• Kevin Hessel

All adults eligible for vaccine on April 15

Updated: 5 days ago

All Tiburon Peninsula residents ages 50 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning tomorrow, April 1, with every resident older than 16 eligible in two weeks, on April 15, under new statewide guidelines.


The broad and rapid expansion of eligibility across California was announced March 25 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said the state expects to receive about 2.5 million first and second doses per week in the first half of April and more than 3 million per week in the second half of April, up from the current allocation of about 1.8 million per week.


The announcement came as Marin’s public-health officer, Dr. Matt Willis, said the county is in a “neck-and-neck race” against the coronavirus variants, telling the county Board of Supervisors in his weekly report March 23 — before the eligibility-expansion announcement — that Marin was already on pace to vaccinate all willing residents by the middle of May. President Joe Biden had set a national goal of July 4 so Americans may celebrate Independence Day in person.


In an email interview, county spokeswoman Laine Hendricks said March 26 that Marin hasn’t adjusted its prediction under the eligibility revision, as the state is also changing its vaccine-allocation method, so “its not yet clear how those may be divided up among the counties.” Allocations will soon be based on the statewide distribution of those 16 and older — no vaccine is authorized for those who are younger — instead of those 65 and older; Marin has the state’s oldest average population.


Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 16-17, while Pfizer and Moderna are in trials with children 12-15, with results expected in the summer. Vaccines for those 11 and younger aren’t expected until early next year.


The county is currently administering about 3,700 doses per day and has marked two more vaccination milestones, with more than a third of all residents over age 16 fully vaccinated and half of residents receiving at least one dose. As of The Ark’s press deadline March 29, some 33.7 percent, or more than 71,000 people of the county’s roughly 212,000 residents older than 16, have completed the vaccine series and 55.5 percent, or nearly 118,000 have at least one dose.


In Marin, phases 1A and 1B of the vaccine rollout — which include health-care workers, residents of senior-care facilities, everyone 65 and older, those 16-64 with underlying medical conditions and high-risk essential workers — made roughly 160,000 residents eligible to receive their shots, according to the county Department of Health & Human Services, meaning just 50,000 residents will become newly eligible in stages April 1 and 15.


It’s unclear whether Marin’s vaccination rate, the highest in the state among counties with more than 100,000 residents, will see a slowdown due to vaccine hesitancy. Some 20 percent of those ages 65 and older are still unvaccinated, a figure that mirrors known vaccine hesitancy among health-care and education workers.


“It’s a bit early to measure true vaccine hesitancy because demand currently outweighs supply, but we also expect some hesitancy to occur,” Hendricks said.


Despite the progress, Willis emphasized his concerns about pandemic fatigue — that people are increasingly taking off their masks in public and ignoring rules on physical distancing, social gatherings and, in particular, travel. Spring break, Easter, generally warmer weather and vaccination itself are fueling the travel bug at the same time the British coronavirus variant, B.1.1.7, sweeps across Europe and is taking root across the U.S. with outbreak hotspots in the Midwest and Northeast.


“It is more infectious, as a variant, and that’s been clearly demonstrated as it’s traveled across Europe and now parts of the United States,” he said. “This is not the time to travel.”


Willis said California has, so far, been lucky, with most cases now coming from the state’s own variant group, B.1.427/B.1.429, which he said has not led to significantly more hospitalizations or deaths. However, he said the British variant’s presence has climbed to 6 percent of new cases.


“If we can get our people vaccinated before that variant really takes a foothold, we may stay ahead of this,” he said.


Willis said the county is increasing its sequencing of positive samples for variants, but that remains difficult with the limited number of labs available to perform the sequencing and, with test positivity below 2 percent, the limited number of positive tests available to send to those labs.


Marin’s own success in managing the transmission of the virus could also be fueling some of the behavioral changes observed locally. On March 24, the county officially entered orange tier-3 status under the state’s color-coded four-tier blueprint for economic recovery, which allowed for significant business reopenings.


Marin is among just nine of California’s 58 counties in the orange tier, representing 10.5 percent of the population, with remaining residents in the more-restrictive red and purple tiers.


Under the orange tier, bars without food can reopen outdoors for the first time, while indoor pools can reopen for recreation for the first time. General office spaces for non-essential workers may also reopen, though remote work is still recommended. Bowling alleys and other family-entertainment centers, as well as cardrooms and breweries, wineries and distilleries without food, can reopen indoors for the first time, at 25-percent capacity; gyms and fitness centers can expand to 25-percent indoor capacity, up from 10 percent; restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship, museums and zoos can expand to 50-percent indoor capacity; and retail and malls can join hair salons, hotels and personal-care services at full indoor capacity.


Willis said Marin’s goal, for now, is simply maintaining its status in the orange tier, as advancing to yellow tier-4 status and further reopenings will require less than one new case per 100,000 residents per day. Marin’s rolling seven-day average new-case rate was 2.5 per 100,000 residents as of the state’s March 23 assessment for county tier assignments, and Willis noted the county is “stalling out” at this rate.


“The way to earn that (yellow) status will be for people to cover their faces, not to travel, not gather together indoors,” he said. “It’s inconsistent if people think they can engage in those behaviors and also hope to achieve the yellow tier. Those things will not happen at the same time.”


The earliest Marin could enter the yellow tier would be April 14, as counties are generally required to remain in a tier for three weeks and qualify for the next tier for two weeks before they may advance.


Newsom has said the state is working on a new green tier with even fewer restrictions, but details have not yet been announced.


Applications open for rental assistance


Marin renters who have experienced economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic may now apply for rental assistance online.


The county has received a $16 million injection into its existing pandemic rental-assistance program under the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act, with the money intended to prevent evictions and homelessness.


While there are state- and county-level moratoriums on evictions, missed or reduced payments will eventually come due once those moratoriums expire.


A household of three with an income at or below $125,000 a year is eligible if they qualify for unemployment benefits, experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant COVID-related costs, are at risk of homelessness or endured other financial hardship due to the coronavirus. Priority is given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550.


For those receiving aid, grants will be sent directly to landlords to cover past rent and utilities. Landlords may accept 80 percent of unpaid back rent between April 1, 2020 and March 31 of this year in exchange for forgiving the remaining 20 percent. If a landlord declines, tenants may still apply to receive 25 percent of back rent for that period.


To apply, visit the county website via arkn.ws/rent-help. For assistance, contact 415-473-2223 or rentalassistance@marincounty.org.


Help for funeral costs


The Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin providing up to $9,000 in assistance for funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020, for deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


To apply, applicants must provide an official death certificate, funeral expense documents and proof of funds received from other sources. For more information, visit the FEMA website via arkn.ws/fema-funeral.


Kevin Hessel is The Ark’s executive editor. Reach him at 415-435-2652.





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