March 31, 2020

Dear Neighbor,
Today it was announced that the Shelter In Place Order for the Bay Area has been extended until May 3 . The new Order adds some clarifying language around essential business and activities, as well as some new directives, including:
  • Use of playgrounds, dog parks, public picnic areas, and similar recreational areas is prohibited. These areas must be closed to public use.
  • Use of shared public recreational facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, pools, and rock walls is prohibited. These facilities must be closed for recreational use.
  • Sports requiring people to share a ball or other equipment must be limited to people in the same household.
  • Essential businesses are required to develop a social distancing protocol before April 3.
  • Most construction—residential and commercial—is prohibited.
  • Funerals are limited to no more than 10 people.
  • Essential businesses are expanded to include service providers that enable residential transactions (notaries, title companies, Realtors, etc.); funeral homes and cemeteries; moving companies, rental car companies and ride-share services that specifically enable essential activities.
  • Essential businesses that continue to operate facilities must scale down operations to their essential component only.


As we enter the third week of sheltering in place, I want to use this newsletter to update you on how we’re doing in fighting back against COVID-19.

First and foremost, we must thank our selfless health care workers —doctors, nurses, first responders, and others who are caring for the sickest patients at some risk to their own health. They have my utmost respect for their service and sacrifice , and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. The same goes for all of our essential workers the unsung heroes —like the security guards, janitors, and food service workers at our hospitals, pharmacists, grocery store and restaurant workers, cashiers, delivery truck drivers, child care providers, our City staff, and everyone else who is working to provide us with the necessities we need during this time of emergency. I salute all of you for your courage to carry on.

It’s imperative for all of us to support our health care and other essential workers—and protect the health of our whole community—by continuing to stay home and practice six feet of physical distance from others when we do have to go outside for exercise or essential shopping. It goes without saying that this is disruptive, with major repercussions for our lives and, in many cases, our livelihoods. But we must stay the course to save lives and shore up our health care system so it has the capacity to serve the sickest patients.    

Let’s join other communities around the country by opening a window or stepping onto your front porch to make some noise for our health care and essential workers to let them know how much they’re appreciated . Let’s start TOMORROW, Wed., April 1 at 7 p.m. and keep it going for two minutes every evening at 7 p.m. with applause, whoops, hollers, cheers, musical instruments, banging on a pot, or whatever else you’ve got. Please spread the word to your friends and neighbors! Share your images and video on social media using: #BerkThxWorkers #GetLoudForOurHeroes and #ClapBecauseWeCare
How are we doing in "flattening the curve"?
Now that we've completed two weeks of sheltering in place, you may be wondering what the data show about our efforts. I pulled together some charts with data available from The New York Times that help to tell the story of how we appear to be flattening the curve in the Bay Area, although there are many caveats and we must be very cautious in drawing conclusions at this early stage. 
First, it’s helpful to understand that the U.S. continues to lag behind other countries when it comes to testing for COVID-19. This means that many COVID-19 cases (particularly among individuals who are asymptomatic or who have mild symptoms) are going undetected. As a result, we don’t have a good handle on how and where the virus continues to spread. In the absence of the ability to test widely and isolate positive cases, our state is relying heavily on a Shelter In Place Order, physical distancing of six feet from others, and good hygiene practices to slow the spread of COVID-19. The chart below from Our World in Data shows how the U.S. compares to other countries in terms of testing as of March 20. The Covid Tracking Project provides state-level information, showing that California has completed 28,886 tests as of March 30. 
The chart below displays the number of detected COVID-19 cases in select counties. We must keep in mind that testing is generally reserved for patients with symptoms [per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidance ]. This means that the number of detected COVID-19 cases gives some indication of the number of individuals experiencing more acute symptoms; however, it’s still not a complete picture given the possibility that not all individuals experiencing more acute symptoms are able to get tested as well as regional differences in the availability of testing. Despite these major caveats, the chart below shows that Alameda County has the lowest number of detected cases compared to a select number of other counties, including San Francisco, Santa Clara, King County (where Seattle is located), and Los Angeles. I had initially wanted to include other major metro areas in this comparison like New York City, but the sad reality is that New York's numbers are too high to display on the same chart. In interpreting the chart below, it's helpful to consider the relative differences in population size for respective counties.
Total Number of Detected Cases in Select Counties
Because of the limitations in COVID-19 testing, another metric to which we can look to get a better understanding of what may be happening is the total number of COVID-19 deaths in select counties, displayed in the chart below. These data give us a general sense that Bay Area counties have experienced a lower number of deaths so far. Any loss of life is a tragedy, and my hope is that the actions we're taking today will reduce the number of deaths in our community.   
Total Number of Deaths in Select Counties
Perhaps the most hopeful sign is the reduction in the growth in the number of COVID-19 cases that we’re starting to see—after two weeks of sheltering in place. For example, Alameda County saw an increase of just 13 cases from March 29 to March 30 after seeing a high of 43 new cases from March 25 to March 26. The same caveats are still true about the shortage in the availability of tests and other factors, but the chart below suggests that we’re flattening the curve and giving our hospitals the ability to better manage the influx of cases. 

Interestingly, these data are corroborated by a national database of daily fever readings ,  which shows that stay-at-home orders and restaurant closures are contributing to rapid drops in the number of fevers—a signal symptom of most COVID-19 infections . We're also starting to see news reports of Bay Area doctors observing that they have not yet experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases. It's far too soon to declare victory, but these trends give us hope that our sacrifices will save lives.
Daily Increase in Detected Number of Cases in Select Counties
City Council Actions Related to COVID-19: Berkeley Relief Fund & Eviction Moratorium
Berkeley Relief Fund. At a Special Meeting earlier this month, the City Council unanimously voted to create a Berkeley Relief Fund with $3 million in City funds to support low-income residents, small businesses and non-profits, and non-profit arts organizations impacted by COVID-19. Since the fund was created, members of the community and local organizations have also stepped up, generously donating a total of $681,000 .

I encourage you to join me in making a donation of any amount that you can afford.
If you are: a low-income Berkeley resident, a Berkeley-based small business or non-profit, or a Berkeley-based non-profit arts organization, then please click HERE to learn more about Berkeley Relief Fund grants.
  • Housing retention grants of up to $10,000 for low-income Berkeley residents are available until funds are fully spent.
  • The deadline for a Berkeley-based small business or non-profit to apply for a grant of up to $10,000 is Mon., April 6 by 5 p.m.
  • The deadline for a Berkeley-based non-profit arts organization to apply for a grant of up to $25,000 is Mon., April 20 by 5 p.m.

You can continue to support our restaurants and essential businesses. Here’s a list of restaurants and essential businesses that remain open in Berkeley, and here are some precautions to keep in mind when handling takeout containers and groceries:
  • COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness. The biggest concern when it comes to food is packaging. There's a remote possibility that packaging is contaminated if someone who is sick sneezes or coughs on it. COVID-19 is believed to be able to live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic for up to three days.
  • While there's little scientific information about COVID-19 transmission from shared surfaces, you can reduce your risk by taking the following precautions when ordering takeout: dispose of food delivery packaging right away; keep six feet of physical distance from the delivery person or have them leave the food at the door; wash your hands after handling cash and again before eating.
  • When unpacking groceries and cooking, take the following precautions: wipe down boxes, cans and containers with disinfectant wipes or a household cleaning spray; wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds and then wash fresh produce with water as you normally would; reheat or cook food to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as the virus is believed to be killed by safe minimum cooking temperatures.

Eviction Moratorium . No one should lose their home in this crisis. The City Council unanimously voted on March 17 to enact an emergency ordinance to place a moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants for the duration of our local COVID-19 emergency declaration. This action will provide peace of mind to residential and commercial tenants who have experienced a loss of income or a loss of revenue as a result of COVID-19. However, this action doesn’t obviate the requirement to pay rent. 

If you know you will have trouble paying rent in April, then the ordinance requires you to provide notification in writing to your landlord or their representative (e-mail or text is okay if you've previously communicated with your landlord or their representative in this way). Supporting documentation is also required to demonstrate that the inability to pay in full is related to the impact of COVID-19. The Governor issued an Executive Order on March 27 that places a statewide moratorium on residential evictions through May 31; my office is working to understand whether the Governor's action affects the requirements for residential tenants and landlords under our local ordinance. We’re all in this together and flexibility is needed at this time. While the City doesn’t have the authority to waive rent or mortgage payments, there is some assistance available for tenants and homeowners:
  • Help for Tenants. Housing retention grants of up $10,000 are now available for low-income Berkeley residents who’ve experienced a loss of income as a result of COVID-19.
  • Help for Homeowners. Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that four of the big banks (Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo) would offer a mortgage payment grace period of 90 days for homeowners impacted by COVID-19. I encourage you to get in touch with your bank if you need this assistance.

The federal relief package (described below) will also provide financial assistance to individuals earning up to $99,000 and couples earning up to $198,000, along with enhanced unemployment insurance benefits. 

If you have any questions about the emergency moratorium on evictions or applying for a Berkeley Relief Fund grant, please don't hesitate to contact me: or 510-981-7110 (we're checking voicemails three times per day).
Keeping Our Homeless Population Healthy and Safe
The precautions that we've all been advised to take to curb the spread of COVID-19—like washing our hands with soap for 20 seconds—place particular burdens on our homeless population.

The City is taking a number of actions to curb the spread of COVID-19 among homeless individuals, including: 
Seven trailers were placed at 1281 University Avenue for high-risk homeless individuals. Photo: City of Berkeley.
  • Providing basic sanitation services. The City has deployed 28 hand-washing stations and has distributed more than 800 hygiene kits that include hand sanitizer.

  • Hotel rooms for homeless individuals testing positive for COVID-19. The County has procured 395 hotel rooms (as of March 27) and is working to procure more. City of Berkeley homeless service providers will have the ability to refer individuals to an available hotel room if the individual has tested positive for COVID-19 and/or is displaying symptoms.

  • Increasing shelter capacity and procuring trailers. The City is also working to expand its homeless shelter capacity so that individuals in shelter can practice six feet of physical distance from others. In addition, efforts are being made to create indoor individualized space for unsheltered individuals with a high risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19 due to being 60+ and/or having underlying health conditions. To that end, the City has readied a City-owned house located at 1654 Fifth St., purchased eight trailers, and requested 10 trailers from the state for high-risk unsheltered individuals. The City has positioned seven trailers at a City-owned parcel located at 1281 University Avenue (pictured above). The plan is for the 1654 Fifth St. house and all trailer sites to have security, delivery of meals, and trash service. It's safe to say that there will be neighbors in our community who will be asked to accept a new temporary use for a nearby parcel or facility so that we can promote the public health of the whole community during this emergency situation. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions: or 510-981-7110.
  • COVID-19 testing in Berkeley for vulnerable populations. The City is working to create a COVID-19 testing site that would be available for vulnerable populations (such as high-risk homeless individuals), first responders, and members of the public who meet testing criteria. 
Addressing the Shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Alarmed by news reports about the shortage of PPE for our fro nt-line health care workers, I put out a call earlier this month for members of our community to donate unused masks, medical gloves, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. Thanks to you, we've been able to provide deliveries to Highland Hospital, Lifelong , and La Clínica , with more to come.
Cases of donated gloves delivered to Highland Hospital.
I'm pleased to announce that the City of Berkeley is now collecting sealed unused PPE, including the following items:
  • N-95 masks (expired masks accepted; open boxes okay)
  • Masks (isolation or surgical; open boxes okay)
  • Gowns (isolation or surgical)
  • Medical gloves
  • Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer (all sizes)
  • Disinfectant wipes and sprays (bleach and peroxides)
  • Face shields
  • Shoe covers
  • Goggles/eye protection
  • Tyvek coveralls

The City will be distributing the PPE to various health entities, such as Alta Bates, health clinics, and skilled nursing facilities. If you have items to donate to the City, please complete the form for information on next steps.


I know there’s been a lot of varying information about whether the general public should wear a mask. Here’s what we know for sure: there’s a shortage of n95 and surgical-style masks. While the CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask, h ealth officials in  China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan   suggest that people wear masks in certain situations—if they’re symptomatic, for instance, or if they’re in crowded, not-very-well-ventilated places,   like airplanes . As Farhad Manjoo writes in the New York Times, studies have also shown that mask-wearing (in conjunction with hand-washing) reduces the spread of infection   within households   or other shared living spaces,   like residence halls .
While I’m not a health professional, I think one reasonable approach is to continue donating unused n95 and surgical-style masks to our front-line health care workers. We should keep doing this until we’re assured that our front-line health care workers have secured sufficient PPE to meet this moment. My office is currently exploring the interest among local operators of facilities for vulnerable populations, such as senior homes and homeless shelters, in receiving sewn fabric masks for staff and residents. If you have a sewing machine, I encourage you to make fabric masks; please get in touch ( or 510-981-7110) if you'd like to donate them. If you'd like to learn how to sew a mask, Farhad Manjoo has you covered .
Financial Help in the $2 Trillion Federal Relief Package
The $2 trillion CARES Act is the largest economic relief package in history. You can read more about the massive bill HERE.

I know so many members of our community are experiencing financial hardship right now, so I want to take this opportunity to highlight the financial help that's included in the bill.
U.S. Capitol Building. Photo: LunchboxLarry (Creative Commons  License ).
$300 Billion in Direct Cash Payments . Most individuals earning less than $75,000 can expect a one-time cash payment of $1,200. Married couples would each receive a check and families would get $500 per child. That means a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect $3,400. The checks start to phase out after that and disappear completely for people making more than $99,000 and couples making more than $198,000. The cash payments are based on either your 2018 or 2019 tax filings; people who receive social security benefits, but don't file a tax return are still eligible. Significantly, unless you're a member of the military, you must have a social security number to be eligible to receive a cash payment; this leaves out our undocumented community.

$260 Billion for Enhanced Unemployment Benefits. The bill adds $600 per week for up to four months on top of whatever base amount a worker receives from California's unemployment insurance program. The bill also extends benefits by 13 weeks from a maximum of 26 weeks in California to a maximum of 39 weeks. Importantly, the bill extends these unemployment benefit enhancements to gig workers, freelancers, contractors, and other self-employed people.

Help for Small Businesses. The bill provides $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses to cover immediate operating costs. An additional $350 billion is allocated for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Any portion of that loan used to maintain payroll, keep workers on the books or pay for rent, mortgage and existing debt could be forgiven, provided workers stay employed through the end of June. Finally, there is $17 billion to cover six months of payments for small businesses already using SBA loans.
Finding Gratitude in Uncertain Times
There’s no sugarcoating the moment we find ourselves in. The actions we’re taking today are intended to reduce the number of lives lost in the weeks and months to come. In these uncertain times, none of us can know for sure what tomorrow may bring. We must find gratitude for today. If you’re healthy today, give thanks.
If you have a steady income today, give thanks. If you have enough food to eat today, give thanks.

Remember to call your loved ones often. I’ve stopped using the term “social distancing” because it’s actually a misnomer for what we’re trying to achieve: we must maintain strong social ties, but practice physical distance when we connect with others. Here are more tips on coping with sheltering at home from an astronaut who spent a year in space.

If you’re struggling in any way, please call, text, or e-mail me and I will do my best to find a way to get you the help you need: , 510-981-7110 (office line checked three times per day), or 510-982-6128 (Google Voice cell phone number). 
COVID-19 Teleconferences + Other Resources
Teleconferences. The Shelter In Place Order has given me an opportunity to do a lot more cooking than usual. Maybe it’s given you an opportunity to tackle a home improvement project, organize the garage, or de-clutter your home. Here are some recent teleconferences that can get you up to speed on COVID-19 as you’re working around the house: 

  • The Mayor held a Zoom Meeting with City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez on March 28 to answer questions from the community. You can listen/watch the meeting HERE.

  • Our State Senator Nancy Skinner has held three conference calls on various COVID-19 topics. You can sign-up to receive e-mail updates from Sen. Skinner HERE, so you can learn about future calls.
  1. Conference call on "Staying Calm: Resources for Coping During this Corona Crisis" (March 31); audio recording will be made available HERE
  2. Conference call on Financial Relief (March 24)
  3. Conference call on the Shelter In Place Order (March 19)

Other Resources. The Mayor’s Office has created a resource guide, with information about parking enforcement, senior hours at local grocery stores and other information.

A Berkeley Mutual Aid website has been created for neighbors to offer and receive assistance, such as help with grocery shopping.

The Alameda County Office of Education has a webpage on mental health and well-being as you shelter in place.

The state COVID-19 website is where you can get up to speed on what’s happening statewide and what resources and assistance may be available, such as unemployment insurance. 

If you have specific questions or concerns, please always feel free to reach out to me: or 510-981-7110. 
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