Indoor restrictions could ease as case rates decline


Should Marin’s Covid-19 case rates remain steady, local businesses will be able to operate at an increased indoor capacity as soon as next Tuesday, in time for cooler weather and shorter days. 

Marin expects to meet the health criteria necessary to fall into the third out of four regulatory tiers the state created in August to guide re-opening. For the past five weeks, Marin has been in the second-most restrictive red tier. The orange third tier requires that Marin have fewer than four daily cases per 100,000 residents and less than 5 percent of tests coming back positive.

Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis reported on Tuesday that the county is meeting those thresholds. “We’ve all made sacrifices to reduce Covid-19 transmission in Marin, and it’s encouraging to see progress,” he said. “At the same time, we’re seeing new surges across the nation. As hard as it is to reduce case rates, it’s just as hard to hang on and not slide backward. It’s not time to let up on those measures that protect ourselves and our community.” 

As of Tuesday, Marin had an adjusted daily case rate of 3.6 and a positivity rate of 1.8. It was also meeting the requirements for the orange tier of a new state criteria, a health equity metric. If Marin stays the course for the two weeks that end on Oct. 27, looser rules can take effect. 

The new tier would allow many types of local businesses to expand indoor capacity, and some to open for the first time. Retail, which has been restricted to 50 percent capacity indoors, could open at full capacity. Restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and museums could move from 25 percent to 50 percent capacity; gyms could move from 10 percent to 25 percent and wineries could open indoors for the first time. Offices deemed nonessential could open with modifications, with telework still encouraged. 

Notably, bars would be allowed to re-open for the first time, although only outside. 

Leila Monroe, co-owner of Smiley’s Schooner Saloon, plans to reopen outdoor operations at least by Oct. 30. It’s been a long time without the local watering hole, considering the saloon closed before the pandemic for repairs and upgrades. 

Ms. Monroe said drink and food will be served outdoors and, with luck, there will be music. “It’s extremely challenging to reopen during Covid given the need to keep all of your employees and your customers safe, but we so believe in this as a community gathering space,” she said. “I think we’re a place that builds community and brings joy, solace and hope, and that’s why we are pushing forward.”

Covid-19 case rates are dropping across California, one of eight states where transmission is decreasing or flat, according to the COVID Exit Strategy. On Tuesday, San Francisco joined eight other counties in the state that have moved into the least restrictive yellow tier. In advance of the holiday season, the state released guidelines for private gatherings: they must be outdoors, masked and socially distanced, and involve no more than three households.