MARCH 16, 3:30 p.m. — Public health officers across six Bay Area counties, including Marin, united to issue a three-week regional shelter-in-place warning beginning March 17 to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
The order came as Tiburon and Belvedere separately declared states of emergency and as Marin health officials announced the county’s first six confirmed cases of community-transmitted coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to nine.
Schools and county-operated public parks had closed in the days ahead of the announcement.
According to Marin public information officer Laine Hendricks, the Bay Area order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs. Dr. Matt Willis, the county’s public health officer, noted the order is not a complete shutdown.
“While the goal is to limit groups congregating together in a way that could further spread the virus … you can still complete your most essential outings or even engage in outdoor activity, so long as you avoid close contact,” he said.
The order, which also applies to San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, impacts a population of more than 6.7 million people. Sonoma, Solano and Napa counties were not included at The Ark’s press time.
“Scientific evidence shows social distancing is one of the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable disease,” Hendricks said. “The shelter-at-home order follows new data of increasing local transmission of COVID-19, including 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with four deaths shared by the seven jurisdictions, as of March 15. The Bay Area’s collected confirmed cases is more than half of California’s case count. This does not account for the rapidly increasing number of assumed cases of community transmission.”
The order is short of the type of lockdown seen in Italy and elsewhere, in which residents are not allowed to leave their homes without explicit permission or face fines. However, it calls for law enforcement to “ensure compliance” — though it was unclear at press time to what degree it would be enforced.
Essential businesses allowed to operate include “health-care operations; businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers including convenience stores; pharmacies; child-care facilities; gas stations; banks; (and) laundry businesses and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence,” the order states. “In addition, health care, law and safety and essential government functions will continue under the recommended action.”
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On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, as it reached 124,000 cases and more than 4,500 deaths in some 122 countries, regions and sovereignties worldwide at the time of the announcement, according to statistics compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Since then, the global toll has climbed to more than 175,000 global cases and more than 6,700 deaths as of The Ark’s March 16 press time.
U.S. cases had reached nearly 3,500 infections and 68 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the state’s Department of Public Health, there are 335 positive cases and six deaths in California at The Ark’s press time with 11,700 self-monitoring.
On March 15, the CDC issued a recommendation that everyone avoid nonessential indoor gatherings of greater than 50 people for the next eight weeks. At the same time, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a recommendation that all nightclubs, bars, breweries and wineries close for business entirely as nonessential services.
President Donald Trump went a step further the next day, releasing new recommendations that called for people to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people and to avoid bars, restaurants and food courts.
Tiburon and Belvedere declare local emergencies
So far, there are no known cases in Tiburon and Belvedere, according to the joint emergency services coordinator, Laurie Nilsen.
However, both towns declared states of emergency on March 16 as pre-emptive measures to help ensure the streamlining of purchasing for any equipment and services necessary to respond to a local outbreak, as well as the recovery of any costs. Declaring an emergency also helps the towns implement any rules, regulations, programs or services necessary to protect life and property.
Earlier March 16, Tiburon announced it was canceling all town public meetings until further notice.
Marin confirms first 9 cases, including community spread
Early last week, on March 9, the county’s Department of Health and Human Services announced the first Marin resident tested positive for the illness, a travel-related case connected to the Grand Princess cruise ship’s Mexican Riviera voyage between San Francisco and Mexico Feb. 11-21.
That news prompted the health department to recommend the cancellation of all nonessential indoor events of greater than 100 people, a stricter revision of its previous recommendation for those 65 and older to avoid such crowds.
The health department announced two more travel-related cases March 12, patients who lived with the Marin resident on the Grand Princess. Testing for two other household members is pending.
That led to the health department and Marin Office of Education to close all schools.
The health department says all 56 Marin residents who traveled on the Grand Princess’ Mexico cruise have been contacted, and that, in addition to the man who tested positive, two others were hospitalized. They both tested negative.
After most passengers disembarked that cruise in San Francisco, the same ship sailed on to a cruise to Hawaii, where dozens fell ill before the ship was redirected to the Port of Oakland. Marin health officials say they do not have a manifest to determine the Marin residents who were aboard. All Americans aboard the ship, roughly 900 people, are under quarantine at Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield.
The six most recent cases are community-transmission infections, meaning the patients have not traveled and have no identifiable contact with a known case.
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“The first cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in Marin means we’re in a new stage of working to mitigate spread,” Dr. Matt Willis, the county’s public health officer, said in a press release. “We’ve been anticipating this. This is why we took big steps this week, including limiting large gatherings and closing classrooms.”
Those cases were discovered after the health department piloted and launched a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility inspired by models deployed in South Korea. The service is conducting about 50 tests per day. After performing an evaluation, physicians may refer patients to the field-testing site, where the patient does not have to leave their vehicle, rather than conduct testing in their office.
The health department says two commercial laboratories are now supporting COVID-19 testing as of last week and that the Marin-Napa-Solano-Yolo joint regional public-health laboratory has received 90 tests.
Public-health officials said March 15 that the county will no longer issue individual press releases for confirmed cases and will instead offer daily status updates listing COVID-19 activity in Marin.
Schools shut down
Earlier in the week, schools serving Tiburon Peninsula students announced they were shutting down for at least two weeks in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus and are instead implementing distance-learning plans that allow kids to continue their coursework from home.
Schools are not included in the Bay Area shelter-in-place order’s list of essential business, meaning schools will likely remain closed until at least the end of the order, April 7. Spring recess runs April 6-10 in most local districts, which would close schools until April 12.
The Reed Union School District announced its closure, which went into effect March 13, in an email to parents about 10:30 p.m. March 12. Students at Reed and Bel Aire elementary schools and Del Mar Middle School attended school the morning of March 13 to receive instruction on the distance-learning program but were released early.
The announcement came just hours after the Tamalpais Union High School District also notified parents it would also be shutting doors at its five schools — including Redwood and Tamalpais, the predominant public high schools attended by Tiburon Peninsula students — effective March 13. The schools were open that day only so students could stop by to gather any instructional materials to take home.
St. Hilary Catholic School in Tiburon closed March 12 as part of temporary shutdown of all Bay Area Catholic schools ordered by the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The Mill Valley School District, which includes Strawberry Point Elementary School, also announced it would close March 16.
Officials at the time said the closure dates could change as they continue to monitor the situation.
The health department and Marin Office Education followed suit the afternoon of March 13, announcing that all public school campuses in Marin would suspend classroom instruction for at least two weeks beginning March 16.
“Recognizing the challenges that a school closure poses for many families in our community, we are making this decision with a heavy heart but for the greater good,” said Mary Jane Burke, Marin County superintendent of schools. “Our priority is always the safety and well-being of our students. For the past month, our schools have received constant guidance from Public Health officials and remained aligned with their professional opinions. Given this unprecedented situation around the globe, we are acting in step with Marin Public Health and out of concern for all members of our community.”
For Reed and Bel Aire students, lessons will be posted to a website daily for students to complete on their device. Del Mar students, who each have a district-issued iPad they use throughout the year, can access coursework through individual teacher websites, which will be updated daily.
Teachers will host office hours daily where they will be available to communicate with students and families.
Del Mar Principal Brian Lynch said teachers at his school have been working to digitize their lesson plans and troubleshoot any issues. He said the format of lessons will vary depending on the teacher and their discipline but noted most would likely pre-record lessons for students to watch at home.
Teachers at Del Mar will hold virtual office hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily to talk with students and parents individually or in groups, he said.
Though Lynch said distance-learning cannot replace the benefits of an in-classroom experience, he noted he’s confident in his staff’s ability to continue their lesson plans.
“This is not ideal, we don’t want it, but you know, we have to do this for the greater good, and we’re prepared and ready,” he said.
Both the Tamalpais and Reed districts are expected to continue to provide updates to parents throughout the closure over email or on their respective district websites.
Earlier last week, Bel Aire Elementary School decided it would not host a live audience for its “Peter Pan Jr.” musical, which was set to be performed at the school March 11-15.
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In a March 9 email, Lynch said the school would provide all ticket holders with video of the school’s first two performances March 11-12. The play was also livestreamed for families and residents to watch at home.
The news prompted considerable discussion on community website NextDoor.com, where one Paradise Drive resident suggested hiring a lawyer to block the district from disallowing an audience, and several other parents — including presumptive Tiburon Town Councilmember-elect Jack Ryan — said the county’s 100-person cutoff recommendation was arbitrary and that the show should go on with an audience.
The vast majority of parents and residents commenting on the posts supported the district’s decision, with many seeking even tighter restrictions, suggesting school should be canceled entirely.
Other notable shut-downs
In addition to school closures, a number of Tiburon Peninsula events have been canceled or postponed amid ramped-up local efforts to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus.
• The Belvedere-Tiburon Library announced March 13 it would close at least through March 30. Earlier in the week, officials announced all public programs and events would be canceled through the end of the month.
Those with a library card can still use it to download books, audiobooks and magazines to their personal devices. To learn more about the library’s e-services, visit beltiblibrary.org/go-digital.
Patrons who have books checked out that are due during the closure should just hold on to the items until the library reopens. They don’t need to worry about racking up late fees during the shut-down; the library last August voted to abolish the fees and waive any existing fines for overdue materials.
• The Belvedere-Tiburon Library Foundation announced that its Pop-Up 94920 fundraiser, originally scheduled for March 26 at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, has been postponed.
• The Ranch, Belvedere and Tiburon’s joint recreation agency, canceled or postponed all classes and programs beginning March 13. The agency is posting updates on its website, theranchtoday.org.
• Strawberry Recreation Center is closed by the shelter-in-place order.
• The Foundation for Reed Schools announced it has postponed ticket sales for its annual spring fundraising events — its May 1 fashion show and May 2 gala — due to “potential public health concerns,” according to a March 10 email. The tickets for the events, the foundation’s biggest fundraisers of the year, were set to go on sale today, March 18.
• The Rotary Club of Tiburon-Belvedere has postponed its annual St. Patrick’s Day Party, a fundraiser that had been scheduled for March 17 at the Belvedere Community Center.
• Tiburon-based Musica Marin is postponing its chamber-music event “A Taste of Tango,” which had been scheduled for April 5 at Servino Ristorante.
• The Estuary & Ocean Science Center at the Romberg Tiburon Campus announced its 3:30 p.m. March 18 installment of its seminary series, “Rivers on Fire: Working in Environmental Regulation,” will be by livestream only, at sfsu.zoom.us/j/282002642.
• St. Hilary Catholic Church is canceling all its social events until further notice. Westminster Presbyterian Church suspended in-person worship March 15 and 22. Community Congregational Church has canceled all public gatherings and services until March 26. Congregation Kol Shofar is suspending services and all public gatherings, events and classes. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church has canceled all parish events, including services, through March. Most are offering online livestream services and programs.
Information from Tiburon Baptist, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran and First Church of Christ Scientist was not available at press time.
• The San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere postponed or canceled social events, including its Father-Daughter Dance and Speakers Series, as well as private dining events and committee meetings. It also canceled all sailing events though April 5, and it temporarily suspended all visitor privileges to reciprocal clubs and member-sponsored guest cards.
• The Tiburon Peninsula Club announced it would close the week of March 16, leaving the lower tennis courts open for member play.
• The Strawberry Design Review Board canceled its March 16 meeting, which was to review North Coast Land Holdings’ revised plans to develop the former Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary site in Strawberry. The proposal will instead be reviewed at a future meeting, but no date has been set.
• The Moms Demand Action panel discussion “Lockdowns, Mass Shootings & Everyday Gun Violence,” moderated by Strawberry resident Dana Spaeth-Williams and slated for March 24 at the Mill Valley Community Center, has also been postponed.
• The county’s Objective Design and Development Standards team, which includes Belvedere and Tiburon, has canceled all its community meetings, which were originally set for March 11 in San Anselmo, March 17 in Novato, March 18 in San Rafael and March 19 in Corte Madera. Instead, there will be a live community webinar on the project objectives, with the ability to ask questions, from 7 to 9 p.m. March 19. The video will then be posted as a resource.
To join the webinar, visit bit.ly/Marin-ODDS-Community-Webinar, register using the form, then follow the instructions in the email confirmation. For more information, visit bit.ly/Marin-ODDS.
• The 110th running of the popular Dipsea footrace, the oldest trail race in the country, was set for June 14 but has been canceled.
Reach Executive Editor Kevin Hessel at 415-435-2652. Reach Assistant Editor Emily Lavin at 415-944-3841.