Declining infection rates prompts wider reopening
San Rafael, CA – The State of California has announced that Marin County will move from “purple” to “red” status in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy effective Wednesday, February 24.
The move from Tier 1 or “widespread risk” status to the less restrictive Tier 2 or “substantial risk” level is based on consecutive weeks of progress in Marin’s COVID-19 case statistics. Marin joins San Mateo and San Francisco as the only Bay Area counties not in tier 1, the most restrictive tier.
The California Department of Public Health assigns each county to a tier on a weekly basis based on two county-level factors: the total number of new cases, and the percent of new cases among those tested. For Marin, the move to Tier 2 is because of a low percentage of positive tests among residents of low-income communities. Among residents in census tracts in the lowest quartile on the California Healthy Places Index only one in 25 tested were found to be infected. This is down from nearly one in five at the height of the pandemic in August. This measure ensures virus transmission reduction in all communities, especially among less advantaged households. Areas once stricken with outbreaks – including San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood and portions of Novato – are seeing decreases in COVID-19 cases.
“We’ve focused on our hardest-hit communities, and it seems to be paying off,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “It’s especially encouraging to see this progress as we move toward vaccinating essential workers. Adding the protection of the vaccine will help seal this progress for the whole community.”
The primary changes allowed under the state order as Marin moves into Tier 2:
· Retail establishments can expand indoor capacity to 50%
· Indoor malls can expand indoor capacity to 50% (food courts must remain closed)
· Gyms and fitness studios (including yoga and dance studios) are allowed to open indoors at 10% capacity
· Restaurants are allowed to open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
· Museums are allowed to open indoors at 25% capacity
· Movie theaters are allowed to open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
· Cultural ceremonies, including weddings and funerals, are allowed indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer (churches and houses of worship maintain 25% indoor capacity)
The transition to Tier 2 means any Marin school that has not yet reopened to some form of in-person instruction will be eligible to make that transition beginning Monday, March 1. Once eligible, the reopening pace and scope of a school is at the discretion of school officials. To date, nearly 90% of Marin schools have already reopened to some form of site-based classroom learning.
In August 2020, the state introduced its Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a four-tier framework by which counties are measured for loosening and tightening restrictions on social activities and business operations. Sectors of business can progressively open more operations with moves up the list toward the final stage, Tier 4. A county must spend at least 21 days in any tier before advancing to a less restrictive one. As Marin experienced, counties have to tighten back up if conditions worsen.
“Further progress within the tiers requires the collective action of all of us,” said Benita McLarin, Director of Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Mask wearing, maintaining physical distance from people you don’t live with, good hand hygiene and regular COVID-19 testing are easy steps everyone can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Free, same day COVID-19 testing is available across the county, and anyone who comes into frequent contact with members of the public should consider getting tested at least once a month. See Public Health’s testing webpage for a list of testing locations.
Meanwhile, vaccinations continue throughout the county. Nearly 20% of Marin residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. See Public Health’s vaccination webpage for the latest information.