May 29, 2020 Update

Supervisor Katie Rice 

May 29 Update: Re-opening with Care, Focused on Success, Dependent on Individual Behavior

It has been two and a half months since the first shelter in place order. A lot has happened since. We flattened the curve. We got ourselves ready should it surge. We have begun “re-opening” our local economy. But reopening is not as simple or straightforward as one might assume. The coronavirus is invisible, the disease it causes relatively harmless to many, serious, deadly for others. One of the most challenging aspects of this pandemic is that a person infected with COVID-19 may have no symptoms but can still spread the disease.

The more we open, the more interaction there is between more people, and more opportunity for the virus to spread, and it will. Hence the cautious, but steady approach of our public health officials as they work in partnership with local government, business and community to gradually open our economy and community as safely and successfully as possible.

It is a delicate balance that we are needing to achieve re-opening the economy, relaxing the shelter in place, while keeping the virus in check. The key to our success will be in our own individual behavior. Keep up the social distancing, wear a face-covering when in public, wash your hands. Our individual behavior will determine our collective success.

June 1 Greenlight for Outdoor Retail, Office Space, Outdoor Dining and Curbside Library Services

Marin County is moving into the next round of its COVID-19 pandemic response, with further re-openings under the shelter-in-place order. Outdoor retail, office space, outdoor dining, and curbside library services join child care and summer/sports camps as business sectors allowed to reopen to patrons and employees as of June 1 as long as guidelines from Marin County Public Health are followed. New guidelines for those industries to safely reopen are available at

The County is in the middle of phase two of its reopening process releasing sectors of the economy based on risk assessment vis a vis potential for virus spread and the ability to modify operations to reduce that risk. By phasing reopening in two week intervals (the incubation period for covid-19 is typically between 4-10 days), the County Health Department will be able to monitor/track increases in new infections, determine if/how our increased level of community activity is contributing to that growth, and at the same time assess our system’s ability to manage increased case load for contact tracing, quarantining, serious illness, etc.

Greater access to Marin’s parks and beaches will also be allowed beginning June 1 by removing restrictions on motorized access to parks and beaches in Marin County. However, as with previous orders, the new order provides local jurisdictions the authority to limit or prohibit motorized access as appropriate.

Over the past four weeks, 19 sectors of business have been allowed to reopen as long as public health guidelines are followed. Barring any surges in disease transmission, the health officer expects to release guidelines for outdoor religious services and limited indoor retail by June 12, for opening on June 15. An overview of Marin’s business re-openings to date can be accessed online

About the Public Health Officer

Every county is required to appoint a Public Health Officer (PHO). Dr. Matt Willis is Marin’s public health officer and he was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2011. The PHO has broad authority granted by a couple of different areas of state code to protect and preserve the public health—including the authority to declare a local health emergency and to take action to prevent disease including issuing shelter in place orders like those Dr. Willis has ordered during the course of the COVID-19 emergency. The PHO does not need Board of Supervisor approval to issue such orders.

Which rules? The Governor’s shelter in place order for the whole state, or the County order?

The local order can be stricter than the state order, but it cannot be more lenient. Up until recent weeks, Marin’s local order has been in fairly close alignment with the state order except with regards to restrictions around motorized access to parks and open space. Beginning in early May, the Governor began relaxing the state order to allow for individual counties to consider opening up certain business sectors included in the state’s Stage 2/Early reopening phase conditioned upon the county meeting certain criteria (testing capacity, new case trends, hospitalizations, etc.).

Let me repeat: The governor did not “open the state” to these business activities, he gave permission for the county authority (PHO) to make the determination whether or not to open one of the state’s “greenlighted” sectors. In allowing for this local discretion, the governor acknowledged that the situation in every county is different, that there are many variables at play– from disease presence, to hospital capacity, to testing capacity, vulnerability of the population, to levels of social movement/interaction—and the decision whether to open was better made at the local level.

The State of California continues to determine the limit for allowable activities, while being clear that counties are responsible for addressing local needs based on their individual circumstances Not all the business/activity sectors in stage 2 have been given the green light by the governor. As of today, (and things change rapidly), the two areas where the state GIVES PERMISSION for counties to open but Marin has not are: indoor dining, hair salons/barbershops. The governor has also signaled that he will give the green light to indoor retail and religious services in the near future. See Marin’s current anticipated phased in opening schedule, assuming no surges in disease and as allowed by the state.

The following are examples of the many sectors, businesses, activities that are currently NOT permitted to operate in the state: Personal services such as nail salons, gyms, fitness studios, theaters, gambling, community centers, public pools, playgrounds and picnic areas, hotels for lodging for leisure and tourism, large events, etc. Go to the state’s website for more information on the state reopening plan and status.

Why is Marin County more restrictive than other northern Californian Counties?

Marin has been somewhat more restrictive than counties to north. Marin’s more cautious approach is primarily because the disease presence and spread in Sonoma and Napa has been much lower than here in Marin. (It’s worth noting that Sonoma has recently had a surge in new infections and their PHO has said she will not be opening up any new sectors for at least two weeks.) Marin County’s infection and mortality rates align more with the rest of the bay area. We are number 11 of 58 counties in terms of mortality rate. This is partly due to how our economies are connected, and partially due to Marin’s demographic (oldest county in the state) which puts more of our population at risk.

I would characterize Dr. Willis’ and Marin’s approach as being slightly more cautious than our neighbors to the north, with good reason. The PHO and our goal is to resume as much normal activity as possible and still manage disease spread, protect the most vulnerable, and maintain our ability to control outbreaks and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. We also want to avoid having to retighten restrictions should an outbreak occur.

Sir Francis Drake Improvement Project Virtual Open House

Yes, the SFD Project is still on and starting soon! Learn more about the construction activities and ask questions during a virtual open house: Wednesday, June 3 from 5-6:30pm on Zoom. Visit the new project website at to register, find out more about the project and subscribe for updates.


Katie Rice Signature


Contact Info:

Supervisor Katie Rice


District 2 Aides:

Nancy Vernon


Jen Gauna