ROUNDUP: Officials demand better lab data as those with mild, moderate symptoms aren’t being tested; Marin sees first COVID-19 death; Blackie’s Pasture lot closed; Bay Area shelter order extended to May 1
MARCH 30 — While Marin County recorded its first coronavirus-related death last week, the county’s Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Lisa Santora warned the Board of Supervisors that roughly 1 percent of residents may already be infected with the coronavirus, or some 3,000 undiagnosed cases versus the 93 confirmed, due to the limited availability of tests.
The news came as Marin and other Bay Area public-health officials demanded more comprehensive test-result data from independent labs, as the Blackie’s Pasture parking lot and Tiburon’s and Belvedere’s three public tennis courts were shut down, as the Bay Area extended its shelter-in-place order through May 1 — though Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested the statewide order could last through June — and as the U.S. surpassed China in confirmed cases despite less than a quarter its population.
Marin: 93 confirmed cases, 1 death, per the Marin Department of Health and Human Services as of 6 p.m. March 29. Up from 39 cases, 0 deaths the previous week.
California: 5,763 confirmed cases, 135 deaths — per the California Department of Public Health as of 2 p.m. March 29. Up from 1,733 cases, 27 deaths the previous week.
U.S.: 140,904 cases, 2,405 deaths, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 4 p.m. March 29. Up from about 33,404 cases and 400 deaths the previous week.
World: 693,224 cases and 33,106 deaths, per the World Health Organization as of 2 a.m. March 30. Up from roughly 332,930 cases and 14,150 deaths the previous week.
Man who died was on Grand Princess cruise
The Marin man who died of coronavirus-related complications March 27 was reportedly in his 70s and had spent nearly three weeks in the hospital.
He had become the county’s first confirmed patient with the coronavirus when he tested positive March 9 after experiencing flu-like symptoms upon his return from the Feb. 11-21 Grand Princess cruise between San Francisco and Mexico. Two others in his home were confirmed positive on March 12, becoming the county’s second and third cases.
“This is a heartbreaking development in our work to limit the impact of COVID-19 locally,” Santora said in a press release. “This unfortunate death further shows how serious this virus is and how necessary it is for our community to continue to shelter in place and take bold measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Marin.”
Another man aboard the Mexican Riviera cruise, a 71-year-old Placer County resident with underlying health conditions, had earlier become California’s first death, on March 4. Some 56 Marin residents were on the cruise, and dozens of others remained aboard as it set off to Hawaii and Ensenada. Dozens aboard the Hawaii cruise fell ill before the ship was redirected to the Port of Oakland and the Americans on board — including Kathy and Rick Rose of Tiburon — were taken to Travis Air Force Base in Solano County for quarantine.
The Roses have since tested negative for the coronavirus.
Marin demands better lab reporting
At the Marin supervisors’ March 24 board meeting, Santora accounted for her assertion of a high rate of undiagnosed cases by noting that only those with moderate to severe symptoms are being approved for tests, but globally most people have mild symptoms — and some are entirely asymptotic — yet remain highly contagious.
She announced that Marin is joining six other jurisdictions — Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara, as well as the city of Berkeley — to demand more comprehensive testing data from independent labs to better track community-outbreak trends and possible infection clusters.
Right now, labs are only posting positive results. Under the new public-health order, laboratories must also report the total number tested and all negative and inconclusive results, as well as all patient information that allows health officials to better locate the person tested.
“Expanding reporting beyond positive results to include timely reporting of negative and inconclusive results allows local health officials to better understand whether there are areas of the community that are experiencing more intense transmission and project future trends in in the spread of the virus,” San Francisco health officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said in a separate press release announcing the order. “By sharing high-quality test-result data at scale, state and local health authorities can better track COVID-19, predict its spread and better focus public resources to end this global pandemic.”
County officials say, however, they will not break down those potential pockets in their releases to the public.
“There are two main challenges to releasing geographic data at this point in Marin’s situation,” Laine Hendricks, the county’s public information officer, said in an interview. “For us to be able to ethically release that data, we would need to have a sufficient number of confirmed cases per ZIP code for us to safely convey this information without disclosing protected information, (and) releasing the data — while a wake-up call for some — can create a false sense of security for other communities that think, ‘Oh, its only (somewhere else), we’re OK.’”
While Tiburon’s and Belvedere’s joint emergency services coordinator, Laurie Nilsen, previously stated there are no known cases of the coronavirus in the local community, she later acknowledged in an interview she didn’t have enough information to make that assertion.
“At this point, you have to assume it’s in every town,” she said March 25.
Supervisors respond with relief fund, eviction ban
At the same meeting, the supervisors established a $1-million relief fund, approved $2 million for supplies and emergency expenditures and enacted a short-term, countywide ban on tenant evictions in an effort to help those most affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The board voted unanimously March 24 to approve all three actions. The emergency COVID-19 Fund of MCF will be created in partnership with the Marin Community Foundation, with each entity contributing $500,000. The money will be allocated over the next two months to help vulnerable residents meet urgent needs, including providing emergency rental assistance for low-income residents and expanded food for economically disadvantaged families. It will also be used to provide expanded meals for seniors, Wi-Fi access for low-income students and emergency child care for health-care workers and emergency responders.
Donations can be made via arkn.ws/MCFCOVIDfund.
The eviction resolution approved by the board provides protections to residents and business owners who experience a sudden loss of income due to the pandemic. Under the resolution, landlords cannot evict a residential tenant or commercial small-business lease holder who fails to make a rent payment due on or after March 24 if the tenant provides notice that they were unable to pay because of impacts related to the virus. The tenant must provide that notice within 30 days from the date the payment was due.
The moratorium on evictions runs through May 31 and applies to all cities, towns and unincorporated areas of Marin. Landlords can seek payment of unpaid rent after the expiration of the local emergency but cannot charge late fees.
Newsom followed on March 27, issuing an executive order banning the enforcement of eviction orders for renters statewide April 1 through May 31. The order also requires tenants to declare in writing that they cannot pay all or part of their rent and that they’re still obligated to repay it in “a timely manner.”
The supervisors also OK’d $2 million for the Marin Emergency Operations Center. In addition to emergency supplies, it will also be used for roughly 70 rented hotel rooms and more than a dozen recreational vehicles being used as emergency isolation shelters.
Tiburon closes Blackie’s lot, Ranch closes public tennis courts
The Ranch, Tiburon and Belvedere’s joint recreation agency, announced March 27 it was closing its three public tennis courts at Point Tiburon, Del Mar Middle School and on Lagoon Road, effective immediately, under physical-distancing guidelines.
The closure came on the heels of Tiburon shutting down the Blackie’s Pasture parking lot March 24 after the county’s Department of Health and Human Services ordered restrictions on motorized access to all beaches, campgrounds, parks, open spaces and trails in Marin — from federal and state systems down to small municipal parks.
The town’s announcement, made in its Tiburon Talk newsletter, noted that “individuals driving vehicles with handicapped placards, or who otherwise believe they meet one of the exceptions included in the order, can continue to access town park facilities by parking in the parking lot located on Tiburon Boulevard near Lyford Drive or at the parking lot located adjacent to Town Hall.”
The county order was the source of confusion for nearly two days after Bay Area residents swarmed Marin’s recreation areas during the sunny March 21-22 weekend, prompting county officials to announce late March 22 they were shutting down access entirely, with an exception for county-maintained paved pathways, to prevent overcrowding and encourage physical-distancing measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Marin sheriff’s Sgt. Brenton Schneider, however, clarified in an interview March 23 that the county instead would seek all public services, like parking lots, restrooms and garbage receptacles, to be locked down or removed. Police and local officials, however, had not received clear instruction.
The details of the order, originally in effect through April 7, were announced the next day, March 24.
“Individuals may continue to responsibly access those park facilities that are local to their residences and readily accessible by foot, bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle,” officials said.
The overcrowding issue was seen statewide, with Newsom closing lots at many state parks and beaches.
The National Parks service announced March 26 it would comply with the request from Marin and a similar one from San Francisco by suspending services and operations throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including at Muir Woods National Monument and Stinson Beach in Marin.
On March 27, Los Angeles closed all beaches entirely to the public, as well as the beach bike paths, and the U.S. Forest Service shut down California’s roughly 750 campgrounds through April 30.
Tiburon film festival delayed
Tiburon resident Saeed Shafa announced last week that he is putting on hold his 19th annual Tiburon International Film Festival, originally slated for April 17-23 at the Tiburon Playhouse.
When the festival dates were first announced earlier this month, Shafa said he hoped to continue as, at the time, the county was only recommending cancelation or postponement of nonessential indoor events with 100 or more people. The theater, which is now closed under the state’s open-ended shelter-in-place order that shut down nonessential business, holds fewer than 100 people for each screen.
He had also hoped to ride out the Bay Area’s initial shelter-in-place order, which was set to expire April 7.
Shafa said he will make an announcement when the new dates are set.
Bay Area counties including Marin have extended the regional shelter-in-place order to May 3; the original order, issued March 16, was set to expire April 7, though that end date had long been in doubt. The statewide order was issued just two days later and was left open-ended. President Donald Trump signaled early last week he wanted to end the national self-isolation guidelines by April 12, but Newsom immediately responded that California’s order probably would last another eight to 12 weeks. Trump ultimately announced the national guidelines will extend through April 30.
The number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. surpassed 1,000 on March 26, the same day the U.S. eclipsed China and Italy with the most cases of any nation. The U.S. death toll then doubled in two days to 2,000. In China, no province outside Hubei — whose capital is Wuhan — has reported more than 1,500 cases, but 17 U.S. states, including California, now have that many. In addition to New York, “we also see hot spots like Detroit, like Chicago, like New Orleans, will have a worse week next week,” the surgeon general said March 27.
In an interview with NPR, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci said other states should prepare for an outbreak like that in New York, where more than a third of all U.S. deaths have taken place.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 28 approved a test the can deliver a positive result in less than 5 minutes and a negative result in roughly 13 minutes. Its creator, Abbott Laboratories, said it hopes to begin shipping 50,000 tests per day beginning today, April 1.
Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package March 27, the largest in U.S. history, that will send $1,200 checks to all Americans earning less than $75,000 per year — about 80 percent of the population — plus $500 per child. It also offers $100 billion to hospitals, $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans for small businesses and establishes a $500 billion lending program for other distressed businesses.
Trump has on March 27 ordered General Motors Co. to make ventilators under the Defense Production Act.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles on March 26 canceled all appointments and closed all field offices, including in Corte Madera. Employees were to be on administrative leave until today, April 1, as offices were disinfected. The DMV was to launch a “Virtual Field Office” program on April 2 that is to include “complete vehicle title transfers and complex vehicle registration renewals,” with more features to be rolled out later. Visit virtual.dmv.ca.gov.
The U.S. Postal Service announced March 28 that it is extending post office mail holds to 30 days, up from 10 days, before returning mail to senders.
Gig workers for Instacart, a grocery delivery app that surged in popularity amid California’s statewide shelter-in-place order, planned an emergency strike this week in protest of a lack of worker protections against the coronavirus.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said March 27 the worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment for health-care workers is “one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives” and that masks, gloves and face shields must be produced and distributed at larger scales.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week shows nearly nine in 10 Americans are staying home “as much as possible” to reduce the chances of getting and spreading the virus and that six in 10 have stockpiled food and supplies.
In case you missed it: Watch a replay of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s Instagram Live interview of Fauci on YouTube via arkn.ws/curry-fauci.
Emily Lavin and Hannah Weikel contributed to this report. Kevin Hessel is The Ark’s executive editor. Reach him at 415-435-2652, on Facebook at fb.me/thearknewspaper and on NextDoor at arkn.ws/arknextdoor.