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Six Provocative Quotes From Sonoma County’s Indoor Drinkers

Health experts say that California’s coronavirus “miracle” is over, but many of Petaluma’s bar patrons disagree

Coronavirus Pandemic California
California allowed bars in Sonoma County to reopen for indoor drinking on June 12, 2020
Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

California’s sudden increase in cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has prompted shutdowns across the state, and in San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, plans to reopen bars have been halted. That’s because the state Department of Public Health issued a statement saying that bar culture — which encourages lingering and conversation, even as alcohol lowers inhibitions and allows folks to “forget” safety measures — is particularly conducive to the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, in other parts of the Bay Area, bars continue to invite drinkers inside, where patrons express deep skepticism about the gravity of the crisis, the SF Chronicle’s Sarah Ravani reports.

According to Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine, these bargoers’ attitudes are understandable. “If you’re young, bars are open, & you’ve heard mixed messages re: masks, it’s natural that some would say, ‘I don’t know whom to believe, but I hate masks so I’m going without,’” he tweeted Monday night. Looking at the Chronicle’s photos, many drinkers in downtown Petaluma are indeed maskless, dismissive of COVID-19, and annoyed at the efforts bars are making to keep patrons safe.

Here are some of the most provocative quotes from Ravani’s visit to Sonoma County. You should read her full story here.

  • “Clean your hands ya filthy animals.” — A sign at the entrance of the Roaring Donkey, where “unmasked patrons filled nearly every seat sipping cocktails, many of them seemingly oblivious to the blue tape on the floor marking the 6-foot distance they were supposed to keep from each other.”
  • “Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what you do. You can wash your hands, you can wear your gloves, you can wear a mask — if you’re going to get it, you’re going to get it. You’ll either recover or you won’t.” — 57-year-old Sebastopol resident Tom Peden, who was seated on a barstool at Gale’s Central Club.
  • “I bet you I’d be sick for a week because I have a really good immune system.” — Peden, again.
  • “Now, we are smelling bleach. That’s interesting.” — 39-year-old Amanda Siler, who reportedly “raised her eyebrows” as a bartender at the Hideaway cleaned countertops.
  • People should “take Vitamin D, get sunshine, get exercise and get sleep” to avoid coronavirus. — 36-year-old Jo Nickerson, as he played pool at McNear’s Saloon and Dining House.
  • “Bars are a significant manifestation of a phenomenon that is more widespread and that has to do with denial about the virus.” — Stanford University infectious disease expert Robert Siegel.