Of Masks and Marin

Supervisor Katie Rice 

Of Masks and Marin


We have all heard this and I suspect/hope most people believe it to be true: COVID-19 can be spread by people who have no symptoms, feel perfectly well, and do not know that they are infected. These folk – could be you or me -- are called carriers. They are the secret weapon of the Coronavirus. And that’s why they are a primary focus of our battle against the virus. Amazingly, the most effective counter to this threat (other than a full-stop shelter in place) is a simple one: Everyone needs to wear a face mask when in public.


And I mean everyone (except for the very young and those who cannot wear a mask for health reasons) and that includes residents, visitors, business operators, their employees, the young and the old, the blue and the red -- need to be wearing a mask or face covering whenever in public places and around other people. That includes when you’re walking on a sidewalk in town, or taking a hike in the open space, whether you are riding your bike along a multi-use path, or on a fire-road heading up Mt. Tam. Sure, if no one is around, let the mask sit under your chin. But pull it up when you are near other folk. It’s the right thing to do. The courteous thing to do. It’s what’s required by law and enforceable and if that’s what it takes to get folks to comply, that’s what’s going to happen.  


Mandatory face masks


About Enforcement


Since July 3rd, Marin County began experiencing elevated general community disease transmission, increasing hospitalization, and outbreaks in congregate settings and thus landed on the State’s watch list. As a result, recent authorization for indoor dining, indoor salons, was rolled back and the sector of other “next in line” businesses was put on hold. Today, four weeks later, Marin County numbers continue to exceed what the state allows. Hence the need for us all to double down on efforts to halt disease spread.


Towards adding encouragement and an additional tool to ensure individuals comply with mask wearing and businesses comply with Shelter in Place (SIP) operational guidelines, the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance on July 21 that creates new civil penalties for violations of public health orders. The ordinance provides an administrative penalty framework to allow town, city, and assigned personnel to help law enforcement officers address violations of health and safety codes. Enforcement efforts will focus on business violations, but jurisdictions will have discretion to enforce where they see the greatest risk to public health in their communities. Wherever and whenever appropriate, informal intervention and education will be used as the method of choice to encourage voluntary compliance with public health orders. The new administrative penalties do provide an additional tool where education and warnings are not effective.


The civil penalty for noncommercial health code violations related to COVID-19 will be between $25 and $500. For commercial activity, it will be $250 to $10,000. Factors determining the size of a penalty include risks to public health, previous warnings, lack of good-faith efforts to comply, and increased revenue generated from noncompliance. Read the recent press release for specifics about the ordinance.


Of Monuments and Marin and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard


Marin County may be far from the deep south, we may think of ourselves as liberal, even progressive, certainly not racist, but in fact, Marin County, just like most others across the state and nation has its own legacy of segregation, of exclusion, of historic, structural racism. That history continues to exhibit itself on the deeds of our homes, in the complexion of our neighborhoods, in the trajectory of our children through school and life, and notably during this time of COVID in the infection rate among communities of color.


Last month, Marin County residents joined in the nationwide movement to acknowledge historic racism and injustice by calling for the removal of monuments honoring individuals associated with the promulgation of slavery which existed as a legal institution in the US until passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Here in Marin, that call has centered around Sir Francis Drake.


Drake, an English explorer, is believed to have anchored his ship off Marin’s Pacific Coast and made landfall in 1579. According to History.com, Drake participated in some of the earliest English slaving voyages to Africa starting in 1567 and he earned a reputation for his piracy against Spanish ships and possessions. In the late 1920’s, a group of civic leaders advocated to rename the primary east/west roadway running from the mouth of Corte Madera Creek to Pt. Reyes (which up to that point hosted a variety of names depending on which segment you happened to be on) to Sir Francis Drake Blvd.


To consider renaming a road, or a school, or removing a statue may seem a symbolic act that will not make for significant change when it comes to addressing historic, structural racism and its ongoing impact on lives and communities. But I believe the discussion provides an important opportunity. An opportunity to revisit the history of the place we live, to consider the message that names send (even street names), to think about community values in the context of the times we live, and to use that learning to inform future action.


On June 26, Supervisor Rodoni and I, along with council representatives from each of the four cities and towns that have road naming authority along Sir Francis Drake -- hosted a virtual listening session to hear from community members on the topic. More than 300 people participated in the videoconference. No decisions were made at the meeting, but it became clear that there was a need and an interest in learning more about the road’s history – who named it and why, about Sir Francis Drake, and about Marin’s indigenous people for whom this place was home long before any Europeans landed here.


To that end, as a next step, we are inviting community members to join in on a learning session with a Marin County historian, a representative from indigenous tribes, and history professor lined up to be the featured guests. The session will be moderated by Chantel Walker, assistant director of the Marin County Free Library.


Please note that the event was planned for Wednesday, August 5, but will be rescheduled to a new date to give residents the opportunity to participate in two other important meetings happening that same evening – Tam District’s Forum on racism and City of Larkspur’s Council meeting to discuss the status of the Sir Francis Drake statue. Stay tuned for more information early next week regarding a new date and time.


 Katie Rice Signature


Contact Info:

Supervisor Katie Rice





District 2 Aides:

Nancy Vernon




Jen Gauna