The coronavirus has turned life upside down

When Marin joined five other Bay Area counties sheltering-in-place March 16, it got an advanced showing of where the rest of the state would end up. In the original order, residents were told to hold up in their homes until April 7.

Indeed, by the time former Marin resident Governor Gavin Newsom told California to go to its room on March 20, Marin had already been in time out for four days.

The coronavirus has turned life upside down. It seems like the only story on TV or in the newspapers. And Covid-19 will likely rule our lives into the fall and beyond.

Due to the time constraints instilled in publishing a magazine, this column is being written six weeks before it arrives in your mailbox, so I apologize in advance for errors. This story is not only changing by the minute, but it is playing out in very personal terms for everyone, and your experience will inevitably differ in some way from the words you find here.

This situation has given us a new vocabulary, which includes social distance, fomite, and community spread, which up till now, I thought was the explanation of why you had to give so many points when the 49ers were playing.

The coronavirus has opened mini debates. Shelter-in-place vs. lockdown. Self-quarantine vs. stay-at-home order. Discuss amongst yourselves using FaceTime.

We talk about toilet paper shortages, what the line was like at Costco, and the best way for washing our hands like a surgeon scrubbing in for an appendectomy.

The last time our economy fell off a cliff was in 2008 when Wall Street and the housing market came together to explore just how deeply human greed can injure a country. But that disaster was different than this one. While some businesses failed as a result of that recession, that economy wasn’t put on hold, with literally millions of people told to stop working for the greater good.

In the past, a double bottom line meant turning a profit while doing good for society. Now that has shifted to mean how to ring out the best for the health crisis in terms of providing resources and services in the safest and most efficient way and how to provide an economic stimulus to keep the economy off of the respirators that we don’t have.

Covid-19 is the story that keeps on giving. It’s a health story as we get daily and sometimes hourly updates on what we should do and not do to avoid the virus. We get grim reminders of what we are up against as the cases are tracked locally, nationally and internationally. Worse than that, we also get a running total of the souls that have been taken.

For Marin, Covid-19 presents daunting health challenges. About 27 percent of the county population is 60 years or older, a group that is particularly at risk with the virus. As of March 20, Marin had 38 reported coronavirus cases.

But it’s also an economic story, as the feds look to pump money into the economy. Governor Newsom made a bold move, shutting down much of the world’s fifth largest economy in the hope of saving lives and eventually getting the Golden State back to something resembling normal. And the stay-at-home is not a death sentence for our economy. It still allows for grocery, banks, and drug stores to remain open. And necessary businesses tied to infrastructure are open as well which include transportation, utilities, agriculture, healthcare and of course government and emergency services.

Marin retailers Macy’s and Nordstrom made decisions to close their stores independent of California’s order. Both retailers are doing their best to direct shoppers to order online. Target, Whole Foods, Safeway and Walgreens all moved to change their hours of operations to reflect the new reality. In some cases, retailers have limited shopping to seniors only during designated hours.

Northgate Mall in San Rafael has essentially shut down its operations, with store employees sent home.

At this writing, the Civic Center Farmer’s Markets on Thursday and Sunday are open.

Local grocers have done their best to keep up with demand, but shortages of basics have been the rule as residents turn to panic buying, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Retailers such as Costco have rationed purchase of some items and have, at times, taken to limiting the number of people in the store at the same time, allowing for social distance.

I wish our readers and their families good health and the best of luck with their businesses during this crisis. Be good to each other. We are all we got.



Bill Meagher is a contributing editor at NorthBay biz and writes the monthly column you have in your hands right now. He is also a senior editor with The Deal, a digital financial news outlet based in New York where he covers alternative investments, micro and small cap equity finance, cannabis and does investigative reporting. He can be reached at

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