County of Marin - News Releases - COVID-19 Marin's 39th Case

For Immediate Release
March 23, 2020

Public Health Officer Tests Positive for COVID-19

Official Uses Personal Experience to Call for Greater Commitment Against Spread

San Rafael, CA – As COVID-19 cases continue to surge around the Bay Area, Marin County’s newest confirmed case further illustrates that community transmission is already underway.

In a video message, Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s Public Health Officer, announced that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.  Dr. Willis recorded the message from his home on Sunday night, where he has been self-quarantined from his family since his symptoms first appeared late last week.  His test results were confirmed Sunday afternoon.

Image of Dr. Matt Willis at Home

(Watch video on YouTube)

“My case is further proof that COVID-19 is with us,” said Dr. Willis. “While my symptoms are now mild, as most people’s will be, we also know that for many, especially our elders, this same illness can be life threatening.”  Willis stressed the importance of sheltering-at-home, especially for the safety of older adults, vulnerable residents, and to ease the burden on health care workers.

Dr. Willis’ source of exposure is unknown, as he has been actively meeting with health care workers around the Bay Area as part of his work to coordinate Marin County’s response to COVID-19. 

“Either way, it’s a clear sign of what we’ve been saying all along,” said Willis. “I didn’t necessarily think I would be such an early example of the fact this is in our community.”

This announcement comes as an increasing number of healthcare workers regionally are also being diagnosed with the illness. To protect employees, the County, including Marin’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), has exercised clear protocols to address staff who become ill, including asking employees to stay home if they show any symptoms, reporting any symptoms that develop during working hours, asking non-essential employees to work from home, maintaining sufficient social distancing in the workplace, and consistently using excellent hygiene and cleaning practices.

Hospitals, clinics and public health work environments are following new CDC guidance for potential workplace exposures. According to Deputy Public Health Officer, Dr Lisa Santora, “Basically, the recommendation is to keep working as long as you don’t have symptoms. That’s because we’re at a point where we’re assuming potential exposures, whether we know about them or not.” This in accordance with Governor’s Newsom’s Executive Order N-27-20, which authorized first responders, health and human services care providers and workers who are asymptomatic (including those with known exposure to COVID-19 patients) to continue working subject to taking precautions to prevent transmission.

Dr. Willis has been a visible leader of Marin’s COVID-19 response work, including working in Marin’s EOC and staff there will be on strict daily symptom checks. Dr. Santora will lead the operations as Willis recovers.

In his message, Dr. Willis appealed to the broader community to do everything possible to flatten the curve in California.

“Stay in place and limit anything outside the home to only essential trips, said Dr. Willis. “Because we’re seeing signs of our responders being exposed and pulled away from duty, we need to double down on our efforts to limit countywide exposures. You can help us lessen the burden on our healthcare system by simply slowing the rate of spread.  That we do have some control over.”

Visit Marin County’s COVID-19 webpage for additional information about activity in Marin and subscribe to receive coronavirus -related status updates by email.



Laine Hendricks
Public Information Officer
County Administrator's Office

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite #325
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7496
Email: Laine Hendricks
County Administrator website