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State relaxes rules on drink service; ages 16-64 with health issues can get vaccine

Food-purchase requirements at breweries, wineries, distilleries and restaurants serving alcohol have been lifted in Marin under a statewide adjustment last week to California’s four-tier pandemic blueprint for reopening the economy. However, bars without food must remain closed.

The state’s announcement comes as Marin is poised to move from red-tier 2 to orange tier-3 status for the first time as early as next week, as vaccine eligibility has expanded to residents ages 16-64 with underlying medical conditions and as roughly one in seven county residents is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, more than triple the number of those diagnosed since the virus arrived in Marin last year.

As of The Ark’s press time March 15, some 37,055 residents, or 14.2 percent, have received both doses of either the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines since their December rollout, compared with 11,221 cases since Marin’s first confirmed diagnosis on Feb. 5, 2020. At 83,583 residents, nearly than one in three in Marin have received at least their first dose.

Those figures will quickly grow as California on March 15 expanded eligibility under phase 1B of the vaccine rollout to residents with medical conditions including:

  • Cancer, with a debilitated or immunocompromised state.

  • Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or higher.

  • Chronic pulmonary disease with oxygen dependence.

  • Down syndrome.

  • Weakened immune system from organ transplant.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Sickle-cell disease.

  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies but excluding hypertension.

  • Severe obesity, with a body-mass index of 40 or greater.

  • Type 2 diabetes with hemoglobin levels greater than 7.5 percent.

  • Likeliness of developing severe life-threatening illness or death from a COVID-19 infection.

  • Likeliness that infection would limit the ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to well-being and survival.

  • Likeliness that adequate and timely care would be particularly challenging as a result of a disability.

Marin Public Health Officer Matt Willis said the next group will likely include all those 50-64, regardless of medical condition, though the county is awaiting further clarification from the state. California is using a modified U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distribution recommendation, which takes a phased, risk-based approach primarily prioritizing by age, occupation, congregate-living status and health equity.

However, in a nationwide address March 11, President Joe Biden said he would order all 50 states to make the vaccine available to every adult by May 1, with the hope of achieving national herd immunity for in-person Independence Day celebrations.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office quickly issued a statement supporting the goals but noted distribution so far has been limited by bottlenecks in supply and that the state will wait for more details before changing its framework.

In the meantime, California announced that as of March 13, breweries, wineries and distilleries that do not serve meals may reopen statewide with restrictions — meaning those that do, including restaurants across the Tiburon Peninsula, will no longer need a food purchase on every bar tab.

For counties in the most-restrictive purple tier and the red tier, no-food breweries, wineries and distilleries had been closed entirely but may now reopen outdoors through 8 p.m., with reservations and a 90-minute time limit required. In orange tier-3 counties, with moderate virus transmission, they may also resume indoor service at 25 percent capacity with a maximum of 100 people, and in yellow tier-4 counties, with minimal transmission, they can expand indoor service to 50 percent capacity with a maximum of 200 people.

Bars that don’t serve meals must remain closed in the purple and red tiers, can open outdoors in the orange tier and can open indoors at 25 percent capacity with no more than 100 people in the yellow tier.

The state also announced March 12 that as it hit its goal of administering 2 million doses of vaccine in California’s hardest-hit communities, it was adjusting the qualifications of its tier framework, widening the red tier from 4-7 new daily cases per 100,000 residents to 4-10 per 100,000 residents. That allowed 13 counties — including all remaining purple-tier counties in the Bay Area — to move to the red tier.

The move didn’t impact Marin, which remains in the red tier and is expected to qualify for the orange tier as early as this week.

While the state’s next tier-assignment update was set for March 16, after The Ark’s press deadline, its March 9 assessment of three qualifying metrics showed Marin’s rolling seven-day adjusted new-case rate was 4.2 per 100,000, just above the 3.9 per 100,000 maximum to enter the orange tier. However, the county’s seven-day-average test-positivity rate had fallen to 1.5 percent, which alone would be good enough to qualify the county to enter yellow tier. The county’s test-positivity rate among the county’s most disadvantaged residents was 2.9 percent, well within the 2.2- to 5.2-percent range to qualify for the orange tier.

Generally, counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks — and qualify for the next tier for at least two weeks — before they can advance. Marin, assigned to the red tier Feb. 22, has now spent three weeks in the tier and, if it qualifies for the orange tier for the week ending March 16, would be eligible for further reopenings as soon as March 23.

Under the orange tier, bars that don’t serve food would be allowed to reopen outdoors only; breweries, wineries and distilleries that don’t serve food, alongside family-entertainment centers and cardrooms, would be allowed to reopen indoors for the first time, at 25-percent capacity; indoor retail could expand to 100-percent capacity; indoor dining and worship could expand to 50-percent capacity; and indoor gyms could increase to 25-percent capacity.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that the state is working on creating a fifth, green tier to signal the all-clear for counties to fully reopen, though qualifying metrics have not yet been announced.

covid-19 in marin

Marin remains in red tier-2 restrictions for substantial transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, under the state’s four-tier blueprint for reopening the economy.

  • Distribution phase: Phase 1B — Health-care workers; residents of senior-care facilities; everyone 65 and older; those 16-64 with underlying medical conditions; and high-risk essential workers. For details, visit

  • Sign up: Visit the state’s centralized notification and booking website is at

  • Marin Center and Larkspur ferry terminal mass-vaccination site: New appointments are opened Friday afternoons at

  • Kaiser Permanente: Appointments are available for members at and for nonmembers at, or by calling 866-454-8855.

  • MarinHealth: Patients will be notified when a vaccine and appointment is available.

  • Sutter Health: Book online at or call 844-987-6115.

  • Costco Novato: Book online via

  • CVS/pharmacy: Only available in San Anselmo. Book online at

  • Rite Aid: The closest sites are at Corte Madera Town Center and in Mill Valley. Book online at

  • Safeway: The closest sites are in Strawberry and Mill Valley. Check the status and book online at

  • Walgreens: The closest site is in Mill Valley. Book online at

  • Oakland Coliseum: Book through or 833-422-4255.

  • No internet: Vaccine-eligible residents may call 833-641-1988, Marin’s live-assistance hotline, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays for help with registration, transportation and communication.

  • Getting there: Rides to and from appointments are free on Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit. Show the driver evidence of a same-day appointment.



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