June 8, 2020

Dear Neighbor,
Two weeks have passed since the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old father of three, who we saw murdered by a Minneapolis police officer with three other officers on the scene. Floyd, a black man who pleads for his life from those sworn to protect him, says he can’t breathe and cries out for his mama in his final eight minutes and 46 seconds—with an officer’s knee pressed into his neck.

To see this happen without justification, without any cause whatsoever but the color of Floyd’s skin awakens a righteous rage in all of us.
George Floyd Photo: nikkolas_smith.
We also know, sadly, that this isn’t an isolated incident. We remember Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant to name a few. Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men, according to a recent study. No, this isn’t a case of a few bad apples, but a systemic problem in American policing that disproportionately harms black and brown communities . We need look no further than the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and journalists to know that our system is failing all of us, including police officers trying to do right by the communities they serve.  

I want to express my unequivocal commitment to reexamining our use of force policies here in Berkeley and to creating a City budget that prioritizes racial equity. We can no longer accept the status quo. But let me also say that my approach to policymaking is predicated on collaboration. I believe we will achieve more long-lasting change if we work with our Berkeley Police Department, study the data and evidence, listen to all members of our community—especially those disproportionately at risk of police violence, and then make changes needed to achieve our shared vision for community safety and investment. I ask you to hold me accountable and share your best ideas with me. I’m honored to serve on our City Council’s Public Safety Policy Committee , where we can engage on these issues together.   

Over the weekend, we saw thousands of Berkeley protesters calling for racial justice . Of course, as your Councilmember, I continue to worry about the threat of coronavirus posed by mass protests . At the same time, the organic uprising of tens of thousands of people —young, old, white, black, Asian, Latinx, gay, straight, from rural and urban areas all across this country—renews my faith in our democracy and my hope for a future that bends toward justice. Faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and the virus of racism, confronted with difficulty and tragedy , I maintain that we are lucky to be alive at this moment in our nation's history . Together, we have a chance to shed our old assumptions, our old ways of doing things and re-imagine what is possible —for our country and our community .

This evening, please join me in a moment of silence at your doorstep to honor the memory of George Floyd and commit to do your part to fight for racial justice. If we are to achieve lasting change, then it will require each of us taking action whether it's speaking up and implementing changes in your workplace or school, writing or telling your story, protesting, donating to a Nationwide Bail Fund to help support bail for protesters, and more .
Relaxation of Shelter In Place Order
Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez has issued a relaxation of the Shelter In Place Order that goes into effect today, Mon., June 8. The revised Order allows all residents to socialize outdoors in stable groups outside their households, send their children to childcare or summer camp, and employ housecleaners and dog walkers.

Social Bubbles. Stable groups of up to 12 people who do not live together may socialize outdoors in public or private settings, wearing a face covering.

The new Order permits small outdoor gatherings between people who have collectively agreed to limit their social activities to only each other for at least three weeks—a "social bubble." Social bubbles may include up to 12 people, including children, and must remain stable for at least three weeks. During this period, adults in the bubble may only socialize in-person outdoors with other members.

All members of a single household must be part of the same bubble. A child in shared custody can be in a household bubble for each parent or guardian. In addition to their household bubble, children may be part of no more than one other stable group over at least three weeks that primarily includes other children—either in a childcare setting or in a youth extracurricular activity, such as a sports team, club or summer camp.

Members of a social bubble may gather together outdoors in public or private settings. During gatherings, everyone over 12-years-old should still wear a face covering. After three weeks, if there is no concern about sickness, members can form a new bubble with different people to exclusively socialize with outdoors for the next three weeks.

If anyone in the social bubble is concerned about being sick, they should avoid socializing. If they are concerned about Covid-19 sickness, they should follow City and CDC recommendations to contact their doctor, stay home and avoid spreading illness in their own household. If anyone in the social bubble has Covid-19, everyone in the group should quarantine themselves and contact their health care providers.

Childcare for All. Childcare facilities and camps are now open to all children. However, childcare establishments and camps must still comply with previously announced rules regarding limited group sizes and physical distancing as follows:
  • Children must be placed in stable groups of no more than 12 children, with the same children grouped together each day.
  • Groups of children should stay intact, with no children moving in or out of the group, for at least three weeks.
  • If there is more than one group of children at a facility, each group should be in a separate room and groups should not mix with each other.
  • Caregivers should remain solely with one group of children.

Household & Pet Services . Services which do not generally require close customer contact, including residential housecleaners, dog walkers, and pet grooming, are now permitted.

Curbside Library Services. Public libraries may now offer curbside pickup for books and other materials. The Berkeley Public Library anticipates opening for curbside pickup by the end of June.

Internships . Educational institutions can engage in career internships and pathways programs provided that physical distancing of six feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible.

If you have any questions about changes to the Shelter In Place Order , please check the City's Frequently Asked Questions document or contact my office (rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110).
Stricter Face Covering Order
As more activities are permitted, our Health Officer has issued a stricter face covering order to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spread.

Starting today, Mon., June 8, everyone will be required to have a face covering visible and ready to use when they are outside their home, and to wear it over their nose and mouth whenever they are within 30 feet of other people. 
The 30 foot requirement—roughly the length of a row of three small cars—is intended to allow for adequate time to put on your face covering before others come within six feet. This standard applies even when walking or exercising outdoors alone or with members of your household.

The new Order maintains exceptions for children, people with a disability or a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering, or others for whom face coverings would pose a health or safety risk. 

Face coverings play a critical role in combating Covid-19, which spreads easily among people less than six feet from each other. The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads through respiratory droplets expelled when we speak, sneeze, and breathe.

Here's an amusing post shared online by an unknown creator that helps to explain the importance of face coverings:
Briefly: Meeting Tonight on Zoning Ashby & N. Berkeley Stations & June 17 Blood Drive
  • The Community Advisory Group, which will provide input to the Planning Commission on zoning the Ashby and N. Berkeley BART stations for development in compliance with state law AB 2923, will hold its first virtual meeting TONIGHT, Mon., June 8 from 6-9 p.m. Click HERE for details on how to access the online meeting.
N. Berkeley BART station. Photo: Pi.1415926535 (Creative Commons  License ).
  • The City of Berkeley, the Berkeley Unified School District, and the American Red Cross are sponsoring a blood drive on Wed., June 17. You can make an appointment HERE.
COVID-19 Resources
Covid-19 Teleconference

Listen to the Mayor's Virtual Town Hall with City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez from May 30 HERE .

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.

Supporting Businesses . 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 . The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce has created a resource guide for businesses .

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 has also passed an urgency ordinance to prevent commercial landlords from increasing rent by more than 10% (see Item #8 HERE ).

Price Gouging . A nyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or has information about potential price gouging, can file a complaint with the District Attorney's Office by emailing   pricegouging@acgov.org   or calling (510) 383-8600.

Donate Blood. The City of Berkeley, the Berkeley Unified School District, and the American Red Cross are sponsoring a blood drive on Wed., June 17 . You can make an appointment HERE . You can also 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.

  • Information on additional food resources, such as CalFresh, WIC, and school meals, is available HERE.

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.

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

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