MAY 18 — While Tiburon Peninsula retailers began rolling out curbside sales this week under Marin’s newly relaxed public-health orders, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced counties may also reopen outdoor museums and galleries, as well as select services like car washes and pet grooming, whenever they’re ready.
In a May 12 press conference, Newsom also gave a sneak peek into the next steps toward slowly reopening the state’s economy amid the coronavirus pandemic by releasing guidelines for restaurants to allow dine-in service and for shopping malls and schools to reopen with modifications. He followed that on May 18, saying live sports — without audiences — and hair salons may be able to open by June 1.
For now, however, counties can only reopen those sectors locally by meeting specific metrics and getting state approval.
Meanwhile, Marin is expected to announce an extension of its broader shelter-in-place order in the coming days, as the regional six-county Bay Area order is set to expire May 31.
Marin: 329 confirmed cases, 14 deaths, per the Marin Department of Health and Human Services as of 5 p.m. May 18, the first week without a death since a 14-day period ending April 21. Up from 261 cases, 14 deaths the previous week.
California: 80,430 confirmed cases, 3,302 deaths, per the California Department of Public Health as of May 17. Up from 67,939 cases, 2,770 deaths the previous week.
U.S.: 1,480,349 cases, 89,407 deaths, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 1 p.m. May 17. Up from 1,324,488 cases and 79,756 deaths the previous week.
World: 4,618,821 cases and 311,847 deaths, per the World Health Organization as of 1 a.m. May 18. Up from 4,006,257 cases and 278,892 deaths the previous week.
Restaurants next to open
Newsom’s May 12 announcement of the state’s restaurant guidelines had few surprises, from physical-distancing measures to face coverings for all workers. There is an emphasis on outdoor dining, while menus must be disposable, table settings must be provided as needed, tablecloths and shared condiments are discouraged and must be disinfected if used — and that bowl of after-dinner mints will go away.
Bars that don’t serve food must remain closed.
Newsom did not include a specific date for when dining rooms, malls and schools can reopen across California, so for now individual counties that want to move forward more swiftly than the rest of the state must get permission by meeting specific metrics.
In a May 18 press conference, Newsom eliminated two of the strictest rules — no more than one new case per 10,000 residents and no COVID-19-related deaths in the past two weeks — saying instead that counties can have 25 cases per 100,000 residents or up to an 8-percent positive rate among people tested in the past 14 days.
Counties may also have no higher than a 5 percent increase in hospitalizations over seven days, or fewer than 20 hospitalizations over 14 days.
Only 22 of California’s 58 counties had qualified under the previous rules, but Newsom estimated 53 would meet the new criteria announced May 18.
According to Marin health officials, per 100,000 residents the county ranks 10th among the counties in deaths and 17th in confirmed cases, mostly due to the concentration of older residents.
Marin has largely been aligning with five other Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley in issuing unified orders, beginning with the initial shelter-in-place order issued March 16 and the subsequent extensions, including the current order that expires May 31.
A regional order issued May 18 keeps Marin aligned with Berkeley and four of the other counties; San Mateo County, which did not sign on to the updated order, gave the OK for retail to reopen for curbside pickup this week but indicated it may splinter off and go its own way in issuing future updates.
The collective regional update reiterates Marin’s May 15 order and comes 10 days after the state allowed counties to begin curbside retail back on May 8.
Further, the county’s Marin Recovers Industry Advisers task force will be tailoring the state guidelines sector by sector as they’re released for local application, so Marin may increasingly go its own way.
At the same time, local public-health officials warn that because the incubation period for COVID-19 is about two weeks, they want to wait at least that long to see if relaxed rules lead to a spike in new cases before taking another step forward.
As a result, Marin and the Bay Area are expected to remain days if not weeks behind the state’s announced dates for when counties can begin loosening restrictions.
The regional order that expires May 31 is expected to be extended, though whether Marin will continue to align with the rest of the Bay Area, and whether the extensions will continue to come in monthly increments, are yet to be seen.
The public-health director for Los Angeles County said last week “with all certainty” that officials there were expected to issue a three-month shelter order, or through August, which will be gradually relaxed throughout.
Public-health officials for California and Marin have said some form of shelter-in-place orders will remain until there is widespread immunity, either through widespread infection — assuming there are enough effective antibodies to prevent reinfection — or through widespread vaccination, which experts still put at more than a year away.
Marin moves to accept nearly $1 million for rental assistance
The Marin Board of Supervisors made several bureaucratic moves May 12 that will allow the county to receive $938,065 in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act community-development block-grant program, which will be used for short-term rental assistance for Marin residents who are housed but at risk of homelessness due to the pandemic.
The CARES Act, which was signed into law March 27, allocated $5 billion in block-grant funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Development to be distributed to state and local governments — $2 billion of which has been handed out so far.
The funding will be administered by the same nonprofits that are distributing the $2 million in rental-assistance funding provided by the county and Marin Community Foundation through its joint COVID-19 Fund of MCF. To donate to that fund, visit arkn.ws/MCFCOVIDfund.
Those in need of rental assistance may contact the county’s COVID-19 information line at 415-473-7191.
School systems going their own ways
The California State University system last week announced that most classes will continue to be held online through fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, with “limited exceptions” across the 23 campuses, despite public-health officials saying schools likely would be in a position to reopen.
Exceptions, with modifications, will be made for labs and nursing students.
The system is the nation’s largest for four-year universities and the first to announce such an extended closure. The 10-campus University of California system has not made any decisions for fall.
Meanwhile, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said May 14 that K-12 schools “are not anticipating a common opening,” adding that districts will make those decisions based on public-health factors within their own communities.
Thurmond’s comments came two weeks after Newsom announced schools could resume as early as late July or early August in an effort to combat any learning loss resulting from the closures — a statement that caught most school officials off-guard.
Reed Union School District Superintendent Nancy Lynch in the meantime has said the district currently has no plans to open prior to its planned Aug. 20 start date.
• President Donald Trump last week announced Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership to develop a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year by advancing 14 of the most promising candidates. Most experts say the oft-cited 12-18-month timeline is itself optimistic.
• Some 2.98 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the week ending May 9, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics announced May 14, bringing the two-month total to 36.5 million, or 14.7 percent.
• A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order under review would indefinitely extend U.S. border restrictions with Canada and Mexico during the pandemic. The CDC issued its original 30-day order on nonessential travel on March 21 and issued a 30-day extension April 20. Canadian officials have separately said they’re considering a ban on nonessential travel to the U.S. through June 21.
• Some 15 U.S. states, including California, and five European nations are now investigating cases of pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, or PIMS, in which children who have tested positive for COVID-19 or the antibodies against it have inflammation of the blood vessels, heart, skin and eyes.