Marin County to extend coronavirus stay-at-home order
Author: Mathew Pera
Publication: Marin IJ
Marin’s stay-at-home order will be extended beyond May 3, but with some restrictions lifted, county health officials announced this week.
Dr. Lisa Santora, the county’s deputy public health officer, did not provide a new end date for the restrictions or specify which limitations might be eased when she announced the extension in an online briefing Monday, but she suggested that the order to stay home could persist in some form for the foreseeable future.
“We will not return to normal this year,” she said. “I do not anticipate us returning to normal next year.”
The “shelter in place” order, which Marin County enacted March 17 in coordination with several Bay Area jurisdictions, was initially announced as a three-week mandate before it was extended through May 3. The sweeping restrictions on everyday life, which have thrown many businesses and people into economic turmoil, have been successful in curbing the spread of the coronavirus, Santora said.
On Tuesday, only one new coronavirus case was reported in Marin, bringing the county’s total to 171 since the first case was confirmed on March 9. Twenty-nine people with confirmed cases have been hospitalized.
The county reported for the first time this week the number of people who have recovered from coronavirus in Marin: 121. Forty known active cases remain. The number of patients who have died of the illness has not changed since it hit 10 on April 7.
In total, 2,145 Marin residents have been tested for the coronavirus, representing less than 1% of the county’s population. The number of tests was not updated Tuesday because of a glitch in a statewide database, according to a county spokeswoman.
The trend toward fewer new infections, hospitalizations and deaths each day “has bought us time for our health care system to prepare,” Santora said, for a surge in coronavirus cases that health officials anticipate seeing when the lockdown restrictions are eased. But some constraints will need to stay in place, she added, until scientists can develop both a vaccine and a treatment.
“We know that when we start loosening, or creating more allowable activities, in shelter-in-place, that will result in increased cases of COVID-19, will result in increased cases of hospitalizations and increased deaths in our community,” she said.
“We are again planning to have a shelter-in-place extension, but identifying what are those allowable activities,” she added, noting that health officials are sympathetic to the “terrible impacts” the restrictions are having on the local economy and the livelihoods of Marin residents.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued a statewide stay-at-home order shortly after county health officials across the Bay Area enacted local mandates, announced on Tuesday that the state also plans to ease its restrictions in phases. He said that county public health officials will dictate the restrictions in their respective jurisdictions, but the state will provide a model.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s public health officer, said there are several steps that must be taken before he can begin to ease some of the restrictions for Marin County, including ramping up testing for the virus. Marin’s health care workers must also be prepared for a surge of virus patients, he said.
Marin’s hospitals have already increased the number of beds they collectively have for patients by 67%, said Mark Brown, deputy chief for the Marin County Fire Department, during the Monday briefing. Officials plan to set up additional patient treatment centers outside of hospitals if the facilities begin to near capacity, but the county’s emergency rooms have seen “historic lows” in patient counts since the stay-at-home order was announced, he said.
“We’ve been in a lull right now just waiting to see when we will be hit,” said Dustin Ballard, director of the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency and a physician at Kaiser hospital in San Rafael. “But it’s been a very valuable lull because of the planning that’s gone into this.”
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