legislature. The CDFA says the festival will return in 2021.

Other cancellations

The virus has caused postponments and cancellations of agriculture-related events around the country. Among other coronavirus-related updates from the West:

  • The California Fresh Fruit Association rescheduled its 84th annual meeting from mid-March to Nov. 4-6 at the Montage Laguna Beach resort in Laguna Beach, Calif.
  • The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has cancelled its planned March 24 Spring Policy gathering in Tubac, Ariz.
  • Numerous University of California workshops and seminars have been cancelled, including a Foothill Grape Day set for Tuesday in Amador County and a Healthy Soils meeting Tuesday in Meridian. The UC's research and extension centers are closed. Click here for updates or check with your individual meeting coordinator. 
  • The California Prune Board has postponed trips to China, Hong Kong and Japan, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
  • The California Antique Farm Equipment Show scheduled for April 17-19 was cancelled

Elsewhere around the country, the American Farm Bureau Federation has cancelled the March 13-16 Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Louisville, Ky.

Watch this website for more updates.

TAGS: Extension
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