Fact Check

Were CA Wineries Ordered to Close Indoor Operations While Newsom's Remained Open?

Businesses scaled back operations in the summer of 2020 as COVID-19 cases spread in counties across California.

Published Dec. 21, 2020

 (Office of the Governor of California.)
Image Via Office of the Governor of California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s winery in Napa County remained open in July 2020 even as he ordered other wineries and businesses to close their indoor operations around the state.
What's True

In July 2020, Newsom ordered indoor operations closures for businesses in 19 counties, which did not include Napa County, where wineries in which he has a financial stake were located. At the time, Napa had fewer COVID-19 cases than most counties.

What's False

Newsom’s winery is not open currently due to December 2020 shutdown and stay-at-home orders.

What's Undetermined

It is not clear that Napa County was exempt because of the governor’s personal business interests.

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As California faced a major surge in COVID-19 cases in December 2020, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, many criticized his policies. In particular, some scrutinized restrictions he placed on indoor business operations in the summer of 2020, which impacted wineries across a state that is known for the beverage.

Comedian Andrew Schulz raised this issue in a clip from his Netflix show “Schulz Saves America” that was shared across social media in December 2020. He claimed that while wineries across the state had to shut down, Newsom’s own winery was still functioning.

Schulz claimed:

Speaking of cheap plastic, California governor and inflatable fuck doll, Gavin Newsom, ordered wineries in 19 counties to close. You know what Gavin didn’t order closed? His own fucking winery! Nothing says man of the people like owning a vineyard. There’s a drought in California, and Gavin is hosing down his grapes like they’re striving for civil rights in Selma.

In early July 2020, Newsom did indeed order that businesses, including wineries, stop indoor operations in 19 of the 58 counties across California.

This was not, however, a complete shutdown, as the rule called for a closure of indoor operations in businesses with a high risk of transmission. The affected counties were selected based on public health metrics, including troubling long-term data on hospitalizations, community transmissions, and hospital capacity. At the time, the 19 counties were all on the state’s county monitoring list for three consecutive days. When considering factors that could lead counties to close up or restrict businesses, Newsom drew the line at an 8% positive case rate and 10% hospitalization rate.

Newsom and his wife currently have a financial stake in PlumpJack Group, which includes wineries in Napa County, an area that was exempt from the July restrictions. Newsom co-founded the group in 1992, first as a wine store, but it is presently a self-described “lifestyle and hospitality brand” led by his sister, Hilary Newsom. According to their 2018 tax returns, Newsom and his wife received an income of almost $600,000 from PlumpJack group’s Napa wineries.

It is not confirmed that Napa County was exempt because of the governor’s personal business investments, but the numbers of positive cases were certainly on the lower end in that region in July. On July 3, 2020, Napa reported 32 new cases for a total of 376 confirmed cases of COVID-19. By the time the July rules were put in place, there were more than 5,200 confirmed cases in Fresno County, by way of comparison, and more than 5,000 confirmed cases in Kern County.

By August 2020, Napa County did make it onto the state’s watchlist, as the number of new cases grew. By Dec. 18, 2020, Napa had more than 4,600 confirmed cases. PlumpJack's operations in Napa were open in July, according to an archived version of their website, but by December, they said they were closed to visitors. The website stated:

Our Tasting Rooms at PlumpJack, CADE, Odette, and 13th Vineyard are closed effective immediately for the indefinite future in light of recent developments and announcements regarding COVID-19. We are committed to the health and safety of our communities and it is our responsibility as a good community partner to do our part to support public health efforts to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19.

The wineries in which Newsom has a financial stake were open in Napa, while other counties were forced to restrict their business operations in July, but the reasons for this could be attributed to the scale of COVID-19 cases that varied widely across counties. We thus rate this claim as “Mostly true.”

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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