Cases of the novel coronavirus have been increasing throughout the United States, and while Marin County had made progress in their containment of the virus, officials are now halting guidelines that briefly allowed retailers to increase their indoor capacity. On Nov. 16, the County of Marin issued a news release that Marin is joining a statewide cautionary COVID-19 step that would officially move the county back to the Red Tier, effective Nov. 17. This course of action was in response to cases of COVID-19 rapidly increasing in the state and for any local COVID-19 surges that may have arisen from the Orange Tier’s relaxed guidelines.
Marin County’s move to the Red Tier (Tier 2) will restrict guidelines that were allowed in the Orange Tier (Tier 3), such as increased capacity for businesses. Additionally, some businesses that once allowed indoor seating will need to move their operations outdoors. As Marin moves from the Orange Tier to the Red Tier, many community members remain cautious as they originally were even with the lighter guidelines of the Orange Tier.
Before the soar in cases, Marin’s Tier 3, allowed for loosened restrictions on service industries, specifically in relation to their indoor capacity. The Orange Tier gives small retail establishments approval for full capacity, whereas restaurants are allowed indoor capacity at 50 percent, or 200 people depending on the size of the store. However, now that Marin has been pushed into the Red Tier, guidelines for indoor capacity are reduced to 25 percent, even though many store owners and employees had acted with caution while operating in the Orange Tier.
Olivia Letts, a junior who works at Miette Patisserie & Confiserie in Larkspur, found that before Marin moved back into the Red Tier, Miette was glad to have customers inside, but continued to allow only one small group of people inside the store at a time. As well, employees continued to follow careful sanitary guidelines.
“[The employees] haven’t really been able to change much about the [safety] practices, like sanitizing. We still have to scoop [the candy] for the customers and it’s all sealed away in bags …. We have a bunch of protocols,” Letts said.
While the Orange Tier allowed businesses to loosen their restrictions, some decided to still proceed with caution in their business operations. World Wrapps co-owner Matt Blair operated World Wrapps as safely as possible – even when guidelines were relaxed – and did not reintroduce indoor dining for the safety of customers and employees. Blair notes that World Wrapps will continue to approach business in a careful manner no matter the tier Marin County is in, and prefers for customers to stick to online orders for the health of fellow customers and employees.
“We’re pretty serious about [safety protocols], whether [Marin county is] in purple or green or yellow [tier]. We’re going to keep doing as much as we can possibly do,” Blair said.
The Orange Tier does not change any prior guidelines for schools, so schools are focused on following the guidelines from Red Tier. Principal David Sondheim comments that the district will be following the guidelines laid out for schools, but that as winter approaches and people come home for the holidays, he hopes people in the community will make wise decisions.
“I think the biggest concern is that as we open our communities up more, we see an increased rate of transmission and illness and therefore [we will] have to retreat, putting coming back to school in January at a greater risk,” Sondheim said.
Even when Marin first began to relax guidelines for businesses, many remained cautious of public health. From employees to store owners to principals, the main message rings true: the community must follow health guidelines if Marin wants to continue to stay in such high tiers. As winter approaches and people begin to retreat inside, Marin County is taking these new precautions to keep cases from surging to new heights and keep the community as safe as possible.