Shops, parks start to reopen in phased plan

05/13/2020

The effort to reopen Marin is slowly picking up steam.

As part of its Marin Recovers plan, the county is moving from allowing only essential activities to assessing activities based on their risk of virus transmission. On Monday, the county will update its shelter-in-place order to allow curbside retail, and some county and community parks will reopen to vehicles, although most parks on the coast will remain closed.

“Our typical visitor lives within a mile of the park or preserve they visit, so we want to provide that access,” parks director Max Korten told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “There will likely still be a vehicle closure in place for some of the larger regional destinations in West Marin, where the towns can really get inundated by traffic and it could really cause problems.”

Because the updated shelter order is still under review, Mr. Korten did not specify which parks would open to vehicle access next week, but he did say that the Point Reyes National Seashore, Tomales Bay and Samuel P. Taylor State Parks, and Marin Municipal Water District lands will stay closed for now, as will areas with high-touch surfaces such as playgrounds and picnic tables. In West Marin, parks like Roy’s Redwoods and the Miller Boat Launch are slated to open.

“It’s not a mandate for any of those agencies to open their parks and preserves,” Mr. Korten clarified. 

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office has issued over 800 parking citations to drivers accessing parks and trails since the shelter order began.

The allowance of curbside retail follows in the footsteps of the State of California, which last week permitted retailers to reopen without customers in stores. Marin is moving slower than the state because, among the 58 counties, it has the 19th highest case rate and ninth highest death rate, said Dr. Matt Willis, the county public health officer. 

As with parks, the reopening of stores will be incremental, and each business is expected to make an individual decision based on its risk.

In Point Reyes Station, shops are looking at how to serve customers in person again. Stephen Sparks, the co-owner of Point Reyes Books, is considering modifying the interior of the store to allow for two socially distanced employees at a time, and he’s spoken with designers and contractors about installing a pickup window for limited weekday hours. 

Other shop owners will fulfill individual requests but not with specific hours. Melanie Stone, the owner of Zuma, will keep her gift shop closed, as customers usually handle the handmade merchandise and try on the jewelry and scarves.

The county has established 15 working groups corresponding to different sectors of the economy. The groups are tasked with creating guidelines for their sector so that when the county gives the green light, that sector is ready to go. On May 26, the Marin Recovers team will present a detailed roadmap for reopening to the Board of Supervisors.

The ability for each business sector to adapt to Covid-19 with safe practices is one of six benchmarks that Dr. Willis is using to make decisions about reopening. Three of the benchmarks have been accomplished: Case and hospitalization rates are stable, hospitals are prepared for a surge and the county has established a real-time health care monitoring system.

Still, testing needs to increase, and a team of workers who can isolate positive patients and trace their contact within 24 hours of diagnosis needs to be expanded. With 52 active Covid-19 cases and 15 contact tracers, the county is meeting its ideal ratio of five cases per worker, but it’s recruiting more tracers in anticipation of an uptick.

“We are riding the front of this wave at every moment,” Dr. Willis said.

The county’s goal is to test 500 residents each day, to reach a rate of two tests per 1,000 residents a day. Currently, Marin is testing about half that, but a number of improvements to testing capacity have given Dr. Willis confidence the county will meet its goal by the end of the month.

A state-sponsored testing site in the Canal neighborhood that can take 132 tests a day opened two weeks ago, and the number of lanes at the county’s original drive-through testing site was doubled to accommodate 200 tests daily. Testing numbers include those performed at hospitals and clinics, and the county is working to get an accurate total count. 

More testing supplies are becoming available each week, and testing criteria have been expanded so that essential workers can be tested, even if they are asymptomatic. At-risk workers can now go online and refer themselves for testing online without a doctor’s prescription. 

 

To register for a test, visit lhi.care/covidtesting, and to provide input on reopening, visit marinrecovers.com/phase-2-sequential-reopening.