Car dealerships get the green light as well.
First came curbside pickup, then outdoor, and as of June 12, Mill Valley boutiques and stores will be able to welcome customers back inside their shops for socially distanced transactions with all of the requirements we’ve come to expect during the COVID-19 crisis: facial coverings, maintaining 6 feet distance between each other, frequent hand washing and wiping down surfaces, among others.

That’s the word from Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis and his agency’s Marin Recovers team of county officials and industry advisors. In addressing the Marin County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning, Willis continued to urge caution as Marin progresses through the phases of reopening.

“There are no risk-free options here,” Willis said. “The virus is still part of our environment. We will rely on the data and we need to be adaptive and flexible. We might not go forward as quickly as we’ve said, and we might even need to go backwards
if there is a COVID-19 resurgence.” 

Willis said that if Marin avoids seeing a spike In hospitalizations related to COVID-19 over the next two weeks, restaurants will likely be able to open for Indoor dining, with the possibility that hair salons, gyms and fitness-related businesses, hotels and hospitality all able to reopen.

Supervisor Damon Connolly questioned Willis about why hair and nail salons weren’t getting the green light now while indoor retail was.

​”It’s about proximity and duration of exposure,” Willis replied. “Just by their nature, these businesses are one-on-one and the interaction lasts for a longer period of time than a retail transaction. We’ve seen transmission rates form barbers in other parts of the country of 50-60 percent.”

“With indoor retail, it is easier to maintain that physical distancing,” he added.

Willis explained that Marin would need to apply for a variance from the state, as 50 of the 58 counties in California already have, to proceed with indoor dining and salons. 

“We may apply for a variance if we feel that is the only way we can move forward as a county,” he said, noting that Marin, with 65 incidents per 100,000 people, far exceeds the required case rate of 25 incidents per 100,000 people. 

“There is risk of transmission anytime we are out and about, but there is recognition that we can’t all stay inside,” Rice said. “We continue on this delicate balance of trying to live with this disease. I think we’re doing things the right way and you have our support Dr. Willis.”

As was the case for previous businesses classes allowed to reopen, retail businesses “must create, adopt, and implement a written COVID-19 Site-Specific Protection Plan (a Site-Specific Protection Plan template is available online at marinrecovers.com that incorporates and addresses all applicable Best Practices included in this guidance. 

Here are additional best practices for retailers:

  • Continue to provide curbside pickup options to customers.
  • Indoor shopping may occur by appointment and/or on a first-come first-served basis not to exceed 50% of the total retail space maximum allowable occupancy or ability for household groups to maintain six feet of distance indoors, whichever is fewer. Individual businesses may establish lower occupancy limits if desired.
  • Businesses may establish customer time limits for occupying the store to ensure traffic flow. 
  • Ensure customers remain a minimum of six feet from employees during the checkout process by installing partitions, barriers or by other means; or install protective plexiglass screens if keeping a six-foot distance is not possible, except as necessary to accept payment. 
  • Consider providing dedicated in-store visit hours for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 
  • Assign staff that is always on-site to monitor store capacity. The person assigned must ask customers to queue at six-foot distances at the door if the capacity of the store is reached. 
  • Customers and employees must sanitize or glove hands before handling any merchandise. Store owners are encouraged to provide hand sanitizer and gloves if possible. 
  • Disallow sampling and customer access to bulk-bin options. 
  • Clothing items may not be tried on and dressing rooms will remain closed. 
  • Apply floor decals in cashier and queuing areas to establish safe waiting distance. 
  • Establish one-way traffic flow through aisles in cases where customers cannot maintain six feet of distance while passing. 
  • Create a single entrance and single exit where possible. 
  • Handle returns based on the latest industry guidance available. Consider extending the deadline for returns or exchanges of items to help customers postpone repeat trips to the business until a safer time or encourage customers to send returns or exchanges by a delivery service in order to reduce unnecessary contact. 

For car dealerships:

  • Must follow the above retail guidelines, as well as:
  • Increase distances between tables/chairs in showrooms and waiting areas to ensure physical distancing in-person meetings, if they are necessary, to ensure physical distancing. 
  • For staff, auto dealerships will follow General Office Space guidelines for office space management. 
  • Allow only one customer in vehicles during test drives with the employee sitting in opposite back seat.
  • Both customer and employee must wear face covers as required by the Health Officer Order for Face Coverings at all times, including during a test drive. 
  • Prohibit staff from using handshakes and similar greetings that violate social distancing protocols. 

At the conclusion of his report, Willis provided a word of caution that echoed that of Mill Valley epidemiologist a few days ago. 

​”While we have successfully reduced transmission, the vast majority of us still remain susceptible to COVID-19,” he said. “A second peak in late summer or early fall is coming.”

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