More activities okay in new shelter order

04/29/2020

Marin has extended its shelter order through May, with eased restrictions on construction, childcare and outdoor businesses. The new order, effective May 4 in six Bay Area counties, is similar to the previous one, but allows a few lower-risk businesses to open.

Childcare programs can serve families who are permitted to work under the order as long as groups of children are kept smaller than 12. Outdoor facilities that don’t include shared equipment, like skate parks and athletic fields, are allowed to open. All construction can take place, under specific safety protocols outlined in the order. Real estate transactions can resume, but with continued restrictions on in-person viewings. Landscaping and gardening are permitted, and outdoor businesses like nurseries can reopen. 

All businesses must keep practicing social distancing to the greatest extent possible, and individuals must continue to stay at home except for essential trips. Restaurants cannot open for dine-in, even with outdoor seating. Parking restrictions at parks and open spaces remain in effect under a separate resolution. 

“We remain at risk of losing the gains we’ve made, so the answer is to move carefully, deliberately and in collaboration,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the county public health officer.

Already, businesses allowed to reopen are making plans to do so. Lourdes Romo, the executive director of Papermill Creek Children’s Corner, said she is meeting with advisors to figure out how to modify the classroom and serve the right students. The program’s enrollment is 28 students. “It’s going to be hard to figure out who we’re going to serve and who we’re not going to be able serve,” Ms. Romo said. “It breaks my heart that we’re not going to be able to serve half of our students. But I can’t tell you how ready I am.”

While the region is far from out of the woods, Bay Area public health officials are hailing the order’s success in curbing an exponential spread of the virus. “We can only take these first steps because of you, our community,” Dr. Willis said in a video address. “The sacrifices you’ve made have saved lives and flattened the curve, so far.”

Representing the shelter order’s success is Bolinas: None of the 1,800-plus people who were tested for active infection last week had a positive result. Still, residents should continue to adhere to the shelter order and practice physical distancing; researchers cautioned that one in five tests can give a false negative. (Doctors and project leaders will discuss the results in a meeting on Friday at 3 p.m. Email bolinastesting@gmail.com for Zoom details.)

And the virus continues to spread. A positive case was reported in Inverness Park by Christian Anthony, the curator of the West Marin Feed. The patient, an elderly community member, was following guidelines and had limited interaction, Mr. Anthony said. The family notified Mr. Anthony because they had previously taken a socially distanced hike together. He shared the diagnosis in the interest of transparency.

“The only way we can get ahead of this, when our infrastructure isn’t up to speed, is to act like a community, and be totally upfront and honest with each other when we have it,” he said.

Last weekend also saw an uptick in Marin cases when a cluster of asymptomatic essential workers were tested after a known exposure, deputy public health officer Dr. Lisa Santora said. She did not specify which business they worked at, but it was not in West Marin—where less than 10 people have tested positive, according to county surveillance data.

Marin is still in phase one of a four-phase approach laid out by Governor Gavin Newsom. The second phase is to gradually open some lower-risk workplaces with adaptations, like retail shops with curbside pickup. To get there, the state must build out testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and hospital surge capacity. 

While progress has been made on this front, the county is not where it aims to be. About 300 tests are administered each day at hospitals, clinics and the county’s drive-through testing site, and the goal is 500 tests a day. Dr. Willis said this goal is based on research from Johns Hopkins University that suggests that testing two out of every 1,000 residents each day can identify cases early enough in the course of the disease to successfully isolate them. The county is also expanding its workforce of employees who can reach patients and trace their contact.

In Gov. Newsom’s plan for reaching phase two, it says businesses need to offer paid sick leave, adapt to a lower-risk workplace and have employees continue to work from home when possible. Individuals must practice physical distancing, wear face coverings and avoid nonessential travel.

The third phase is to open higher-risk environments where people tend to congregate for longer periods, like hair salons or churches, and the fourth is to end the stay-at-home order.

California sets the limit on how much Marin can roll back its sheltering, since a countywide order can only be more restrictive than the state order. The state order is indefinite, but Gov. Newsom said he believes that California is “weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications” to the order.