JUNE 1 — Seated outdoor dining at restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and pubs on the Tiburon Peninsula and across Marin County was given the green light to resume this week as public-health officials issued new guidelines for reopening the local economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to the eased order, which took effect June 1, Tiburon’s COVID-19 Small Business Relief Task Force will recommend the Town Council set up outdoor dining for daily use on Fountain Plaza, and the council will separately consider a resolution that would temporarily suspend policies that may prohibit certain businesses from conducting activity outdoors.
The council will also discuss a potential Friday-afternoon through Sunday-evening closure of lower Main Street to vehicle traffic to allow for al-fresco dining throughout the summer.
The Fountain Plaza proposal and business-policy resolution will be taken up by the council at its meeting set for 5 tonight, June 3. The summer Main Street closure will also be discussed, but a vote by the council isn’t slated until its June 17 meeting.
Also allowed to reopen in Marin June 1 were coastal parks and beaches, office spaces, curbside library services, summer camps and outdoor retail — the latter a relaxing of the previous curbside-pickup-only rules.
The county plans to make its next major moves in about two weeks, with a goal of allowing outdoor religious services and limited indoor retail beginning June 15.
“That’s not random,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s public health official. “That’s based on the virus and its incubation period. We need at least two weeks to see the impact of any policy change, looking at case rates, hospitalizations and deaths. … The evidence is clear that the risk of being infected with the COVID-19 virus is much lower outside, especially when we’re covering our face and staying 6 feet apart.”
Though the county has only identified the sectors it hopes to relax in two weeks, a timeline announced by San Francisco could give Marin residents a hint at the pace to come locally.
Marin and San Francisco are part of a five-county coalition moving forward at a relatively unified pace. The coalition makes up the bulk of the seven counties among California’s 58 that have not sought a variance attesting that they have met the state’s minimum required public-health metrics to reopen their local economies more quickly than the California Department of Public Health otherwise allows. The remaining two are San Mateo County and Imperial County, the latter in Southern California.
Yet for some of the counties that are moving more rapidly than the rest of the state, including Sonoma County, doing so has led to spikes in new cases that required rollbacks of the newly relaxed rules.
Marin: 501 confirmed cases, 14 deaths, four hospitalizations per the Marin Department of Health and Human Services as of 4 p.m. May 31, the third consecutive week without a death. Up from 417 cases the previous week. The seven-day rolling average May 31 is 4.25 new cases per 100,000 residents, down from 4.97 on May 24.
California: 113,006 confirmed cases, 4,251 deaths, per the California Department of Public Health as of May 31. Up from 94,558 cases, 3,795 deaths the previous week.
U.S.: 1,787,680 cases, 104,396 deaths, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 1 p.m. June 1. Up from 1,662,414 cases and 98,261 deaths the previous week.
World: 6,057,853 cases and 371,166 deaths, per the World Health Organization as of 1 a.m. June 1. Up from 5,304,772 cases and 342,029 deaths the previous week.
Proposals for downtown Tiburon
At tonight’s meeting, the Tiburon Town Council will be asked to approve the purchase of four sets of 6-foot rectangular tables and benches to place on Fountain Plaza, which sits at the corner of Main Street and Tiburon Boulevard, at a cost of roughly $12,500.
According to a staff report prepared for the council, Main Street restaurants would be tasked with the daily cleaning of the tables and surrounding areas.
The council will also discuss a proposal to close lower Main Street on summer weekends, running from Friday afternoons through 8 p.m. Sundays early July through Labor Day, Sept. 7.
The proposal specifically notes that Main Street would be used as a “passive space” for physical distancing, with an opportunity for restaurants to use the street for dining and for retail shops to put up outdoor displays.
The space won’t look like Friday Nights on Main, the town’s traditional monthly summer street festival that features bands, dancing, face-painting for kids and other activities that tend to draw big crowds.
“The most helpful action to support continued opening our businesses downtown and return to prior levels of activity is continued observation of social distancing and use of masks as required,” Mayor Alice Fredericks said by email May 29. “At this time, we still need to continue to protect ourselves and others.”
Signs would be set up to point traffic to parking on Tiburon Boulevard, Beach Road and lower Main Street, and to point pedestrians on Main Street to upper Main, better known locally as Ark Row.
Further discussion and a council vote on that proposal is expected at the council’s June 17 meeting.
Both proposals are being pitched by the town’s small-business-relief task force, which was formed by the Town Council at its April 15 meeting at the request of Tiburon Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Executive Director DeAnn Biss. Biss sits on the panel alongside Councilmembers David Kulik and Jack Ryan, as well as representatives of downtown businesses and members of the community and of Destination Tiburon — an organization funded by hotel taxes that works to bring overnight guests to Tiburon.
Members of the public may watch or participate in the council meeting via Zoom using ID 999-6521-4487, or by using that ID as the meeting access code when calling 699-900-6833.
Marin’s June 1 guidelines at a glance
• Seated outdoor dining: The new rules apply only to establishments that had already offered sit-down food service before March 16, when the county’s initial shelter-in-place order was issued, so bars and wineries seeking to partner with a restaurant for service are out of luck for now.
Tables must be 6 feet apart and seat no more than six people — and everyone who shares a table must be from the same household. Tablecloths may disappear or be replaced with paper, as they have to be removed in sealed bags after each use.
To prevent unnecessary contact, self-service buffets and salad bars and self-service machines such as those for beverages and soft serve aren’t allowed. You can’t just sit for drinks, as alcohol may only be served in the same transaction as a meal. Menus must be disposable or digital, table settings are by request, customers must pack their own leftovers for takeout, and no mint or candy dishes can be left out for customers.
Conor Flaherty, part of Sam’s Anchor Cafe’s ownership group, said the popular waterfront restaurant on Main Street was hoping to reopen for outdoor seating starting today, June 3.
Just down the street, Servino Ristorante was still weighing its options as of The Ark’s press deadline June 1.
“We are looking at offering a picnic-style option and eating it on the deck, but we’re going to be evaluating the new order in more detail and rolling out more service as time goes on,” said Natale Servino, whose family members own Servino’s and Caffe Acri.
Another waterfront restaurant, Luna Blu, was also planning to open today. The restaurant reportedly is working with neighbor NES Healthcare Group to expand deck service and is awaiting permission from the town.
The complete guidelines for seated outdoor dining are at marinrecovers.com/restaurants.
• Office spaces: Businesses wishing to allow workers to return to work beginning June 1 must continue to limit office work and allow remote work as much as possible. For those who return to work, face masks will be required indoors when working with other staff if cubicles or workspaces aren’t fully enclosed by floor-to-ceiling walls. Face masks will also be required when interacting with the public, when working in any spaces accessible to the public — regardless of whether anyone else is present — and when walking through building common areas,
Workstations should also be separated by at least six feet, using partitions or other visual cues.
Read the complete guidelines at marinrecovers.com/general-office-space.
• Outdoor retail: In an expansion of the curbside-retail order, retailers beginning June 1 may begin displaying merchandise outside with the permission of local jurisdictions and shopping centers. Customers and employees must sanitize their hands or use gloves before handling any merchandise, but clothing still may not be tried on.
The updated retail order is available at marinrecovers.com/retail.
• Curbside library services: Buildings must remain closed, but library patrons may reserve books and other materials for curbside delivery in single-use bags by mask-wearing library staff. Book drops can also be reopened, but returned materials must be quarantined for 72 hours, which could impact turnaround times.
Jason Duran, the operations manager of the Belvedere-Tiburon Library, said the library will first begin taking returns and emptying book drops within designated hours, and that it will likely take another two weeks to begin checking out items curbside. He couldn’t yet pinpoint when the rollout will begin.
“There are some logistics that need to be worked out,” he said by email last week. “We’re monitoring what other libraries are doing around the country and coordinating locally.”
The county’s full guidelines for curbside library service are posted at marinrecovers.com/libraries.
• Summer camps: As outlined by The Ark in last week’s edition, summer camps are allowed to resume operations beginning June 1. Group sizes are limited to 12 children or fewer, shared equipment must stay within the group, group members cannot change for a minimum of three weeks and kids from the same household should be in the same group. Parents are to avoid carpooling and arrival times must be staggered.
Kids also aren’t allowed to attend more than one child-care establishment, summer camp or sports group at a time, so a child cannot be enrolled in a new camp until they stop attending the previous one.
The summer- and sports-camp rules are at marinrecovers.com/summer-camps-youth-activities.
Driving to parks, beaches again OK — but not in Tiburon
Marin on May 29 also lifted its countywide order that restricted vehicle access to parking areas serving parks, beaches, open-space preserves and trailheads — though individual jurisdictions can continue to keep lots closed at their own discretion.
While the order included West Marin beaches, as of The Ark’s press deadline June 1, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area remained closed to vehicle access, including Rodeo, Muir and Stinson beaches, for example. Mount Tamalpais State Park also remains closed.
Paradise, Upton and Agate beaches were among those to reopen, as did the Point Reyes National Seashore and Marin Municipal Water District watershed lands.
In Tiburon, the town lots serving Blackie’s Pasture and Shoreline Park remain closed, and parking access in adjacent neighborhoods remains restricted to residents in the 94920 ZIP code. The town has also been enforcing parking restrictions at its county-managed open spaces, including the Old St. Hilary’s, Ring Mountain, Tiburon Ridge and Tiburon Uplands open-space preserves.
Tiburon Town Manager Greg Chanis and Police Chief Michael Cronin confirmed June 1 that visitor access will remain closed locally until restrictions at other popular Marin parks and open spaces are relaxed.
Belvedere has been following Tiburon’s lead to ensure a uniform policy.
Parking lots were originally closed to vehicles to help prevent overcrowding after visitors flooded the county’s parks and open spaces with the first signs of warm weather after the initial shelter-in-place order began March 17. The spaces themselves remained open to those who could walk or bike in, with the intent of restricting their use to community residents and to help contain any spread of the coronavirus.
Marin County Parks and One Tam had not fully updated their status lists of parks in Marin County by The Ark’s press deadline. To check the status of Marin County and municipal parks, see Marin’s list at marincountyparks.org/parkspreserves/shelter-in-place-locations; to see One Tam’s list, which includes state and federal lands, visit onetam.org/Marin_County_Park_Closure_Map_Covid19.
Short-term lodging must remain closed
The county on May 29 also issued a new public-health order that indefinitely extends the ban on leisure and vacation stays at hotels, motels, timeshares, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals.
The order replaces a previous one issued April 29 that had been updated May 15 but was set to expire May 31. It also keeps the county aligned with the state, which has not yet announced when short-term lodging can reopen for leisure and tourism.
Facilities can only be used as necessary to provide shelter for the homeless or to essential health-care and government workers; for those who must isolate or quarantine themselves away from others in their household; and for those facing immediate displacement due to safety or habitability issues.
Waters Edge Hotel in Tiburon closed shortly after the initial shelter-in-place order was issued March 16, with only its own essential staff staying on site. The Lodge at Tiburon has remained open under the restrictions of public-health order.
Short-term vacation rentals are banned in Tiburon and Belvedere.
Counties remain on different paces — though some scale back
The county’s May 29 announcements came as California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been speeding up declarations of what sectors are allowed to reopen at the discretion of local public-health officials. All counties may now allow in-store retail, for instance, but Marin has not yet given the green light to local shop owners.
Instead, the county has been taking a more cautious approach, typically moving days or weeks behind the state in a mostly unified group of six jurisdictions that includes Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties and the city of Berkeley, essentially the same group that on March 16 issued the nation’s first shelter-in-place order. California followed suit a day later.
“The core Bay Area of California is one of the hot spots nationally for COVID-19 and has been from the start,” Willis, the county public-health officer, told the Marin Board of Supervisors May 26. “Our incidence in Marin County is the 16th highest of any county in the state; we have the ninth-highest overall death rate. Our decision-making has to be based on that reality.”
Marin plans to join the 47 of California’s 58 counties that have won approval to move even faster than the state by proving they have met certain public-health metrics, such as minimum levels of testing, hospital capacity, contact tracers and protective equipment. At their own discretion, those counties can allow hair salons and barbershops, indoor dining and religious services to resume, for instance.
Last week, two of those counties were forced to dial back: Amid charging ahead to open outdoor dining, summer camps and drive-in religious services, Sonoma County saw its infection rate double from 20 cases to 41 per 100,000 residents over 14 days. Sonoma had also allowed indoor sit-down dining ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, so any potential increase in cases from that move would not yet be visible in the available surge data. Officials there have elected to wait to reopen in-store retail, hair salons and indoor worship, even though the county has permission to open those sectors immediately.
Lassen was one of two counties in California with no COVID-19 cases through May 22, but as of May 27 it had at least five. Officials there have revoked an order that allowed in-restaurant dining and in-store retail.
S.F. provides a hint at Marin’s pace
While Marin has been mostly mum on providing even short-range timelines on when it plans to reopen specific sectors, a longer-range outline announced last week by San Francisco Mayor London Breed could give local residents a better idea, as the two counties have been mostly aligned.
Breed said by mid-June she hopes to restart indoor retail, spectator-free sports and entertainment, private household services, religious services and ceremonies, outdoor exercise classes and non-emergency medical appointments. By mid-July, San Francisco wants to resume indoor dining and to reopen hair salons and barber shops. By mid-August, Breed said she hopes to reopen schools, bars, gyms and fitness centers, playgrounds, swimming pools, indoor museums and other personal services, such as nail salons and massage and tattoo parlors.
No target date was set for concert venues, nightclubs, festivals or hotels for tourism.
County spokeswoman Laine Hendricks confirmed that San Francisco’s timeline is a fair reference point, “but we’re not making any promises yet because it greatly depends on COVID-19 activity.”
“Some things are already open in Marin … (and) because the dynamic of San Francisco is very different than Marin, I suspect we’ll move a little faster in some areas,” she said by email May 28.
California and Marin have separately said that the high-risk spaces, such as concerts, conventions and live sporting events, can only resume once there’s widespread immunity, likely from a vaccine that’s still 12-18 months away.
For a list of what’s been allowed to reopen to date n Marin and what’s still to come, visit marinrecovers.com/reopening-status.
Kevin Hessel is The Ark’s executive editor. Reach him at 415-435-2652, on Twitter at @thearknewspaper and on Facebook at fb.me/thearknewspaper.