County of Marin - News Releases - COVID-19 Tier System

For Immediate Release
August 28, 2020

State’s Virus Plan Opens Doors for Marin County

Governor outlines opportunities for future reopenings; signals path forward for Marin

Marin County, CA – Progress in flattening the local COVID-19 curve combined with high testing rates may allow Marin County to advance in the State of California’s new tiered rating system designed to safely pace counties through reopening. Marin’s status within the new framework means local hair salons, barbershops, along with indoor malls (at 25% capacity) can reopen indoor operations beginning Monday, August 31.

Marin Health and Human Services logoMarin will move into the second – or “red” – tier in an abbreviated timeline due in part to Marin County Public Health’s high testing rates, and assuming Marin’s case rate remains stable.
Governor Gavin Newsom introduced Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a four-tier framework by which counties will be measured for loosening and tightening restrictions on activities and business operations. The framework replaces the previous “county monitoring list” and looks at case rates and testing positivity rates at a more granular level while factoring in equity indicators such as high testing rate in disproportionally impacted areas. The new framework is a more stringent criteria for a county to move forward and graduate from the watch list, with the intent of slowing transmission of COVID-19 and reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Most counties that were on the state’s monitoring list prior to the adjustment were placed on the first, or “purple,” tier, signaling a COVID-19 incidence of more than seven new cases per day per 100,000 people.  Although Marin is ranked purple for now, the California Department of Public Health has confirmed Marin will move into the second – or “red” – tier in an abbreviated timeline due in part to Marin Public Health’s high testing rates, and assuming Marin’s case rate remains stable.

In the new monitoring system, countywide COVID-19 testing rates are considered when rates are calculated. Because Marin has among the highest testing rates in the state, local case rates are adjusted downward, which places Marin among counties that may move into a less restrictive tier starting September 8.

“We’ve prioritized testing from the beginning, and this is being recognized as positive sign of our response,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s Public Health Officer. “Yes, we’re seeing fewer cases, but we still have a long way to go. We need to protect these gains and stop transmission, so we can continue to move forward through this new framework.”

Marin’s “purple” Tier 1 status means the county can reopen indoor shopping centers at maximum 25% capacity, and hair salons and barbershops indoors, beginning August 31. Those businesses will be held to the same public health operating standards that were in place before Newsom closed indoor operations for those business sectors July 13.

Like the previous county monitoring list, schools in counties that fall within the “purple” Tier 1 are not permitted to reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive a waiver from their local health department for transitional kindergarten through sixth grade. However, schools can reopen for in-person instruction once a county has achieved “red” Tier 2 status for at least two weeks.

Marin has submitted 14 school waiver applications to the state for approval, potentially allowing those TK-6 schools to resume in-person operations as early as September 8. However, all Marin TK-6 schools would be eligible for classroom-based operations as early as two weeks after the county officially achieves “red” Tier 2 status.

In addition to the new framework, the California Department of Public Health has adjusted the frequency by which counties are measured, looking at case rates weekly. Counties also will experience longer transition time between tiers: counties will remain in a tier for three  weeks before being able to advance to another tier and are only able to move one tier at a time, even if metrics qualify for a more advanced tier. That practice ensures a county is making consistent progress in the right direction while eliminating “flip-flop”-like openings and closings for business.

To learn more about the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, visit the state’s COVID-19 webpage. Review local reopening guidelines at


Dr. Matthew Willis
Public Health Officer
Health and Human Services

3240 Kerner Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 473-4163
Email: Dr. Matthew Willis
Marin HHS website