Indoor venues allowed limited opening with Marin's move to red tier

09/16/2020

Marin’s shelter order was loosened on Tuesday, a move that public health officer Dr. Matt Willis described as “the largest step we have taken as the county since the beginning of shelter-in-place.” As of Tuesday, retail establishments and indoor malls can open at 50 percent capacity; restaurants were allowed to open indoors at a maximum of 25 percent capacity; places of worship, movie theaters, museums and zoos could open indoors at 25 percent capacity; gyms were allowed to open at 10 percent capacity; and personal care services were allowed to resume indoors. Cathy Davis, the longtime owner of West Marin Fitness, opened on Tuesday for the first time since March. “This has been extremely confusing: They kept telling us that we could open and then not letting us open, but I wouldn’t even get an email—I don’t know how I was supposed to know,” she said. Ms. Davis received a federal loan in the interim, and has established strict sanitizing and social distancing protocols. Her membership was eager to return after the lengthy hiatus, though she will only allow four people in the space at a time. California adopted a tiered system at the end of August to govern the reopening process, and ranked Marin in the most tightly regulated purple category, along with 37 other counties. Although the county was quickly slated to proceed into the red tier thanks to falling Covid-19 case rates, last week the state blocked that move the day before it was planned, after making a change in the data counting system and a reporting error concerning Marin’s testing capacity. Dr. Willis appealed the state’s decision successfully. Schools are also affected by the change in tiers. Already, 27 schools—accounting for 2,000 students, or 5 percent of kindergarteners through 12th graders in Marin—have successfully received a waiver allowing them to reopen for in-person instruction. Should Marin stay in the red tier for two more weeks, all schools in the county can resume on-campus instruction as long as they provide a site-specific plan to the county’s health department. Movement between California’s four tiers depends on virus transmission; the red tier is allotted to counties with no more than seven new cases per day per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate between 5 and 8 percent. On Tuesday, Dr. Willis said that virus transmission has been trending downward since July, though Marin remained closer to the thresholds established for the purple tier than those for the less-restrictive orange tier. On Tuesday, the county was averaging six new cases per 100,000 residents per day, with a percent positivity rate around 3 percent. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 4,233 total cases in Marin, including 21 in Point Reyes Station and fewer than nine in each of the other coastal towns. Should case rates bloom again, Marin could fall back into a more restrictive tier. “The problem is that reopening itself can increase virus transmission,” Dr. Willis warned. “Indoor restaurants are now able to open, indoor malls, indoor fitness centers, but the reason those had been closed before is that we know that those are locations where transmission can occur. That remains true.” He added, “Our goal is to make sure that while we recognize that the risk for transmission is increasing as we reopen, that we are all taking the personal measures to allow us to continue to move forward safely. It’s a matter of collective responsibility.”