New Covid-19 cases slowing in Marin, which could soon fall to less restrictive tier

10/07/2020

Marin is making significant progress in limiting the transmission of Covid-19. The county recorded 68 cases last week, the fewest in any seven-day period since May, and four patients are currently hospitalized, also a four-month low. Based on this data, Marin is on the verge of moving to a less restrictive tier of reopening, as substantial transmission becomes moderate. The new tier expands the capacity for businesses to operate indoors: Restaurants and places of worship could grow from 25 to 50 percent capacity, and retail stores and libraries could fully reopen. Despite the small presence of the virus in West Marin—there are fewer than 10 active cases—most industries are moving slower than the orders allow. Tony Miceli, owner of Two Bird Café, runs one of the few restaurants open for indoor dining. “It’s all about confidence, whether we are exhibiting the procedures that make people feel confident that they can come and be taken care of,” he said. Allowing more customers inside would be helpful, particularly as winter approaches. For now, he is trying to squeeze business out of summer guests, before rains come and he lights up the fireplace. “People at night want to dine, they want to linger a little longer, so I think it will definitely be an improvement,” he said. Churches are mostly sticking with virtual services for their many older congregants and libraries, which have limited services to the curbside, will soon allow patrons inside to use the computers. If case rates drop slightly and positivity rates don’t rise, Marin can move to the new tier on Oct. 27. The state is also tracking a new metric: a health equity metric. It measures case rates in neighborhoods that fall into the bottom quartile of the Census Bureau’s healthy places index, which evaluates census tracts in 25 indicators, including employment and income but also the number of alcohol outlets, supermarket access and housing availability. Much of West Marin—from Inverness to Point Reyes Station up to Dillon Beach—falls into the bottom quartile. These communities are the focus of ongoing outbreak prevention and mitigation strategies, and their cumulative case rate is 3 percent, higher than the countywide rate of 1.8 percent but lower than the 5.2 percent required by the state to move forward with reopening. “We were relieved to see that when this equity metric was introduced by the state, it really was more just reinforcement and an amplification of our existing strategies,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s public health officer. He is worried about a “twindemic” this winter, when flu season comes in December. Often during flu season, intensive care units reach capacity and hospitals send ambulances elsewhere. “We certainly can’t manage that reality at the same time as we might have increases in Covid-19 cases,” Dr. Willis said.