November 23, 2020
Dear Neighbor,
As we continue to grind through 2020, I know many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue.

Preliminary findings on the efficacy of vaccines give us reason to be hopeful, although we await more research into the nature and duration of the protective effect of the vaccines and more information about their distribution and uptake
On Tues., Nov. 17, the California Department of Public Health shifted Berkeley and Alameda County from the orange "moderate" tier back to the most restrictive purple "widespread" tier of the state's four tiers used to measure Covid-19 spread, as displayed below.
State's Four Tiers Used to Measure Covid-19 Spread
(with accompanying metrics)
*HPI refers to the California Healthy Places Index. The state uses the the Healthy Places Index (HPI) to identify the least advantaged census tracts. The HPI is a composite measure of different indicators that reflect geographic socioeconomic disadvantage. In general, the neighborhoods with lowest HPI scores have the highest Covid-19 rates.
In mid-October, Berkeley had advanced to the orange “moderate” tier, which enabled certain indoor activities to reopen with restrictions and for our Health Officer to give middle and high schools permission to reopen. Unfortunately, our return to the purple "widespread" tier means that we must go back to not allowing certain indoor activities; schools that have not already reopened are prevented from doing so (with the exception of small in-person cohorts). More detail about the new health order is provided below. 

As we look to Thanksgiving this coming week, I know many of us are feeling the disappointment of not being able to gather with our loved ones as we normally would. The safest Thanksgiving gathering is with your own household only and connecting with extended family and friends virtually. If you choose to gather in-person with people outside of your household, then stay outside, keep it short (two hours max) and small (no more than three households and 20 people), be sure to wear a facial covering, and keep six feet of physical distance from those outside of your household. 

In this newsletter:
  • Restricting Indoor Activities as Cases Surge
  • Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely: Limit Gatherings and Avoid Travel
  • Upcoming Meetings Related to Zoning Ashby & N. Berkeley BART Stations
Restricting Indoor Activities as Cases Surge
State officials, noting a surge in Covid-19 cases locally, moved Berkeley and the rest of Alameda County into the most restrictive purple tier that requires certain businesses to only operate outdoors.
The new restrictions reflect some truths about the virus that everyone should know: half of all Covid-19 cases are believed to be unknowingly spread by those who feel fine; face coverings have a powerful protective effect; and the virus spreads more easily indoors.

This also means that we each have the power to slow the spread.

  • Everyone should always do the essentials: stay home when sick, wear a face covering, wash hands frequently, keep at least six feet of physical distance from those not in your household and get a flu vaccine.
  • Budget your risk by being selective about what activities you choose to do and forgoing others to balance your overall risk exposure.
  • When leaving the safety of home, use three questions to help assess and choose lower risk activities: Where will you go? Who will attend? What will happen?

These three questions should guide you to limit activities to a small stable groupof no more than three households and 20 peoplethat meets outdoors while wearing facial coverings and keeping six feet of distance from those outside of your household. Avoid confined spaces, crowds, and close contact with those outside of your household.

"California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yetfaster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer," Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement that placed 41 of the state's 58 counties in the most restrictive purple tier. "The spread of Covid-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes."

Restricting indoor activities that mix multiple households
The state decision, which is reflected in a new City of Berkeley Health Order effective Nov. 18, prohibits certain indoor activities while allowing others to operate with capacity limits and other restrictions.

The following businesses must only operate outdoors: restaurants, wineries, museums, galleries, botanical gardens, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, exhibition spaces, gyms, fitness centers, dance studios, yoga centers, churches, and swimming pools.

State law will allow certain industries to remain open indoors, but limited to 25 percent capacity: retail stores, shopping centers, and strip malls.

Grocery and convenience stores can remain open at 50 percent capacity.
Many businesses that operate indoors using restrictionsfrom nail salons to barberswill remain open, but will need to continue to use the City's Health Order and state industry guidance, such as for personal care services. See what's open or closed in Berkeley.

All TK-12 schools were given the option to reopen in Berkeley. The state decision means that schools currently teaching students in person may continue to do so. Effective Nov. 18, those schools that have not yet reopened will not be allowed to start doing so except for state-defined "cohorts"small group in-person services in controlled, supervised, and indoor environments.

Without action, surge in cases forebodes much worse
The rate of growth is a critical metric for Covid-19, which spreads quickly unless people change behavior or restrictions are imposed. Nationwide, in California, and locally, data show a dramatic rise in cases.

Cases statewide doubled in the ten-day period from Nov. 7-17. In addition, from Nov. 1-7, cases increased by more than 51 percent over the previous seven-day period. That's the fastest growth since the pandemic began, Newsom said. 

In Berkeley, the new case rate per 100,000 people over seven days in late October was 0.7 cases; but by the week of Nov. 9, it reached 5.6 cases per 100,000. On Nov. 17, the state as a whole was at 16.5 new cases per 100,000. Of Berkeley's 916 cases since the start of the pandemic, 111 were reported from Nov. 3-17. One million of the nation's 11 million cases (as of Nov. 17) were reported over the week prior.

"With cases surging, we face a critical threat to our community, region, and state as a whole," said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Berkeley's Health Officer. "These state restrictions limit some high-risk environments for spread. But our own actions have a huge impact."

"Each of us must take immediate steps," said Hernandez. "To drive down infection rates now, we all must limit gatherings, wear face coverings, use physical distancing, wash hands frequently and stay home when sick." 

Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely: Limit Gatherings and Avoid Travel
Protect yourself and your loved ones during the holidays by limiting in-person gatherings, skipping non-essential travel, and seeking alternatives to traditions that pose high risk for Covid-19 spread.
The centerpiece at our family's Thanksgiving last year.
The safest way to celebrate is with your household only. If you choose to gather with extended family and friends outside of your household, then make sure it's a small stable group that meets outdoors for a short time with facial coverings and six feet of distance from people outside of your household.

Avoid holiday travel, but if you must, take extra precautions and avoid higher risk activities like spending time indoors with those without a mask. Health Officers strongly recommend that those who travel quarantine themselves for 14 days.

These holiday travel and gathering recommendations, released jointly earlier this month by the Health Officers of the City of Berkeley and eight Bay Area counties, come as we see cases surging.

We need everyone to do their part in order to reduce transmission. We must maintain healthy habits, be selective about which public activities we do, and adapt our traditions to find new ways to celebrate that don't lead to a spike in cases. 

Avoid travel during the holidays
Travel outside the Bay Area increases your chance of getting infected and spreading the virus to others after your return. Health Officers recommend that everyone avoid non-essential travel during the holiday season.

If you do travel, take precautions to reduce your risk of catching Covid-19 or spreading it to fellow travelers:
  • Wear a face covering at all times
  • Keep at least six feet away from other travelers, when possible
  • Open windows in cars or buses
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Get tested before and after your travel
  • Get a flu shot before traveling

Do not travel if you are sick. If you have a cough, fever, sore throat, or other symptoms consistent with Covid-19, isolate yourself at home.

Quarantine for 14 days after returning
Health Officers strongly recommend that anyone who travels outside of the Bay Area quarantine at home for 14 days after their return.

Monitor your health during this period and get tested immediately if you have any symptoms. Even if you don't develop symptoms, consider getting tested around three to seven days after your return, particularly if you visited an area with heightened Covid-19 transmission. 

If celebrating with others, keep gatherings small and safe
Gathering with family, friends, and neighbors is a treasured part of the holidays for many of us. This year, most of those celebrations will need to become virtual events. If you're planning to gather in person, please do so in a way that minimizes risk:
  • Stay outside. During the pandemic, socializing outdoors is much safer than indoors. Covered spaces are okay, as long as 75 percent of the space is open to the outdoors.
  • Keep it small. Current State and City rules limit gatherings to a maximum of three households and 20 people.
  • Keep it short. The longer people gather together, the greater the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Limit gatherings with people outside of your household to a maximum of two hours.
  • Stick with a stable group. Pick one or two other households to spend time with. Don't participate in multiple gatherings with many different households. The more that different households mix together, the higher the risk of spreading Covid-19.

During gatherings with your small group, everyone should wear a facial covering and stay six feet away from those with whom they do not live.

Avoid singing and chanting
Music is part of many of our holiday traditions, but this is not the year for caroling. Singing, chanting, and shouting all increase the amount and force of respiratory droplets we expel, causing them to travel farther than usual. These droplets are the primary way Covid-19 spreads between people. Due to the elevated risk, avoid singing and chanting when around people with whom you do not live.

Adapt by moving traditions online this year
Even though we can't celebrate in person the way we're used to, we can still connect with friends and family virtually. Look for alternative ways to enjoy the holidays with loved ones without getting together:
  • Host a virtual holiday dinner or brunch over videoconference.
  • Recreate the fun of cooking together remotelypick a recipe to make together over video chat.
  • Sync up and enjoy a favorite holiday movie while on the phone together.
  • Organize an online holiday craft or home decoration contest.
  • Cook your favorite holiday foods at home and deliver them to friends and family. Rememberif you're sharing food with people you don't live with, then make sure to wash your hands frequently and wear a face covering while cooking and delivering your treats.

Covid-19 doesn't take holidays off. For the health of our whole community, please be careful to reduce opportunities for spread this seasonavoid travel, limit gatherings, and choose remote celebrations.

Upcoming Meetings Related to Zoning Ashby & N. Berkeley BART Stations
Please SAVE THE DATE for Wed., Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. for a Planning Commission Environmental Impact Report Public Scoping Meeting. Members of the public can provide comments related to: possible impacts on the physical environment; ways in which potential adverse effects might be minimized, mitigated or avoided; and alternatives to the proposed project. If you're interested in attending, please check the Planning Commission website for information on how to join the meeting and to confirm the meeting date, time, and agenda HERE.

Please SAVE THE DATE for Mon., Dec. 14 from 6-9 p.m. for Meeting #4 of the BART Community Advisory Group. More information will be posted HERE.
COVID-19 Resources
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.

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. Anyone 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 or calling (510) 383-8600.

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.

  • 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: or 510-981-7110.
My Website
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COVID-19 Information Sources