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Mill Valley officials call for outdoor dining exemption from coronavirus order

Mill Valley is the first municipality in California to seek an exemption from the outdoor dining ban under Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order designed to curb spread of the coronavirus.

The Mill Valley City Council approved two letters calling on Newsom and county health officials for the exemption, according to the Marin Independent Journal.

"We share the concern for the health of our community, and therefore cannot ignore that the Stay Home Order has caused the Mill Valley restaurant community to suffer devastating economic impacts by being limited to take-out service only," reads one of the letters. "Our local restaurant employees are facing tremendous financial strain, experiencing lay-offs, reduced hours and struggling to provide for their families.

"In an effort to avoid further decimation of this critical local business sector, we ask that you exempt outdoor dining in any further extension of the current Stay Home Order, to lessen the harmful economic impact of the current restrictions."

The letter goes on to ask that restrictions on outdoor dining be based on empirical data and science that directly indicates the activity is a "potent contributor" to the spread of the coronavirus.

Newsom introduced the stay-at-home order in early December to prevent local health systems from collapsing under the weight of skyrocketing COVID-19 caseloads.

It divides the state into five broad regions and restricts those with intensive care unit bed capacity below 15%. When enacted, the order goes into effect for three weeks, but can be extended.

On Monday, the Bay Area region's ICU capacity had hit a low of 0.7% and Newsom said at a press briefing the order will continue indefinitely in the Bay Area region that includes Marin County where Mill Valley is located.

The order requires most businesses except essential services and retail to close operations. Residents in regions under the order are asked to stay at home except for work, shopping or other essential activities, such as going to the doctor's office.

Marin County was among several other Bay Area counties that adopted the order preemptively before the state mandate on Dec. 3.

The Mill Valley City Council voted 5-0 in a Monday night to pursue the exemption and approve the letters, according to the Marin IJ.

The Marin County Department of Public Health wasn't immediately available for comment.

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