Indoor sports in Marin County may soon be played without fans following a new recommendation from county public health officials in an effort to reduce the omicron variant’s spread.
Health officials are not considering another shutdown, Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis told the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, but the county is revising some of its health and safety recommendations in an effort to keep schools open through the Bay Area’s current wave of COVID-19 cases.
Willis said local health officials are now encouraging Marin County schools to avoid holding assemblies or allowing spectators at indoor sporting events for the immediate future.
“Omicron is so highly infectious that any one individual in a setting like that may not recognize they’re infected (and) can infect a large number of others,” he said.
The updates to Marin County’s 32-point plan to keep schools safe also include encouraging students to test for the virus at home, both to determine if they are positive for the virus and to prove that a student has not contracted it after being exposed in the classroom.
Willis said the county will also begin following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent update to its quarantine guidelines, allowing people with asymptomatic COVID-19 to isolate for only five days instead of the previous 10.
The county’s Health and Human Services Department and Office of Education first issued the 32-point schools plan in June 2020 and, prior to Willis’ announcement Tuesday, had most recently revised it in October.
Education officials in Marin County were noncommittal about how the updated recommendations could affect indoor youth sports like basketball, volleyball and wrestling.
“We are aware and we are looking into following the recommendation,” a spokesperson for San Rafael City Schools said.
A representative of the Tamalpais Union High School District did not follow up on a request for comment.
Willis said omicron’s high level of contagiousness and, according to preliminary data, relatively minor effects on those who are vaccinated and test positive has changed how the virus should be viewed.
“Most of us,” will either be infected or know someone who contracts the virus during the omicron wave, Willis said.
But with Marin County’s high vaccination rate — 93 percent of residents age 5 and up have completed their initial vaccination series — Willis argued the area should be well-protected from a significant wave of hospitalizations and deaths due to the omicron wave.
“If our goal remains preventing every infection, we would be coming back into a lockdown scenario,” he said. “We’re reassured that because of the high vaccination rates and the properties of the omicron variant, it will be OK as we move into this next chapter.”