March 16, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

An emergency health alert was released earlier today from seven health officers within six Bay Area Counties to shelter in place for three weeks beginning TOMORROW, Tues., March 17 .

It's important to note that this is a legal order, meaning v iolation of or failure to comply with the order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.

Read the announcement :
Seven health officers within six Bay Area counties are taking a bold, unified step to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and preserve critical health care capacity across the region.

On March 16, the public health officers of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties announced, with the City of Berkeley, a  legal order directing their respective residents to shelter at home for three weeks beginning March 17 . The order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs. The guidance comes after substantial input from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and best practices from other health officials around the world.

Scientific evidence shows social distancing is one of the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable disease. The shelter-at-home order follows new data of increasing local transmission of COVID-19, including 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 4 deaths shared by the seven jurisdictions, as of March 15. The Bay Area’s collected confirmed cases is more than half of California’s case count. This does not account for the rapidly increasing number of assumed cases of community transmission. As testing capacity increases, the number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases is expected to increase markedly.

“Temporarily changing our routine is absolutely necessary to slow the spread of this pandemic,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health Officer. “The Health Officers from the largest jurisdictions in the San Francisco Bay Area are united and we are taking this step together to offer the best protection to our respective communities.”

The order defines essential activities as necessary for the health and safety for individuals and their families. Essential businesses allowed to operate during the recommended action include health care operations; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers (including convenience stores); pharmacies; child care facilities; gas stations; banks; laundry businesses and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence . In addition, health care, law and safety, and essential government functions will continue under the recommended action. For the full list, please see section 10 of  the Order .

“While the goal is to limit groups congregating together in a way that could further spread the virus, it is not complete social shutdown,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “ You can still complete your most essential outings or even engage in outdoor activity, so long as you avoid close contact .”

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and the United States followed the next day by declaring a federal public health emergency. On February 26, the federal  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  confirmed community transmission of COVID-19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, meaning the afflicted patient had no signs of associating with anyone who had been diagnosed with the virus. This collective legal order comes one day after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered older adults, age 65 and older, stay home.

“Collective action is powerful,” said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, City of Berkeley Health Officer. “ But with no medicine or vaccine for COVID-19, our combined actions have the power to slow the spread of this virus.

“Limiting interpersonal interactions is a proven strategy to slow and reduce viral spread and protect the most vulnerable among us individuals who are 60 years of age and older, people with chronic and underlying medical conditions, and people experiencing homelessness.” Dr. Erica Pan said, “Our counties share borders and many people live in one county and work in another. It’s absolutely critical for us to be aligned on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”


For more information, please visit the City of Berkeley COVID-19 webpage . If you have questions about the Shelter In Place Order, please contact my office: or 510-981-7110. We will regularly check voicemails left on our office phone line and get back to you ASAP.  
Public Health Reminders to "Flatten the Curve" 
The most important thing we can do is to continue to practice good hygiene:
  • Wash your hands often with liquid soap and water and rub for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing; be sure to throw the tissue in the trash right away.
  • Refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available. Look for one with at least 60% alcohol or make your own.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick and stay home when you are sick.
  • Get a flu shot to protect yourself and others from the flu, which has similar symptoms to COVID-19.
  • People who are well and healthy do not need to wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses. A face mask can be worn by those who are coughing or sneezing to protect others from getting sick.

Know What to Do If You Experience Symptoms of COVID-19 . Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have experienced mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Similar to influenza, it appears to cause less severe illness in younger people; those with more severe impacts tend to be older, medically-fragile individuals with underlying medical conditions.

City of Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez recommends: Those who have mild cold or flu symptoms should stay home (this has now been ordered for all residents, regardless of illness). There are no approved medications nor a vaccine for COVID-19 and going to a hospital could expose you or others to illness. If your symptoms worsen or you have concerns, call your primary care doctor. If you suspect you have COVID-19, call ahead before visiting your doctor.   

Remember that the precautions we take today will save lives in the weeks and months to come. Even if you're not considered high-risk, your actions can protect those who are. High-risk populations include people who are 60 and older (with risk increasing with age; individuals who are 80+ are considered highest risk) and those with underlying health conditions (severely weakened immune systems, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or chronic lung diseases like COPD). 

The Shelter In Place Order may seem extreme to some. It is done out of a desire to delay and reduce the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak and "flatten the curve." I'm proud of our public health officials for making this call to save lives.
What You Can Do to Help
If you’re healthy and able to help, here are some suggestions:

Food banks are facing a shortage of volunteers as a result of COVID-19. The Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Berkeley Food Network are both in need of volunteers and donations and are seeking clarification about using volunteers in light of the Shelter In Place Order . Food banks will remain operational during the Shelter In Place Order as an essential service.

Blood banks are facing severe shortages due to COVID-19. If you are healthy and able, please consider donating blood .

A Berkeley resident has created a Mutual Aid spreadsheet for folks in need to connect with volunteers and local resources. You can sign up to volunteer or ask for help.

You can continue to support our local eateries by ordering takeout. You can also offer childcare help to friends and family who are working to provide essential services permitted by the Order.

If you have additional ideas on how we can support each other during this time, please don’t hesitate to be in touch: or 510-981-7110. Here are some more ideas on how to safely support your neighbors . We all need to look out for each other during this period of difficulty.
Food Resources for Children, Seniors & Others in Need
Food insecurity is all too common and folks may be experiencing it more acutely now, with the sudden loss of income. You may be eligible for CalFresh food stamps benefits to help you pay for groceries; check your eligibility and apply HERE . Information on applying for unemployment benefits is listed below under "State Assistance for Workers Impacted by COVID-19."

The Shelter In Place Order explicitly lists food banks as essential services, like grocery stores.
A food bank cupboard. Photo: Staffs.Live (Creative Commons  License ).
Here's a list of food resources for children, older adults, and anyone else in need:

Meals for Children
School meals are available through March 27. The BUSD Nutrition Department is serving free breakfast and lunch as take-away meals for school-age children  18 and younger:

8–9:30 a.m. for Breakfast & 11 a.m.–1:00 p.m. for Lunch at King Middle School, 1781 Rose St.  There will be a tent set up outside of the central kitchen at King (enter behind the school at Grant/Rose through the gate).
9:00–9:30 a.m. for Breakfast & 12–12:30 p.m. for Lunch at the following locations:
  • Berkeley Arts Magnet, 2015 Virginia St.
  • Rosa Parks, 920 Allston Way
  • Longfellow, 1500 Derby St.
  • Willard, 2425 Stuart St.
  • Berkeley High, 1980 Allston Way

Meals for Older Adults
Lunches for older adults will be available for pick-up from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Friday at the following locations :
  • West Berkeley Senior Center, 1900 Sixth St.
  • South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St.

Food Assistance for Anyone in Need
Berkeley Food Network (BFN) at 1925 Ninth St. has an on-site pantry open to Berkeley and Albany residents. Hours are:
  • Monday through Thursday 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
  • Monday and Wednesday 5–7 p.m.
  • 1st & 3rd Saturdays 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
*The schedule may change, so please check the BFN website or call 510-616-5383 for updates.

Berkeley Tech Academy (2701 MLK Jr. Way) Mobile Pantry
Hours: 2nd & 4th Tuesdays 2:30–4 p.m.

Berkeley Food Pantry (1600 Sacramento St.)
Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 2-4 p.m.

Urban Adamah Free Farm Stand (1151 Sixth St.)
Hours: Wednesdays 11 a.m. until food runs out
They will be providing prepacked bags.
City Updates
Here are a few City updates:

  • On Sun., March 15, the City announced the closure of recreation centers and pools as well as the cancellation of recreation programs and special events beginning today. More information is available HERE. I am inquiring about how residents can get refunds.
Old City Hall. Photo:  Sanfranman59 (Creative Commons  License ).
  • The City is actively working on a plan to provide emergency child-care for our public safety and health care workers as well as for low-income essential workers with no other options during the school closure period

  • All City board and commission meetings including subcommittee meetings are now cancelled through April 13.  The restriction may extend to May 13, pending review of the COVID- 19 situation in mid-April. 
State Assistance for Workers Impacted by COVID-19
Gov. Newsom signed an Executive Order on March 12 that, among other things, waives the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment insurance or disability insurance benefits for people who are unemployed and/or disabled as a result of COVID-19 .
Unemployment Insurance
Why? If you have lost your job or your hours are reduced due to COVID-19.
What? Partial wage replacement benefits to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced through no fault of their own.
Benefit. Range from $40–$450 per week for up to 26 weeks.
How to Apply. File an unemployment insurance claim HERE .

Disability Insurance
Why? If you’re unable to work due to medical quarantine or illness related to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional).
What? Short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. 
Benefit. Approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income); ranges from $50-$1,300 per week for up to 52 weeks.
How to Apply. File a disability insurance claim HERE.

Paid Family Leave
Why? If you’re unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional).
What? Up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member.
Benefit. Approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income); ranges from $50-$1,300 per week for up to six weeks.
How to Apply. Seek paid family leave HERE .

Workers’ Compensation
Why? If you're unable to do your usual job because you were exposed to and contracted COVID-19 during the regular course of your work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
What? Benefits include temporary disability (TD) payments, which begin when your doctor says you can’t do your usual work for more than three days or you are hospitalized overnight. You may be entitled for TD up to 104 weeks. TD stops when either you return to work, your doctor releases you for work, or your doctor says your illness has improved as much as it’s going to.
Benefit. TD generally pays two-thirds of the gross wages you lose while you are recovering from a work-related illness or injury, up to a maximum weekly amount set by law. In addition, eligible employees are entitled to medical treatment and additional payments if a doctor determines you suffered a permanent disability because of the illness.
How to Apply. File a worker’s comp claim HERE.
No Evictions, Water or Power Shutoffs for Duration of COVID-19 Emergency
Today, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office announced that they would temporarily suspend evictions due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Last week, both PG&E and EBMUD announced that service will remain in place for all customers, regardless of non-payment, throughout the COVID-19 emergency.   
March Virtual Office Hours
Please join me for virtual office hours on Sun., March 22 from 3:30-5 p.m. All you have to do is visit the following web address on Sun., March 22 anytime from 3:30 to 5 p.m. to join me: . I hope to see you for the virtual meet-up to share the latest information about COVID-19 and discuss how we can support each other during this public health emergency. 
My Website
For updates on community issues and links to City information resources, please visit my website:

This site is also where you can find an archive of all of my newsletters to date.

To sign up to receive future newsletters, please click  HERE.
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