California’s stay-at-home order was lifted on Monday as the latest and most severe surge subsides. Yet Marin public health officials warned that the vaccine rollout remains too slow to prevent a fourth wave of Covid-19.
Counties have returned to a four-tiered system and, like the vast majority of the state, Marin is in the most restrictive tier, assigned the color purple. This offers some relief for the local economy: Restaurants can resume outdoor dining, and hotels and short-term rentals, hair salons and other personal services can reopen their doors with modifications. Retail moved from 20 to 25 percent capacity. Schools are unaffected.
Gov. Gavin Newsom dissolved the order, which took effect in Marin on Dec. 8, based on a projection that I.C.U. capacity will continue to ease over the next month. While cases have surged over the past three months regionally, the virus has remained less prevalent in Marin than in California as a whole. The county is averaging 40 new cases a day per 100,000 people compared to the state’s 105.
Meanwhile, 8 percent of Marin’s population has received at least one dose of vaccine, compared to 5.2 percent statewide and 6 percent nationally.
“If I have any concerns about moving into a less restrictive tier it is that people might see that as a sign that the coast is more clear and that we can let our guard down—and nothing could be further from the truth,” Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis said. “We are at risk of backsliding if we misinterpret this as safety.”
Dr. Willis said Marin’s counts are twice what is necessary to move into the red tier. “With the emergence of new strains that may be more infectious, it is really important that we continue to practice physical distancing and all the things we have been doing to flatten that curve as we roll out the vaccine,” he said.
Marin has received up to 7,000 doses of vaccine a week, and recently moved from prioritizing health care workers to residents age 75 and older, a population of around 23,000. Next in line are ages 65 to 74, followed by those who work in education, childcare, food, agriculture and emergency services. All residents should complete a vaccine interest form at coronavirus.marinhhs.org/vaccine/distribution to ease the county’s ability to contact you when it’s your turn.
Based on clinical trials conducted by Pfizer and Moderna that included tens of thousands of people, the vaccines are over 94 percent effective. They were approved under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization that sped up the timeline, though county public health has emphasized that scientists had already been studying treatment for coronaviruses and the use of mRNA vaccines prior to the pandemic.
Steve Siegel, the West Marin services director for the Coastal Health Alliance, said the organization is planning with the county to create a local dispensing point. Logistical challenges abound, including allocating staff time, setting up an outdoor space, and coordinating with insurers like Kaiser Permanente.
Demand for Covid-19 testing at the clinic has dropped off, so staff are planning to cut one weekly testing day to make time for vaccination clinics that could start as soon as next month, Mr. Siegel said.
In the interim, the lifting of the stay-at-home order has provided local business owners little solace. Tony Miceli, owner of Two Bird Café, closed his operation last month, despite the allowance for takeout, and his staff filed for unemployment. “It hurts,” he said of his finances. He hasn't decided yet when he will reopen.
“It’s been a stuttered, go-stop, go-stop: It’s challenging for sure,” he said. “From what I hear, it all changes so frequently so the last thing I want to do is prepare and then only close up again. The weather is supposed to storm like crazy, so it doesn’t make sense to eat outside. There’s also a question of whether it’s even socially responsible to be open.”
To see what is allowable in the purple tier, visit marinrecovers.com/reopening-status/.