PictureGov. Gavin Newsom.

What was already looking like a less-than-spectacular Fourth of July celebration this weekend due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements is now facing even more uncertainty for Marin residents. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the closure of many indoor business operations for the California counties that have been on the state’s new watch list for three consecutive days amid a surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations this week.

As he was doing so, County of Marin officials said Marin could be joining that list and face new restrictions soon, as case counts and the percentage of total positive tests have risen. The restrictions apply to 19 counties as of Wednesday, including several large counties in Southern California but also Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties in the Bay Area.

The businesses required to suspend indoor operations in those counties are restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums and cardrooms. Those businesses can still operate outdoors.

While most of those sectors haven’t been given the green light to reopen in Marin yet, indoor dining, which was approved to begin June 29, would likely be halted if Marin gets placed on the watch list, County officials said. The restrictions would remain in place for at least three weeks, Newsom said.

PictureSan Quentin State Prison.

​Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said Wednesday that the county is nearing 2,400 total positive coronavirus cases, 1,130 of which are tied to the outbreak at San Quentin State Prison after prisoners from the California Institution for Men in Chino were transferred there.

Willis said that while testing has continued to increase and thus the number of positive cases has risen along with it, the percentage of total positive tests has risen from 3.3 percent on June 9 to 5.8 percent on June 26. Hospitalizations continue to be high at 28 across Kaiser San Rafael, MarinHealth Medical Center and Novato Community Hospital in Marin, Willis said. In an effort to avoid overwhelming local hospitals, San Quentin inmates requiring hospitalization in the future will be treated outside of Marin, he said.

The news comes on the heels of a quick reversal of fortune last week for Marin businesses when a host of industries, including hotels/motels and short-term rentals; gyms and fitness studios; and other personal services (body art professionals, tattoo parlors, piercing shops, electrology services, estheticians, skin care and cosmetology services, non-medical massage services, and nail salons were all given the green light on June 24 to reopen on June 29, only to learn two days later that all but indoor dining and hair salons could reopen because of an uptick in key COVID-19 indicators.

Willis said that irrespective of the San Quentin outbreak, the most significant source of positive cases is essential workers who have been working on the frontlines since the beginning of the shelter in place in March who have subsequently brought the virus home to their families. Construction workers and personal services, particularly house cleaners, have also generated an uptick in cases, Willis said.

County officials said that no decisions have been made yet about the next phase of reopenings, if and when they are able to happen. In response to deep frustrations expressed by Chambers over the uncertainties facing businesses trying to make staffing and inventory decisions, County officials are introducing a four-tiered, green/orange/yellow/red alert levels to provide more warning to all stakeholders.

Newsom indicated that several state agencies are set to increase enforcement around health and safety protocols, particularly the usage of masks, hand-washing and social distancing. And “we have conditioned $2.5 billion in our state budget on [local officials] applying the spirit and the letter of the law. If local officials are unwilling to enforce and being dismissive, we will condition those funds on compliance,” Newsom said.

Newsom also said that all parking will be closed at state beaches in the Bay Area and Southern California for the Fourth of July weekend, and that state parks will remain open with “measures in place to reduce visitation and limit overcrowding.”
He urged families to avoid Fourth of July family gatherings beyond those in your household, and pushed back on those choosing not to wear a mask in public. 

“(Wearing a mask) is not a sign of weakness,” he said. “It is a sign of resolve and a sign of someone who gives a damn and takes responsibility to meet the moment and have the character and conviction to send a powerful message that you are committed to the health of your community.”

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