April 30, 2020
Dear Neighbor,
I write to you with a heart full of gratitude for the collective sacrifices that we’ve made over the last seven weeks since the Shelter In Place Order began. Now, more than ever, the actions of one person affect all of us. 

You may have already heard that the Shelter In Place Order has been extended through May 31 . Yesterday, health officers representing six Bay Area counties and the City of Berkeley issued a revised Order that will take effect on Mon., May 4 and extend through May 31. 
The revised Shelter In Place Order eases restrictions on a handful of activities summarized below and requires these activities to use physical distancing and safety protocols described in the appendices of the revised Order.

  • Construction. Small and large-scale construction will be permitted, with contractors required to abide by construction safety protocols. City inspectors will be monitoring compliance on site visits, and the City will create guidance materials for contractors.
  • Real Estate and Moving Activities. All real estate transactions will be able to resume, but with continued restrictions on open houses and limitations on in-person viewings. Residential moving activities will be allowed to fully resume.
  • Outdoor Businesses. Outdoor businesses such as wholesale and retail nurseries will be able to reopen and independent landscapers and gardeners will be able to resume work using physical distancing protocols. This does NOT include restaurants and bars with outdoor seating. 
  • Child Care for Children of Essential Workers or People Conducting Permitted Outdoor Business. Child care establishments, summer camps, and other “educational or recreational institutions or programs” will be allowed in “stable” groups of 12 or fewer children. This does NOT include informal playdates or group activities for children.
  • Limited Outdoor Recreation Activities. Sites such as skate parks and athletic fields will reopen with physical distancing and safety protocols. Sports and outdoor activities that involve physical contact with people outside of your household (like basketball and soccer) remain prohibited and dog parks will remain closed.

The vast majority of you have been staying home, leaving only for essential activities such as visits to the grocery store, pharmacy or doctor’s office wearing a cloth facial covering . However, it has come to my attention that some residents are meeting with people outside of their household—albeit at a distance of six feet and wearing cloth facial coverings—for the purpose of non-essential activities. This continues to be a violation of the Shelter In Place Order because of the Bay Area Health Officers’ belief in the unnecessary public health risk it poses. I know it is challenging to continue to adhere to the Shelter In Place Order, but it’s important that we continue to take the risk posed by this new disease very seriously, given that there are no approved medications, no vaccine, and the serious health consequences it presents. 
If you have any questions about what will and will not be allowed by the revised Shelter In Place Order, I encourage you to read the language of the Order and get in touch with my office if you have any questions ( rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110 - please leave a voicemail and we will call you back).
Understanding Why the Shelter In Place Order Was Extended
I want to assure you that our collective sacrifices are working to slow the spread of Covid-19 and save an estimated tens of thousands of lives in the Bay Area.

On a briefing call on Wed., April 29, Alameda County Interim Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan shared the following statistics:
Models from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Imperial College London projected deaths to reach 1.7 to 2.2 million in the U.S. if no actions were taken to slow transmission, such as no physical distancing protocols or stay-at-home orders. Dr. Pan noted that this would have meant a total of about 204,000 deaths in California, with roughly 34,000 of those deaths here in the Bay Area. As of April 27, there are a total of 266 deaths in the Bay Area. With these dramatic results and news headlines declaring the Bay Area successful in “flattening the curve,” it might be hard to understand why the Shelter In Place Order was extended for another month. For answers, it’s helpful to review paragraphs 10, 11, and 12 of the revised Order:

Highlights from Paragraph 10.
  • The collective efforts taken to date regarding this public health emergency have slowed the virus’ trajectory, but the emergency and the attendant risk to public health remain significant: As of April 27, 2020, there are 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the City of Berkeley (up from 3 on March 15, 2020, just before the first shelter-in-place order) as well as at least 7,273 confirmed cases (up from 258 confirmed cases on March 15, 2020) and at least 266 deaths (up from 3 deaths on March 15, 2020) in the seven Bay Area jurisdictions jointly issuing this Order.
  • The cumulative number of confirmed cases continues to increase, though the rate of increase has slowed in the days leading up to this Order.

To illustrate the continued though slowing growth in the detected number of cases, the chart below displays the total number of detected cases per 100,000 people for each of the six Bay Area counties covered by the Order. As of Tues., April 28, Alameda County had a total of 91.7 detected cases per 100,000 people, up from 86.1 cases three days earlier on April 25—a difference of 5.6 cases per 100,000. Three weeks earlier, on April 7, Alameda County had a total of 37.9 cases per 100,000 compared to 26.5 cases per 100,000 three days earlier on April 4—a larger growth in cases of 11.4 per 100,000. While our testing capacity is still insufficient to detect all cases, these data points help to explain that the rate of growth is slowing. You can view Berkeley-specific Covid-19 stats on Berkeleyside.
Detected Cases Per 100,000 in Shelter In Place Counties
Highlights from Paragraph 11.
  • The local health officers who jointly issued the Prior Order are monitoring several key indicators (“COVID-19 Indicators”), which are among the many factors informing their decisions whether to modify existing shelter-in-place restrictions.
  • The COVID-19 Indicators include, but are not limited to, the following:
  1. The trend of the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations per day.
  2. The capacity of hospitals and the health system in the City and region, including acute care beds and Intensive Care Unit beds, to provide care for COVID-19 patients and other patients, including during a surge in COVID-19 cases.
  3. The supply of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) available for hospital staff and other healthcare providers and personnel who need PPE to safely respond to and treat COVID-19 patients.
  4. The ability and capacity to quickly and accurately test persons to determine whether they are COVID-19 positive, especially those in vulnerable populations or high-risk settings or occupations.
  5. The ability to conduct case investigation and contact tracing for the volume of cases and associated contacts that will continue to occur, isolating confirmed cases and quarantining persons who have had contact with confirmed cases.

Highlights from Paragraph 12.
  • The scientific evidence shows that at this stage of the emergency, it remains essential to continue to slow virus transmission to help (a) protect the most vulnerable; (b) prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed; (c) prevent long-term chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory damage and loss of limbs from blood clotting; and (d) prevent deaths.
  • Extension of the Prior Order is necessary to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease, preserving critical and limited healthcare capacity in the City and advancing toward a point in the public health emergency where transmission can be controlled.
Looking Ahead: California’s Roadmap to Gradually Reopening Our Economy 
During his Tues., April 28 press conference , California Governor Gavin Newsom said we were weeks—not months—away from making changes to the statewide stay-at-home order to allow for the re-opening of lower-risk workplaces (described further below).

On April 14, the Governor unveiled six key indicators that will guide the state’s thinking for when and how to modify the statewide stay-at-home order. 
Pacific Coast Highway. Photo: ChrisMRichards (Creative Commons License .)
Here are the six key indicators:
  1. Ability to test, contact trace, isolate, and support the exposed
  2. Ability to protect those at high-risk for Covid-19
  3. Surge capacity for hospitals and health systems
  4. Therapeutic development to meet the demand
  5. Ability of businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing
  6. Determination of when to re-institute measures like Stay-at-Home

On April 28, the State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell described during the Governor's press conference the following four stages to a gradual reopening of the economy. While stage two is weeks away, according to the Governor, stages three and four described below are months away.

Stage 1: Safety and preparedness (This is where we are right now.)
  • Make essential workforce environment as safe as possible
  • Prepare sector-by-sector safety guidelines for an expanded workforce
  • Key considerations for moving to Stage Two: hospital and ICU trends are stable, hospital surge capacity, sufficient personal protective equipment, sufficient testing and contact tracing capacity in order to isolate individuals exposed to a positive case

Stage 2: Lower-Risk Workplaces
  • Create opportunity for lower-risk sectors to re-open with adaptations: retail, manufacturing, offices for those who can't telework, more public spaces such as parks and trails
  • Need to expand workforce safety-net to ensure that workers can stay home when they are sick
  • Modified school programs and childcare facilities re-open

Stage 3: Higher-Risk Workplaces
  • Create opportunities for higher-risk sectors to re-open with adaptations and limits on size of gatherings, including:
  • Personal care businesses (hair and nail salons, spas, gyms, etc.)
  • Entertainment venues (movie theaters and sports without live audiences)
  • In-person religious services (churches and weddings)

Stage 4: End of Stay-at-Home Order
  • Return to expanded workforce in highest-risk workplaces
  • Requires therapeutics
  • Concerts, convention centers, and live-audience sports
Sharing My Shelter In Place Story
Initially, I viewed the Shelter In Place Order as a welcome respite from commuting and a busy work and home life. But as the days turned to weeks, I found I was getting too easily distracted from working at home by Covid-19 news, I felt a sense that I wasn’t fully focused on the tasks in front of me, and I found myself coping with the stress of it all by baking and eating too many sugary treats
Two Medicine Lake at Glacier National Park in Montana. Photo: Donahos (Creative Commons License ).
As the weeks have worn on, I have found healthier habits to cope with the prolonged period at home. Whereas I initially only exercised sporadically as I felt like it, I now go for a walk/jog around the neighborhood with my son in his stroller everyday for 30 minutes to an hour. (I often plan this exercise to coincide with work calls that don’t require me to say much so I can kill two birds with one stone.) But I found that exercise alone was still not enough to calm the stress and anxiety I was feeling. One evening I cried inconsolably out of fear and worry about what physical distancing and cloth facial coverings would do to my young son’s sense of the world. Will our beloved educational institutions receive the higher level of investment needed to weather the pandemic, I wondered. I can accept diminished opportunities for myself, but it’s hard to accept them for our children.  

I’ve done meditation in the past, so I decided to try using a guided meditation app to help manage my emotions. During my daily ten-minute meditations, I picture myself sitting on a canoe on the still water of a lake at Glacier National Park —a place I find calming that I hope to return to with my family when this is all over. The daily meditations provide an intentional reminder of the things that can be forgotten in moments of crisis: to find gratitude, to let go of the things I can’t control, to focus on my breath—a physical manifestation of the present moment. As I have continued with my meditation practice, I found that I have regained my focus, felt more clear-headed and calm, and—miraculously—no longer feel the need to bake so many chocolate cakes. 

I’m not a health care professional nor an expert on dealing with crisis, but I wanted to share my Shelter In Place story in the hopes that it might help others who are struggling right now. I want you to know that you’re not alone. My experience so far has taught me that I need to do more to take care of my mental well-being during this time than I would normally need. For me, that has meant a daily commitment to exercise and meditation, as well as regular journaling and reaching out to family and friends. I hope you can find time to take care of your mental well-being during this stressful time.

It’s safe to say that we will be dealing with Covid-19 for an extended period of time, so each of us must find strategies that can help to build our resilience in the face of adversity. None of us would choose to experience a pandemic, but now that this situation has chosen us, how can we grow from this difficult experience? Maybe we can find gratitude for things we previously took for granted. Maybe we can find the courage to talk to our loved ones in a way that we couldn’t before. Or maybe we can see our role in the world in a whole new light. I wish you moments of calm and clarity during this challenging time.         
Resources: COVID-19 Teleconferences + Giving and Receiving Help
Covid-19 Teleconferences

  • Listen to the Mayor's Virtual Town Hall with City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez from April 25 HERE.

  • State Senator Nancy Skinner has held a number of Telephone Town Halls on various COVID-19 topics, which are available HERE, along with other resources.

Give and Receive Help

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

The state COVID-19 website is where you can get up to speed on what’s happening statewide, learn how you can safely help, and find out what resources and assistance may be available, such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (for business owners, self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and others who aren't usually eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits).

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

You can donate to the Berkeley Relief Fund to support low-income tenants, small businesses and non-profits, and non-profit arts organizations or donate directly to a local business .

Eviction Protections. If you have any questions about our local residential and commercial eviction moratorium or housing retention grants for low-income tenants, more information is available HERE . The Council also passed on April 21 an urgency ordinance to prevent commercial landlords from increasing rent by more than 10% (see Item #8 HERE ).

Donate Blood. You can donate blood at the Oakland Blood Donation Center (6230 Claremont Ave. in Oakland) where they are using physical distancing protocols, disinfecting between donors, and taking temperatures of donors and staff. Please visit the  Red Cross website  to make an appointment before visiting. 

Donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through the City or through my office.

Food Resources.

  • HelpBerkeley.org provides low-cost meals to individuals at high risk of developing complications from Covid-19, and they are in need of volunteers to help deliver meals.

Resources for Mental Health and Wellness.

  • The Domestic Violence Resource Guide for Alameda County is available HERE.

If you have specific questions or concerns, please always feel free to reach out to me: rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110.
My Website
For updates on community issues and links to City information resources, please visit my website: www.rashikesarwani.com.

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