Berkeleyside is keeping this post updated with the latest news about COVID-19 in Berkeley. Hear of something relevant? Please let us know. Looking for updates around local food and restaurants? Find those in the Nosh blog. And don’t miss complete coronavirus coverage on Berkeleyside.
Wednesday June 3
POINT ISABEL REOPENS Point Isabel Regional Shoreline reopened June 1 after being closed April 2 to comply with the shelter-in-place order. As with at all East Bay Regional Park District parks during lockdown, dogs must remain on-leash and people must follow social distancing protocols. Some features and areas at Point Isabel are currently turned off or closed, such as drinking fountains and hoses, some parking spaces and some bathrooms, but poop bag dispensers have been refilled and trash is being collected. Mudpuppy’s and the Sit and Stay Café will reopen June 4 for takeout and dog-wash appointments, respectively. The off-leash dog area at Cesar Chavez Park has remained open during lockdown.
Tuesday, June 2
CAL RECEIVES $12 MILLION DONATION FOR COVID-19 RECOVERY The San Francisco Koret Foundation announced $50 million in grants to universities to recover from COVID-19 disruptions, with Cal receiving $12 million. The grant will be divided between multiple organizations, including STEM Scholars Program, Women’s Softball, Visiting Scholars from Israel, and the Chancellor’s Impact Fund.
ONE DEATH LINKED TO BERKELEY NURSING HOME A patient from Elmwood Care Facility died after contracting COVID-19, authorities say. But Berkeley’s Chaparral House skilled nursing facility has had no COVID-19 infections or deaths to date, despite being identified by the state as having had at least one coronavirus fatality there.
Saturday, May 30
SATURDAY TOWN HALL Social bubbles, masks for all, increased testing and increased child care: City officials shared updates about these topics and more in Saturday’s latest “virtual town hall.” If you missed the highlights, you can catch up here.
Friday, May 29
REDUCED CHARGES FOR CITY PARKING RESUMES City parking meters will be set to charge $0.50 starting Monday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rates will fluctuate based on parking availability, and updated rates will be available online, as well as intructions to pay by phone.. The city hopes the move will discourage long-term parking and allow residents to visit businesses as they reopen.
MORE DISTANCE LEARNING COMING IN FALL Berkeley Unified leaders confirmed Wednesday that they expect to continue “distance learning” at the start of the 2020-21 school year, reserving school campuses — if they’re permitted to reopen — for “supplemental” uses.
SOME RESEARCHERS TO RETURN TO CAMPUS IN JUNE Researchers and graduate students in some departments may be returning to campus in June with face coverings, social distancing, and possible daily screenings. A Cal “Safe Campus Initiative” to track COVID-19 cases in 4,000 campus community members, including these researchers, graduate students, essential workers, and undergraduate students, will begin next week. This study will collaborate closely with a Cal study testing asymptomatic COVID-19 spread in 5,000 local residents.
CAL YOUTH RECREATION SPORTS CLASSES CANCELED All summer camps offered by UC Berkeley’s Recreational Sports program, including year-round archery, recreational and competitive gymnastics, skate classes, and swimming lessons, will be canceled. Full refunds are being issued for all camps and courses.
REMINDER: VIRTUAL TOWN HALL COMES SATURDAY Every Saturday at noon, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín talks with the city manager and health officer in a “virtual town hall” to share the latest information about what Berkeley is doing in response to COVID-19. Submit questions at http://www.jessearreguin.com. The website will show the livestream, which has also been available on YouTube and Facebook.
BERKELEY WAY WILL NOW BREAK GROUND IN JUNE The Berkeley Food & Housing Project provided an update Friday on its efforts to launch the 186-bed Hope Center, the city’s most ambitious supportive housing and shelter project to date for unhoused individuals. The $120 million project was set to break ground earlier this spring but COVID-19 delayed it. BFHP’s executive director said groundbreaking will now happen next month. The organization also shared updates about its response to COVID-19 in a virtual town hall Friday morning. Highlights are here.
Thursday, May 28
SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED. SO STUDENTS SHARE MEMES The popular BHS Meme account on Instagram plays many roles, including student news source and virtual gathering place during the pandemic. Hear from the anonymous Berkeley High senior who secretly runs it.
SIX SENIOR HEALTH FACILITIES WILL BE FULLY TESTED Berkeley has pledged to complete COVID-19 testing for all residents and staff in the city’s six skilled nursing and long-term care facilities as part of an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus in a population known to be among the most vulnerable to the deadly disease, officials announced this week. Testing at two of those facilities has already been completed, and it began at a third site this week. Together, the six sites include 418 residents and 297 staff members, according to the city.
Wednesday, May 27
NEW HOMES SET UP FOR SOME UNHOUSED BERKELEYANS The city of Berkeley is set to move dozens of unhoused people into 18 RVs and a rehabbed house as part of a new “respite program” approved by officials Tuesday night in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Berkeley Food & Housing Project will provide wrap-around services at three city sites over the next year in collaboration with city staff.
Tuesday, May 26
BERKELEY BANS EVICTIONS DURING CRISIS The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to expand its eviction moratorium, suspending all evictions until the local state of emergency is lifted. Tenants who lost income during the crisis will have a year to pay back the missed rent.
NEWSOM BRIEFING On Tuesday’s COVID-19 update from Gov. Gavin Newsom, the governor described what he’s done recently to release new guidance around places of worship and retail. He also reminded everyone to stay vigilant as people are allowed to mix more and more: “We’re not even out of the first wave of this pandemic,” he said. “This pandemic has just begun. It hasn’t ended.” See highlights from the briefing.
Sunday, May 24
SAY CONGRATS TO A GRAD The Berkeley High Jacket has launched a digital message board where family members, friends and teachers can post congratulatory notes for graduating seniors. With the in-person graduation ceremony and prom canceled, the student newspaper wants to offer an alternative way to mark the momentous occasion.
Saturday, May 23
LATEST FROM THE CITY Every Saturday, Mayor Jesse Arreguín brings together the city manager and city health officer for a “virtual town hall” to share updates online about Berkeley’s COVID-19 response and answer questions community members submit in advance. If you missed it, you can catch up here and see the highlights from Saturday’s session.
Friday, May 22
BERKELEY FALLS BEHIND IN TESTING Berkeley residents are getting tested for COVID-19 infections at lower rates than people living elsewhere in the Bay Area, a Berkeleyside analysis has found.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GOVERNOR Friday’s noon briefing from Gov. Gavin Newsom focused on keeping veterans safe, along with some other updates. There are eight veterans’ homes throughout the state. They all shut down visits about two weeks before the state declared a shelter-in-place emergency. Newsom said 43 of the 58 counties in California have already submitted applications to loosen shelter-in-place rules faster than the state. More are coming. See the thread.
Thursday, May 21
ELMWOOD SENIOR FACILITY HAS SECOND CASE A second patient at Elmwood Care Center, the largest skilled nursing facility in Berkeley, has tested positive for COVID-19. “It’s terrifying,” the relative of a patient there told Berkeleyside. “I’m just trying to find out what’s going on and be stoic.”
SCHOOLS OFFER COUNSELING Licensed mental health care professionals are offering support to students, families and teachers from Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy through a service called “the warm line” while the schools remain closed. Services are available in English and Spanish at 510-981-5240 weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program is part of the city’s mental health strategy during the pandemic.
Wednesday, May 20
THE LATEST STATS We continue to update COVID-19 figures daily at the local, regional, state, national and global levels. We generally update around 2 p.m., then in the evening and also closer to midnight so as to share the latest figures compiled by all the agencies we’re tracking directly. Bookmark our numbers post and share it to help spread the word.
BLOOD DRIVE ON JUNE 17 The Berkeley Fire Department, BUSD and the American Red Cross have joined forces to organize a blood drive in Berkeley on June 17. As they point out, “someone in the US needs blood on average of every two seconds, but blood donations have dramatically decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The drive will take place at the Donahue Gym at Berkeley High School and appointments can be scheduled online. All blood types are needed.
PPE DONATIONS STILL NEEDED The city has put out a call for more donations of personal protective equipment. It says the Berkeley community has been generous so far. “In the six weeks since we started soliciting PPE donations, 282 people have offered to help… and we’ve received: 801 gloves; 658 hand made masks; 2,471 N-95s; 500 head covers; thousands of surgical masks; and 92 homemade face shields.” Also needed: thermometers, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectants. To give, complete the online donation form.
Tuesday, May 19
FIRST KNOWN CASE AT SENIOR FACILITY A patient who had been staying in Berkeley’s largest skilled nursing facility, the Elmwood Care Center, has tested positive for COVID-19. The patient had symptoms and was moved to a hospital late last week, then tested positive. At this point, no other staff or patients have tested positive, a spokesman for the facility told Berkeleyside. Testing is ongoing this week.
RELIEF FUND FOR ARTISTS The East Bay Community Foundation has announced its support for the East Bay/Oakland Relief Fund for Individuals in the Arts, which will grant out $625,000 to artists and culture workers living in Alameda and Contra Costa counties with at least $300,000 dedicated specifically to residents of Oakland. The funds will support artists, teaching artists, culture bearers and nonprofit arts workers from historically underserved communities who are economically vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
GROUPS PUSH FOR MORE OUTREACH TO LATINX COMMUNITY In Alameda County, Latinx residents are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Advocates say information and services should be more accessible — and they’re working to connect residents with city programs and immediate relief.
Monday, May 18
NEW SHELTER-IN-PLACE RULES ALLOW MORE CURBSIDE PICKUP Health officers in Berkeley and across the Bay Area announced a loosening of their shelter-in-place rules Monday, allowing retail shops to reopen for curbside pickup and delivery, and manufacturing and warehouse operations to resume.
Friday, May 15
STREETS, SIDEWALKS MAY BE OPENED UP TO ALLOW OUTDOOR DINING – Allowing tables and chairs to spill into public spaces would help the restaurant business and allow for social distancing.
CURBSIDE PICKUP STILL TABOO, SO STORES TURN TO DELIVERY Retail stores are now taking orders over the phone and are delivering items directly.
Thursday, May 14
BIG CHANGES COMING TO BERKELEY SCHOOLS Orderly hallways, 12-person classes, teenagers with face coverings, long bathroom lines. At a town hall Wednesday, BUSD leaders painted a stark picture of how schools could be restructured if they reopen in the fall.
LEGAL QUESTIONS DURING COVID-19 CRISIS Berkeley-based publisher of legal books, articles and software NOLO is a useful resource for legal questions during the pandemic. Its website addresses questions such as one’s rights to paid sick leave, medical leave, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, or disability benefits. It also publishes legal updates and information on emergency orders, government policies and laws that have been enacted in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
FREE PET FOOD AT BERKELEY HUMANE Over the last month, Berkeley Humane has seen a sharp increase in requests for food from its Pet Food Pantry, pointing, it says, to the real financial impact COVID-19 is having on pet guardians. The nonprofit is helping by providing for free a two-week supply of dog or cat food for those that need it. Pickups are on Fridays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon at 2700 Ninth St. (at Carleton St.). Please arrive wearing a mask and keep the appropriate distance from others.
Wednesday, May 13
NEW CITY EMAIL TO ASK ABOUT COVID-19 News you can use from Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s office: “The City has launched a new email address where you can ask your questions about COVID-19. You can send your questions to email@example.com. Staff are monitoring this account and will respond to your questions.” Learn about this and more, including the weekly town hall about COVID-19, on the mayor’s website. Highlights from the most recent town hall are online.
SOME CITY BUSINESS TO RESUME Some of the commissions and committees that have been on hold in Berkeley in recent months will resume meeting later this month — virtually, of course. Those bodies include the Zoning Adjustments Board, Design Review Committee and Police Review, Planning, Landmarks Preservation and Disaster & Fire Safety commissions, among others. See the memo from the city manager with further information.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING Gov. Gavin Newsom used his noon briefing Wednesday to provide an update about his plans for the revised May budget (coming out Thursday) and to increase fire safety as fire season approaches. There was a nearly 70% increase in wildfires in California from January through mid-May compared with the same period in 2019. Newsom also reminded people Wednesday about the state’s interactive map to find free and (paid) community testing sites near you. See more highlights from the noon briefing.
Tuesday, May 12
CITY WORKERS BECOME SLEUTHS TRACKING DOWN COVID-19 CASES The public health division is ramping up the training of contact tracers to figure out who has become exposed to the novel coronavirus.
Monday, May 11
BUSD BRACES FOR BUDGET CUTS New, grim predictions about California’s education budget has sent BUSD leaders into a state of “despair.” Staffers are looking into possible budget reductions for the fall totaling $2 million to 6 million.
COVID-19 CASES AT CAL According to UC Berkeley’s coronavirus page, 11 people in the Cal community “are known to have tested positive for COVID-19.” They include a graduate student living in off-campus, non-university housing (March 14); two undergraduate students returning from study abroad (March 20); two undergrads returning from study abroad (March 24); two undergrads returning from study abroad (March 25); one undergrad returning from study abroad (March 31); a staff member who was not on campus during the exposure risk period (April 8); an undergraduate student who lives in off-campus, non-university housing (April 15); and a graduate student who lives at University Village (April 22). On Monday, Chancellor Carol Christ answered questions about UC Berkeley’s response to coronavirus in a virtual Campus Conversation.
GOVERNOR’S UPDATE Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday in his noon briefing that western states have banded together to ask the feds for $1 trillion in aid related to COVID-19. On the topic of protective gear, Newsom said California released 11 million surgical masks Friday “to critical industries” throughout the state, including 5 million to the Department of Social Services for child care facilities, in-home support services and more. See more highlights from the briefing.
Thursday, May 7
SOME FLORISTS ARE OPENING DESPITE SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDER Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week that some businesses, including florists, bookstores, sporting good stores, could offer curbside delivery starting Friday. But Berkeley has not yet permitted this. The mixed messaging has caused confusion.
UC BERKELEY EXPLORES THREE SCENARIOS FOR OPENING IN FALL Chancellor Carol Christ has appointed three committees to explore options and said the campus will decide in mid-June which to pursue. They include: continuing with full remote instruction; resuming in-person operations with some restrictions; and returning to normal operations while allowing some people to learn remotely.
Wednesday, May 6
FREE TESTS FOR THOSE WITH SYMPTOMS Anyone who lives or works in Berkeley and has COVID-19 symptoms can now call the city to request an appointment to get tested, the city announced Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday, May 5
SKATE PARK TAKING SIGN-UPS STARTING THIS WEEK A skate park with rigid rules might seem oxymoronic, but that’s life at the Berkeley Skate Park at 711 Harrison St. under the shelter-in-place order. Until Monday, the park was closed, but now skaters can sign up for hour-long skate slots online, or as a walk-up if there’s still space. City staff will monitor entries and social distancing is required. Other athletic courts remain closed, and any sports involving shared equipment are off-limits in Berkeley.
NEWSOM BRIEFING The state has distributed more than $10 billion in unemployment claims since mid-March, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday in his noon briefing. More than 4 million Californians have filed claims since that time. Newsom said the state is seeing more federal payroll support in the second wave of help from that program: With just 60% of the money distributed, the state has already reached the same level — $34 billion — as it did during the entire first wave. See more highlights from his remarks.
Monday, May 4
BERKELEY KID FINDS STATE’S MATH MISTAKE At his teacher’s encouragement, an 11-year King Middle School student identified a mathematical error in a state-issued sign about social-distancing. Cruz Foster politely let California officials know about their mistake and pitched them a revised design.
ENTERING ‘PHASE 2’ Gov. Gavin Newsom described how the state plans to move later this week into the next phase of its response to COVID-19 with a loosening of restrictions at shops selling clothing, books, music, toys, sporting goods, florists and more. But places like the Bay Area that have more rigid rules in place will need to stick with the local regulations, he cautioned. See highlights from his announcement. Berkeley got a special shout out for being one of just three cities in the state with its own public health staff.
WHAT BERKELEY LOOKS LIKE IN LOCKDOWN A new short film made for Berkeleyside by Pedal Born Pictures documents life in Berkeley in its second month on coronavirus lockdown. It takes in shuttered businesses, masked shoppers in line to get food, an astonishing artwork depicting a pair of basketball players and neighbors singing to lift spirits. But the star might be the wild turkey calmly observing the city from high up in the hills, perhaps contemplating how wildlife have the upper hand during a pandemic.
TOWN HALL ON CONSTRUCTION, CRIME TRENDS, TESTING The city’s latest “virtual town hall” included updates on construction, testing and public safety, among other topics. Crime is down, for the most part. The city will be sending out staff to monitor whether shelter-in-place rules are being followed. Land use commissions like the zoning board, landmarks commission and design review are expected to begin meeting again (virtually) soon. And Berkeley is working on expanding testing to anyone in the city with symptoms, but that operation isn’t up and running yet, as of Monday. The city also announced its new data dashboard. See what else you missed.
Friday, May 1
BERKELEY IS OUT OF PROJECT ROOMKEY La Quinta was set to open Friday as a respite for homeless individuals in Alameda County, including many who live in Berkeley, but now the deal is dead. Each side holds the other responsible for the breakdown.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING In his noon briefing Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom updated listeners on a number of key statistics related to protective gear, unemployment and infections. More than 2,000 Californians have now died from COVID-19. Ninety-one of them died in the past 24 hours, he said. But other infection figures are stabilizing. Check out highlights from the briefing.
Thursday, April 30
AT TOWN HALL, BUSD LOOKS TO FUTURE As BUSD faces major decisions about the fall semester and the end of this school year, district leaders shared ideas and sought parental feedback at an interactive town hall. Virtual graduation is a go; whether students will have to social-distance in the fall is less certain.
THE NEW MEANING OF BUYING OR SELLING A HOME The pandemic and its associated stay-at-home orders is having a clear impact on the housing market, both economically and in terms of how the process now has to work.
NEW STATE RESOURCE TO FIND CHILD CARE On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a new website where people throughout the state can find information about local child care options. It was part of his daily noon briefing about the state’s response to COVID-19. Berkeleyside posts live highlights from the announcements each day as they happen. Newsom noted that 95 people had died in the last 24 hours from COVID-19, reminding people, “It’s not gone away” despite recent stabilization in many infection figures. “Don’t be fooled by that,” he said. Also from the briefing: The state has now secured nearly 13,000 hotel rooms for unsheltered people through its Project Roomkey initiative.
OVERHAULED “BY THE NUMBERS” DASHBOARD If you haven’t seen it in awhile, be sure to have a look at Berkeleyside’s dashboard of COVID-19 figures in Berkeley and beyond. We’re updating the numbers multiple times a day based on the latest reliable information. We’ve recently added two interactive charts — one is cumulative and one is by date — to show COVID-19 stats in Berkeley and the broader county.
CATCH UP WITH CAL CONVERSATIONS We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: UC Berkeley is hosting a number of fascinating discussions about COVID-19 that are available online to everyone in the community. Friday’s session is focused on reopening California’s economy safely. Upcoming talks will look at long-term impacts on the health care system; the role of journalism in a pandemic; how COVID-19 will shape the November election and much more. The sessions that have happened already are posted online too.
Wednesday, April 29
NEXT VIRTUAL TOWN HALL COMES SATURDAY Mayor Jesse Arreguín, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez will update the community Saturday at noon about what Berkeley has been doing to respond to COVID-19. Catch up on prior town hall events and bookmark the link to watch the upcoming session. Submit your questions to the mayor in advance with this form.
TENANTS AND LANDLORDS WORRY ABOUT FUTURE OF RENT Eviction moratoriums provide some temporary relief for tenants who can’t pay rent. But everyone from those renters to corporate landlords are still feeling worried about the future, as the May 1 rent due date approaches.
STAY-AT-HOME ORDER EXTENDED, WITH SOME RULES RELAXED Construction and a few more outdoor activities will be permitted under a new shelter-in-place order for Berkeley and six Bay Area counties. The order goes into effect Monday and lasts through May.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new partnership between farmers and food banks. The former have seen steep declines in demand while the latter are having a spike. See other updates about the state’s response to COVID-19.
COUNCIL UPDATES The City Council decided Tuesday night about which questions to ask likely voters in an upcoming survey related to possible ballot measures for November. Mayor Jesse Arreguín suggested testing on three variants of a fire and emergency tax; an item on wildfire prevention; and an item related to the creation of a climate action fund through a local tax on gas distributors and/or an increase on the utility users tax. His motion carried. Council is set to review the survey results in June then decide what to place on the ballot.
Tuesday, April 28
BERKELEY HANDS OUT $1.7 MILLION IN EMERGENCY GRANTS About 350 small businesses and 37 arts organizations were the first to receive money from Berkeley Relief Fund. Most of the business grantees were restaurants and retail stores.
Monday, April 27
SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDER WILL BE EXTENDED The Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order will be extended through the end of May, the city of Berkeley and six other health departments announced. The new order, which will be released later in the week, will include some minimal easing of the restrictions.
DESPITE RAISING THOUSANDS, SOME BUSINESSES CAN’T COLLECT FROM GOFUNDME GoFundMe promises to get funds out relatively quickly, but some businesses and nonprofits say they have had to wait weeks for the money. Others are still waiting.
Friday, April 24
COUNTY MAP SHOWS ZIP CODES WITH MOST COVID-19 CASES Only one Berkeley zip code — 94703 — has more than 10 COVID-19 cases so far, according to a new interactive map tracking geographic distribution of the disease.
NEXT VIRTUAL “TOWN HALL” COMES SATURDAY Mayor Jesse Arreguín is holding his next virtual town hall event about COVID-19 on Saturday at noon with the city manager and Berkeley health officer. They’ll provide an update on the city’s response and will also answer community questions that were submitted in advance. The city auditor is expected to talk about her recent overview of economic pressures Berkeley is likely to face. You can see the livestream at http://www.jessearreguin.com. Submit questions to the mayor’s office by 9 a.m. Saturday. [Note: If you missed the event, see the highlights here.]
SUTTER HEALTH For those wondering about the role of the tents outside the entrance to the ER at Alta Bates hospital, Sutter Health told us they are “surge tents” to prepare for a potential surge in patients, and to protect their patients’ and staff members’ health by keeping patients with respiratory symptoms away from the general population. “Preparedness efforts are an integral part of our response,” a spokesperson said. More details.
BERKELEY MAYOR IS GUEST ON CALIFORNIA SUN PODCAST Arreguín spoke to California Sun podcast host Jeff Schechtman about the challenges of running a city during a public-health pandemic. He talks about its economic impact, which he says is closer to the Great Depression than to the 2008 financial crisis, and how the crisis is affecting the city’s homeless community. But he says he believes Berkeley’s caring spirit will prevail.
EBRPD ISSUES NEW “COVER YOUR FACE” ORDER The East Bay parks district has issued a new “cover your face” order in line with the five-county face covering mandate issued April 17. The parks order recommends the public carry cloth face coverings and wear them when within six feet of others, including when hiking, running, and biking. The new order also recommends that runners and cyclists, who “more forcefully expel airborne particles,” should take extra steps to avoid exposing others.
GOVERNOR’S UPDATE The state has launched a new “friendship line” to help seniors and others stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday in his daily video briefing on social media. Several statistics related to coronavirus infections have stabilized in recent dates, but Newsom said 93 people in California died in the past 24 hours, with 5% more positive tests: “Those should be sobering and cautionary statistics,” he said. See more from the briefing.
Thursday, April 23
UC BERKELEY WILL CONTINUE ONLINE CLASSES IN 2020-21 ACADEMIC YEAR Given the uncertainty about COVID-19 and the fact that it may not be safe for some students to travel to Berkeley, the university will continue to offer online classes, officials announced Thursday. When classes resume, they will be phased in “with certain types of classes considered more appropriate to resume in-person than others.” Regardless, tuition will remain the same and will “not be refunded in the event instruction occurs remotely for any part of the Academic Year.”
TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES AHEAD Business closures in Berkeley could affect some 30,000 jobs, with unemployment reaching 27% or more, the city auditor estimated in a new report released this week about local economic impacts from COVID-19. The auditor will discuss the new report publicly on Saturday and Monday. Details are here.
BERKELEY SCHOOLS WILL STAY CLOSED The Berkeley School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to keep all schools closed through the end of the academic year. There could be big changes to public education in the fall too.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING California has distributed nearly $4 billion in unemployment insurance since March 15 to nearly 4 million Californians, Gov. Gavin Newsom reported Thursday in his noon briefing. That includes almost $1 billion dollars just since Sunday, he said. He also announced a new order he signed to stop debt collectors from garnishing federal CARES Act aid, and a 90-day suspension of student loan payments. Wednesday was “the deadliest day for this virus in the state,” with 115 people who died. Other infection figures have been stabilizing. See the highlights.
Wednesday, April 22
HOW TO REPORT SHELTER-IN-PLACE VIOLATIONS In a recent email blast, Councilwoman Kate Harrison shared info on how to report violations at businesses related to the city’s shelter-in-place rules. Anyone with questions about business compliance related to masks and social distancing, or information about violations, can email the city or call 510-981-7530. Harrison writes, “If you’re reporting a complaint, include the business address and a short description of the activity you’re concerned about in your message.”
BUSD ‘ED HUB’ GIVES FAMILIES COMPUTERS, COLORED PENCILS For some Berkeley families, the only thing stopping their children from getting an education during the COVID-19 crisis is the lack of a computer or an internet connection. Berkeley Unified has partnered with the Berkeley Public Schools Fund to provide those supplies and others at a drive-through “Ed Hub.”
NEW KAISER LAB TO PROCESS 10K TESTS A DAY The new lab on Second Street will greatly enhance the region’s ability to test individuals.
BERKELEY SHELTER CLOSES DUE TO COVID-19 CASE The Pathways Center is temporarily closed. A client who tested positive and many others staying there have been moved to hotels in Oakland.
NEWSOM SAYS TESTING WILL BE KEY Gov. Gavin Newsom provided a wealth of details Wednesday about what the state is doing as far as testing and how this will help the state eventually move board toward normal operations. On Tuesday, he announced plans to build an “army of volunteers” to address a wide range of challenges. See how you can watch his noon briefings.
ICMYI: BERKELEY’S RECENT “VIRTUAL TOWN HALL” On Saturday, Mayor Jesse Arreguín, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez answered community questions about COVID-19 and shared some updates about what the city has been doing. The city said it has tested about 800 people so far. The city has put case counts by date on its open data portal. Berkeley says it plans to launch a data dashboard in the next week. Berkeley has had at least one homeless person who has tested positive.
Monday, April 20
PERSON-TO-PERSON MUTUAL AID FILLS GAP Individuals and communities are raising money to give directly to those struggling because of COVID-19.
FIRST HOMELESS PERSON TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 A person who was living in one of the Berkeley’s homeless shelters has tested positive for the coronavirus and has been moved to the Comfort Inn in Oakland, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said Saturday during a virtual town hall. As part of Project Roomkey, California has rented 104 rooms at the Comfort Inn on Edes Avenue to house people who have the virus or are exhibiting symptoms. The state has rented another nearby hotel, the Radisson, to hold medically fragile homeless individuals. The state is paying around $3.4 million to lease the hotels through the end of April for $186 per room per night. FEMA will reimburse state and local governments as much as 75% of the cost.
Friday, April 17
UC BERKELEY TO STUDY 5,000 ASYMPTOMATIC PEOPLE IN EAST BAY A study led by two UC Berkeley public health professors will track a representative sample of 5,000 healthy East Bay residents over several months to learn much more about the prevalence of asymptomatic COVID-19 and how it’s spread.
STEPPED-UP MASK REQUIREMENT Stricter rules requiring facial coverings in nearly all situations outside the home are expected to be announced Friday in Berkeley and other Bay Area counties to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
CITY OFFICIALS TO HOLD “VIRTUAL TOWN HALL” ON SATURDAY Mayor Jesse Arreguín, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez will provide updates on how Berkeley is addressing the ongoing COVID-19 crisis Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. Submit questions ahead of time. Watch the event live on the mayor’s website (and catch up on last week’s update if you missed it).
WATCH OUT FOR SCAMS Authorities in the Bay Area from the U.S. attorney’s office and the IRS have been warning the public about scammers who “may try to target the anticipated COVID-19 economic impact payments.” They’ve advised everyone to watch out for possible scams: “For most Americans, the payment will come in the form of a direct deposit into their bank account. However, for those taxpayers that traditionally receive tax refunds via paper check, including many elderly citizens and those who do not use banking services, the payments will be issued as a paper check. All taxpayers — whether they expect to receive a direct deposit or a paper check—may be the target of fraud.” Learn more on the Department of Justice website. Authorities also want to hear about possible scams. Call or email the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or email the IRS Criminal Investigation office. TIP: You can check on the status of your payment on the IRS website.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING In his noon briefing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said 3.1 million Californians have filed for unemployment insurance since mid-March. California saw its highest fatality figure in a single day since the pandemic began: 95 as of Thursday night. More than 3,500 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 within the senior facility system. Newsom said more than 18,000 people had been tested Thursday. He wants California to get to 25,000 daily, which he estimates will be in the case in the next few weeks. See the latest figures in our daily “by the numbers” roundup.
WHICH PARKS ARE STILL OPEN? The East Bay Regional Park District has created a handy interactive map to let you know which parks are open and closed, or restricted in other ways. It appears to be a great resource, particularly as the weekend approaches. More details from EBRPD are on its website.
BERKELEY TIGHTENS RULES FOR NURSING HOMES Everyone inside or visiting these facilities will have to wear face masks. Group activities and communal dining have been banned.
DELIVERING A BABY IS A NEW EXPERIENCE DURING THE PANDEMIC From virtual lactation classes to home deliveries, many pregnant women are having to totally reimagine the birth experience.
Thursday, April 16
HUNGRY? NEED GROCERIES? We put together a guide of where people who are struggling or who are essential workers can go to get food during the pandemic.
Wednesday, April 15
BERKELEY HAS ITS OWN HEALTH DEPT. WHAT’S THAT MEAN DURING A PANDEMIC? Berkeley is one of just three cities in California that has its own public health agency. Many readers asked us what residents gain — or lose — from this approach. We took a deep dive and here’s what we learned.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING At noon, the state announced new support for workers and plans to increase COVID-19 testing significantly by the end of the month. Gov. Gavin Newsom said, in his Wednesday briefing, that Tuesday had the highest one-day death figures in California since the pandemic began, more than 70. The one-day figure he shared Wednesday was 63. That’s in line with broader trends, he added: “Our numbers yesterday were the highest, but so were the nation’s.” See highlights from the briefing.
Tuesday, April 14
AT-RISK HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS MOVED TO OAKLAND HOTEL It has taken a few weeks to set up, but Berkeley moved 13 people Tuesday to the Radisson Hotel in Oakland. The state rented that facility to house medically fragile individuals and those over 65. Another hotel, Comfort Inn & Suites, will hold homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Update 4/15: Berkeley has also sent around 10 people displaying symptoms for COVID-19 to the hotels and is moving 19 other medically-fragile individuals.
GETTING BACK TO NORMAL In his noon briefing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’ll be watching what happens with COVID-19 hospitalization and infection figures over the next two weeks to decide whether he can relax the state’s shelter-in-place order. He also laid out the six areas the state is focusing on to make those decisions. See highlights from the briefing.
Monday, April 13
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would be sharing details Tuesday about the state’s plans for getting back to normal. He’s been talking with the governors of Oregon and Washington to come up with a regional approach for the West Coast. Most of the briefing focused on youth in the foster system and others who are at-risk. See the thread.
Friday, April 10
MANY PARKS AND PARKING LOTS CLOSED THIS WEEKEND The East Bay Regional Park District has closed a raft of parks, and parking areas, for Easter weekend to prevent overcrowding and enforce social distancing rules. See the full list before you venture out. Trails are still accessible on a walk-in or bike-in basis. Picnicking and group activities are prohibited.
A BUSY FRIDAY Mayor Jesse Arreguín held his first Friday town hall on YouTube and Gov. Gavin Newsom offered updates about nursing homes and other news. Berkeleyside tweeted highlights of both virtual events; you don’t need an account to view them, just click the links in the prior sentence. City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said she would review any street-sweeping parking tickets community members email her and will consider forgiving those fines. Berkeleyside also looked at how local religious communities are adapting to spiritual life during a global pandemic.
BUSD HOLDS TOWN HALL ON DISTANCE LEARNING A virtual town hall held by Berkeley Unified on Thursday was dominated by parental frustration at the temporary suspension of live online classes this week.
BERKELEY OPENS COVID-19 TESTING SITE The city, working with LifeLong Medical Care and UC Berkeley, will start testing first responders, essential city employees, homeless and other vulnerable individuals at a new testing site in West Berkeley.
Thursday, April 9
FIRST COVID-19 FATALITY The city of Berkeley announced its first coronavirus-related fatality. The patient was in their 40s and had an underlying medical condition.
VIRTUAL TOWN HALL Mayor Jesse Arreguín is holding a “virtual town hall” Friday from 2:30-3:30 p.m. There will be a livestream on the mayor’s website. People can submit questions in advance through an online form. In addition to the mayor, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez “will provide updates on what the City is doing” to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Also see the mayor’s latest video briefing, from Wednesday night. He gave an update on the city’s new program to help feed the homeless, Double Helping Hands. According to the mayor, Berkeley is planning to share more details, including demographic data, about people who are infected with COVID-19. He says the city is working to expand access to testing, with a goal of testing 150 people each day. The city is still accepting donations of supplies such as protective gear. The city received more than 1,000 applications for grant money from its Berkeley Relief Fund. The mayor and other city officials are also pushing AC Transit to bring bus service back to Berkeley neighborhoods, including the Berkeley Hills, where it has been cut.
The city has installed 10 new trailers for the homeless at 701 Harrison St. in West Berkeley to supplement the trailers the city already has on University Avenue. These 18 trailers are for homeless individuals who have contracted COVID-19, or are suspected to be infected, to isolate themselves. The city also wants to house “medically frail individuals” in these trailers.
CONSTRUCTION UNHAPPY ABOUT NEW RESTRICTIONS The extended shelter-in-place health order has greatly restricted what kinds of construction are allowed in Berkeley and in six Bay Area counties. Unions want to be able to continue building, however, and argue their workers can follow social distancing rules.
NEWSOM BRIEFING Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new effort Thursday to help cover the costs of hotel rooms for health care workers on the front lines. The state is now up to COVID-19 2,825 hospitalizations, including 1,132 patients in the ICU (which dropped slightly from Wednesday). The state continues to grow its ventilator stock. The current testing backlog is about 14,000.
Wednesday, April 8
BUSD SUSPENDS LIVE CLASSES AFTER ‘ZOOMBOMBER’ INCIDENT Just two days into its “distance learning” program, Berkeley Unified has suspended its use of video conferencing platforms after a naked adult “Zoombomber” infiltrated a lesson.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave an update into the state’s efforts related to supplies. Highlights included an announcement about new technology the state says can refurbish N95 masks to make them like new. Newsom also shared some data related to racial disparities around COVID-19 health outcomes. Since March 12, 2.4 million Californians have applied for unemployment.
Tuesday, April 7
CITY TURNS OFF PEDESTRIAN PUSHBUTTONS The city of Berkeley is turning off pedestrian pushbuttons at 47 high-traffic intersections, because, it says, surfaces that get touched a lot create opportunities the spread of COVID-19. In a tweet, the city said that once a pushbutton has been disabled, the walk sign will come on automatically. APS push buttons for those who are visually impaired will still work. The move comes after advocacy group Walk Bike Berkeley asked the city to take this step.
AC TRANSIT LINES OUT OF SERVICE Citing “conditions created by COVID-19,” AC Transit says lines 7, 36, 52, 65, 67, 79, 80 and 96 are not in service.
Monday, April 6
BART TO RUN TRAINS EVERY 30 MINUTES Starting Wednesday, weekday BART service will run every 30 minutes until further notice, the transit agency announced today, citing significant reduction in ridership as the cause. (BART ridership for Sunday, April 5, was 7,835 representing a 92% drop when compared to April ridership budget projections.) The move will potentially save the operating budget $3-7 million per month, BART said. The savings will be shifted to capital improvement projects. Note that BART now closes at 9 p.m. daily.
1918 LETTERS SHOW WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE A Berkeley man has hung onto a trove of letters his great-grandmother wrote to her husband during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The scenes she describes — closed schools, masks everywhere, makeshift hospitals — take on new significance today.
GOVERNOR’S UPDATES Gov. Gavin Newsom updates the state daily at noon about the latest in California’s efforts around COVID-19. Monday, his focus was on alternate care facilities: places that are being set up around the state to develop surge capacity. Under current projections, that will happen in California in May. Newsom said the state now has about 11,000 ventilators, up from about 7,600 before the outbreak — enough that he sent 500 to the national stockpile. On Saturday, Newsom gave an update on the state’s approach to testing. See both threads with the links in this section.
MAYOR LAUNCHES VIDEO BRIEFING, TOWN HALL Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín plans to share updates with the community by video on Monday and Wednesday evenings about what the city is doing in response to COVID-19: “These brief videos will provide a summary of the work our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has recently conducted, along with other relevant and critical information. The first video will be posted Monday, April 6. They will appear on the mayor’s Youtube page, “usually in the early evening.” Arreguín says he will also host weekly town halls starting Friday, details TBD. We’ll share that information when it’s available.
Friday, April 3
UC BERKELEY CONVERSATIONS Cal has kicked off a new online video series, “Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19,” with faculty experts from many disciplines: “Through Q&As, seminars, and panel discussions, they will share with you what they know and what they are learning and cut through the waves of often confusing and contradictory news being generated by the crisis.” The first session, which you can still watch, was on making sense of data about the virus’s spread. Coming Tuesday, Nobel Laureate Saul Perlmutter will host a discussion with researchers who are using computing and data science for COVID-19 response and recovery. See what else is planned and catch up on UC Berkeley’s “Coronavirus: Facts and Fears” live Q&A from March 25, in case you missed it.
GOVERNOR’S MESSAGE Friday’s noon briefing from Gov. Gavin Newsom focused on homelessness. The state currently has occupancy agreements for about 7,000 hotel rooms to house unsheltered people, he said. California is working toward 15,000. FEMA is reimbursing up to 75% for room costs, with state money helping with the rest. Saturday’s briefing will focus on testing. See Friday’s thread.
LOCAL FOOD PANTRIES SEE CLIENTS SURGE People who were employed before the coronavirus crisis are now food insecure. Some pantries have seen a doubling of the number of clients.
NO WOOD BURNING The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has told the public to avoid burning wood in fireplaces, outdoor fire pits or wood stoves while the shelter-in-place order is in effect, “to protect the respiratory health of all Bay Area residents.”
Thursday, April 2
CITY ENCOURAGES USE OF FACE MASKS The city of Berkeley’s health officer and other health officers around the region and state recommend that everyone cover their noses and mouths with cloth when leaving home for essential visits to doctor’s offices, supermarkets or pharmacies. N95 masks should be reserved for health workers but community members should wear other face coverings.
DAILY UPDATES FROM THE GOVERNOR Gov. Gavin Newsom is sharing noon-time updates each day on Twitter and Facebook. Berkeleyside has been tuning in. On Wednesday he talked about schools and on Thursday he focused on small businesses. Every day there are new numbers to share and information about more resources for struggling Californians. Thursday, Newsom pointed people to OnwardCA, a new website with jobs related to health care, agriculture, logistics and grocers. There are 70,000 open jobs listed already.
BERKELEY WORKERS STRUGGLE AND GET CREATIVE Diverse industries have seen mass layoffs as a result of shelter-in-place orders. In Berkeley, bouncers, bartenders, florists, hairstylists, housekeepers, retail workers, musicians and booksellers have suddenly found themselves without a job, struggling or inventing workarounds to keep their connections and income streams.
Wednesday, April 1
EBRPD CLOSES POINT ISABEL East Bay Regional Park District started closing Point Isabel Regional Shoreline today ahead of a full closure effective April 2 at 7 a.m. The park district made the decision in the wake of the recent extended shelter-in-place order that covers six Bay Area counties and includes additional restrictions, including dog parks.
BERKELEY OPENS UP APPLICATIONS FOR COVID-19 RELIEF Small businesses, arts organizations and renters can now apply to get some of the $3 million the city is offering through the Berkeley Relief Fund.
BERKELEY WORKSHOP MAKES FACE SHIELDS FOR HEALTH WORKERS The owner and the manager of a West Berkeley metal shop switched gears to start producing PPE. The response has been tremendous.
Tuesday, March 31
STAY-AT-HOME ORDER EXTENDED TO MAY 3 As promised, Berkeley and Bay Area health officials have extended their shelter-in-place order until early May. The new order maintains existing restrictions and cracks down on construction and outdoor recreation.
AC TRANSIT REDUCES SERVICE AC Transit announced Monday that it will begin operating a modified service schedule, effective today, as it continues to see significantly reduced ridership due to shelter-in-place orders. Schedules will be similar to existing Sunday service, weekday-only local lines will not operate and neither will the Broadway Shuttle.
Monday, March 30
PUBLIC INFO ON COVID-19 VARIES BY PLACE Berkeleyside reviewed all the Bay Area coronavirus websites by public agency to see who was doing the best — and worst — as far as sharing information. Sonoma County was at the top of the list. Berkeley has room for improvement.
SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDER WILL BE EXTENDED UNTIL MAY Officials from six counties and Berkeley announced they will extend the stay-at-home order through at least May 1. It was set to expire next week. No details were provided on whether the order will be modified at all.
CAL LAB TO PROCESS COVID-19 TESTS A UC Berkeley science building has converted to a COVID-19 test processing center, with researchers hoping to enable up to thousands more coronavirus tests per day in the East Bay. The researchers, whose regular work has been put on pause, will collect samples from local health clinics and return the results in a matter of hours.
Friday, March 27
BERKELEY RETREATS FROM BANNING CURBSIDE CANNABIS SALES Dr. Lisa Hernandez amended her order requiring cannabis businesses to stop in-store sales and revert to delivery only. Late Friday she said the businesses could once again offer curbside pick-up.
BERKELEYSIDE COVID-19 FAQ IS POSTED What is an essential business? Can I take my kid to the park? Is the DMV open? Where can I get relief money? Answers here to these and more of your frequently asked questions.
CRAFTERS, TAKE NOTE Some hospitals are using fabric masks over N95 masks as they can be removed and sanitized. Other agencies want them for their work with the elderly or the homeless. Here’s what we know.
Thursday, March 26
BERKELEY FIREFIGHTER TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 A Berkeley firefighter tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19, according to a city news alert. “Our emergency Operations Center and Fire Department have been preparing for such an exposure since January with the goal of reducing transmission amongst first responders and the community,” the alert said, adding that the best way for the public to protect first responders is to stay home. “This slows the spread of the virus and allows paramedics and hospitals to receive patients at a manageable rate,” the city said.
CITY ORDERS CANNABIS BUSINESSES TO SWITCH TO DELIVERY-ONLY The companies had been allowing customers inside and offering curbside delivery. This edict could force most to close their doors.
Tuesday, March 24
DOGS MUST NOW BE ON LEASH The East Bay Regional Park District has told dog owners they must keep their pets on leash at all 73 of its parks, effective immediately. On Tuesday, Berkeley also closed its dog parks. There’s still open space in the city that dog owners can use, but rules do apply.
CITY STEPS UP RULES TO ENFORCE SOCIAL DISTANCING This week, the city of Berkeley is closing its basketball courts and tot lots and working to set up eight new trailers where homeless people who have been infected with COVID-19, or exposed to it, can be quarantined and get medical help without putting other campers in danger. See what else the city has been doing as part of its emergency response.
LABS THAT TEST FOR COVID-19 MUST REPORT ALL RESULTS The city of Berkeley and public health officers from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties issued an order Tuesday to get a more complete picture of how the virus is spreading through the Bay Area. Currently, labs only report positive results. Now academic and commercial labs must also report negative and inconclusive results and information that will assist health officers in locating those who are infected. “The more comprehensive information will improve health officials’ understanding of the rates of infection and the location of possible infection clusters,” stated a city press release.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT N95 MASKS When to wear one. Where to donate one. Where to buy one.
MAYOR SHARES COVID-19 RESOURCE LIST Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín has been updating a long list on his website of the diverse resources available to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. The list includes information on new laws and regulations, as well as places to get free food, public transit availability, grocery store hours for vulnerable populations and more.
AC TRANSIT RIDES NOW FREE TO PROTECT DRIVERS AC Transit bus rides are now free, effective as of Monday, March 23. The decision was made to protect the health of drivers: The transit agency says most passengers must now board through the rear doors to facilitate social distancing. The front door is now only for riders with mobility devices, special needs or carts, or who request access to an ADA ramp.
Monday, March 23
THE BERKELEY RELIEF FUND HAS RAISED $556,000 SO FAR Sunday’s video-a-thon launch of the Berkeley Relief Fund, hosted by Mayor Jesse Arreguín and author Michael Lewis, drew dozens of tax-deductible donations that will go to help small businesses, arts organizations, and renters during the financial crisis caused by COVID-19. Bayer US, which has a campus in Berkeley, donated $250,000. The principals of Wareham Development donated $50,000. The city of Berkeley had already pledged $3 million. Organizers hope to raise $6 million. Berkeley’s office of economic development is finalizing the grant requirements and criteria. The funds will be equally distributed to the three categories, said Jacquelyn McCormick, a senior aide to Arreguín. Numerous people impacted made videos about their plight.
KAISER NURSES TO PROTEST THE LACK OF PROTECTIVE GEAR Nurses around the region are reporting a lack of N95 masks, which limit the spread of COVID-19. Instead, many have had to use surgical masks, which are less protective, to see patients. Kaiser nurses will hold a demonstration about the issue outside the Oakland hospital at 6:30 p.m.
COVID-19 NUMBERS CONTINUE TO INCREASE Alameda County (excluding Berkeley) now has 112 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and there’s been one death. Berkeley reported 10 cases as of Monday. The Bay Area is up to 860 known cases and 14 deaths. The state says more than 26,000 tests had been done as of Sunday.
Saturday, March 21
FIRST COMMUNITY-SPREAD CASE REPORTED IN BERKELEY An 80-year-old man reportedly has the first lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 in Berkeley that was contracted through “community spread.”
Friday, March 20
OPEN BUSINESSES Businesses still open under the current shelter-in-place order are doing their best to spread the word. The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce has posted this crowd-sourced list and the Downtown Berkeley Association has a list of businesses in that neighborhood. Nosh is keeping this list of open restaurants as up-to-date as possible.
CONFIRMED BERKELEY CASES GROW There are now five lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Berkeley, up from three, but that does not reflect the true risk, public health officials say. With community spread happening throughout the Bay Area, the risk may be in anyone you see, the city says. See the latest figures in Berkeleyside’s “by the numbers” post on COVID-19.
Thursday, March 19
BERKELEY HALTS EVICTIONS FOR NOW On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council unanimously placed a moratorium on evictions — for both residential and commercial tenants — during the city’s declared state of emergency. The decision follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order the day before allowing cities to temporarily halt evictions during the COVID-19 crisis. The Alameda County Superior Court earlier in the week ordered a stay on all pending evictions through April 8 too.
BART TO REDUCE SERVICE HOURS BART reports ridership has declined by 90% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders. As a result, the transit agency said it is “taking swift action to reduce operating costs” and is reducing its service hours. Starting Monday, March 23, service will run weekdays from 5 a.m.-9 p.m. (currently service goes until midnight). And starting Saturday, March 28, weekend service will run 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (currently Saturday service is 6 a.m.-midnight and Sunday is 8 a.m.-midnight). Train frequency won’t change, BART said.
CITY RELAXES PARKING RULES (FOR NOW) The city of Berkeley says it won’t enforce parking rules related to meters and other time limits. School zones are also off the enforcement list. Tickets will still be issued for street-sweeping violations, painted curbs, fire hydrant access and the like.
COUNCILWOMAN OFFERS SKYPE “OFFICE HOURS” Berkeley council members have had to cancel their regular in-person office hours recently in light of the current public health crisis and guidelines around social distancing. West Berkeley Councilwoman Cheryl Davila has invited the community to connect with her on Skype on Friday evening. Davila will be available from 5-7 p.m., she said in an email to her constituents. People can join the call through a link or call in to 213-279-1690. The conference ID is 664683521. Have questions? Email Davila’s office.
NEW STATE WEBSITE ABOUT COVID-19 California has launched a new “one-stop” website about COVID-19. The goal of the site is to offer public service announcements to boost awareness about the ongoing pandemic. Quickly see guidance about what to do if you have symptoms and how to apply for unemployment, paid family leave, small business help and other assistance, along with other important resources.
Wednesday, March 18
UC BOTANICAL GARDEN CLOSES In an announcement posted on its website, Lew Feldman, executive director of the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, expressed disappointment at having to close the garden during the coronavirus pandemic. They had hoped to keep it open, free of charge, as a refuge to offer “peace and solace to many in these times of great turmoil.” The garden is being maintained and its blooms and wildlife can be followed on social media.
Tuesday, March 17
EAST BAY PARKS WILL STAY OPEN A temporary closure of East Bay Regional Park District sites resulted in widespread confusion among hikers and runners, as well as a number of parking tickets outside Tilden. But EBRPD said its parks and trails will reopen in the next day or two and for the duration of the shelter-in-place order. Visitor centers, bathrooms and other facilities will stay closed.
ALAMEDA COUNTY COURTS HAVE CLOSED The Superior Court of Alameda County says it will cease most operations and close to the public until April 8. The court hopes to be able to accept new restraining order applications and will extend existing ones for 30 days. According to a notice from the court, the decision was made following Monday’s shelter-in-place order. The court ordered the stay of all evictions until it reopens.
EMERGENCY COUNCIL MEETING The City Council has called an emergency meeting to discuss tenant protections from eviction, possible financial relief for local businesses and arts organizations, and other pressing issues linked to the impacts of COVID-19 in Berkeley. The meeting is set for Tuesday (tonight) at 6 p.m.
KEEP UP WITH EAST BAY FOOD NEWS Berkeleyside’s food section Nosh has started a food-focused news feed that it will continue to update with the latest info about how the novel coronavirus is affecting restaurants, chefs, food services and diners in the East Bay. All food-related news will be featured on that feed going forward. Send tips to email@example.com.
PARKING ENFORCEMENT WILL CONTINUE The city is still ticketing vehicles with parking violations, said Matthai Chakko, city of Berkeley spokesman: “While enforcement continues as normal for now, we’ll be using [certain factors] to determine how best to use all of our resources to increase public safety and the health of our community.”
Monday, March 16
BAY AREA ORDERED TO ‘SHELTER IN PLACE’ Health officials across the Bay Area, including Berkeley, issued a sweeping order Monday requiring all residents to mostly shelter in place and shutting down all “non-essential” business in hopes of stemming the spread of COVID-19. The city of Berkeley website has a comprehensive FAQ about the order and what it actually means to shelter in place.
TESTING SET TO RAMP UP Testing for COVID-19 will “ramp up” in the near future, Bay Area health officials said during Monday’s shelter-in-place announcement. Commercial labs and those from the academic sector are coming online, which will bolster the capacity of testing that was previously dependent on the public laboratory system. The “decentralized” approach will allow officials to identify and report more cases, which will mean that local numbers will grow. Testing to date has mostly focused on people in hospitals, rather than outpatient testing, officials said.
UPDATES TO MARKET HOURS, SERVICES Several markets have announced schedule and capacity changes due to the recent uptick in business: Berkeley Bowl is now open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily for “additional cleaning and stocking.” All Trader Joe’s locations have shortened daily hours to 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and are limiting customers to purchasing no more than two of the same item. Market Hall Foods is limiting the number of customers allowed into its stores at a time: 18 adults at Rockridge Market Hall, six adults at Hapuku Fish Shop and Marin Sun Farms, 10 adults at Market Hall Produce and 15 adults at Berkeley Market Hall. Berkeley Natural Grocery will close at 5 p.m. Monday; hours will then be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. until further notice.
SHELTER IN PLACE At 1 p.m., health officials from six counties, as well as from the city of Berkeley, will announce new restrictions on movement for the general population. Essentially, the order will require everyone to “shelter in place” at home other than to provide or receive essential services. Businesses will have to stop all non-essential operations (essentially close). Restaurants will be able to offer take-away service. Individual exercise and activity outside is allowed but no non-essential gatherings of any size outside of a private home will be permitted. All non-essential travel will be stopped. The order is effective at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, through April 7. The order is coming from officials from Berkeley as well as Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Conta Costa, and Santa Clara counties. Homeless individuals are exempt.
Sunday, March 15
ALAMEDA COUNTY CASES DOUBLE Alameda County’s health department says it has 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up from seven as of Saturday. Other than the new figure, no further details were shared on the county’s public health website. The city of Berkeley, which has its own health division, has reported three. That brings the county total for both agencies to 18. Don’t miss the other stats we’re tracking. See a figure for us to add? Email Berkeleyside.
YMCA CLOSES UNTIL WEDNESDAY The downtown Berkeley branch of the YMCA — along with its other East Bay sites — has closed, but so far just through Wednesday, so directors can figure out the safest way to stay open, the gym announced in an email to members. “We need a few days to work with local health officials to see how we can best achieve our mission of advancing health in the midst of ever-changing regulations and recommendations. The closure also gives us time to evaluate the layout of equipment, how we can facilitate social distancing, and other best practices,” the email said.
Saturday, March 14
A BUSY SATURDAY UC Berkeley has reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 and, starting Monday, the Berkeley Public Library will be closed. Alameda County Superior Court officials have also announced broad cutbacks in court services from Monday, March 16, through April 3. Many cases will be postponed on a rolling basis.
BERKELEY HAS THIRD CONFIRMED COVID-19 CASE The city of Berkeley says it now has a new case of COVID-19 to monitor. The patient was on the Grand Princess: “The three cases in Berkeley involve a traveler to an outbreak area and two people from the Grand Princess Cruise ship, one of whom tested positive this week after having been in isolation,” according to the city’s latest notice. On Saturday, Berkeleyside pulled together key resources and statistics on COVID-19, and also provided info on, and some reader suggestions for, local grocery shopping options.
Friday, March 13
BERKELEY HEALTH OFFICER ISSUES NEW GUIDELINES ON GATHERINGS Dr. Lisa Hernandez updated her guidelines to make them consistent with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order. She previously suggested people avoid “mass gatherings.” Now she recommends that people cancel or postpone gatherings of 250 or more people; smaller events where people cannot stay 6 feet away from one another; and those with more than 10 people who are 60 and up with chronic conditions.
SENIOR CENTERS TO CLOSE The city of Berkeley will close its two senior centers starting Monday, along with most city-sponsored events. Takeout lunches will still be available at the North Berkeley Senior Center (1900 Sixth St.) and the South Berkeley center (2939 Ellis St.) from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
SHOTGUN PLAYERS DELAYS OPENING OF HENRY V The company’s play was supposed to open March 19 but that has been delayed to April 5. The company will pay severance to performers for that fallow time.
LANDMARK THEATERS TO INSTITUTE 50% SEATING POLICY The theater chain that runs the Shattuck Cinemas, California Theatre, Albany Twin and Piedmont Theatre will reduce the number of patrons allowed in each show starting Saturday to allow people to sit further apart. Additional cleaning has also been added.
BERKELEY SYMPHONY CANCELS PUBLIC CONCERTS The symphony won’t play the free family concert at Downtown BART Plaza that was scheduled for March 22. Sunday’s concert in Piedmont will be rescheduled. The symphony has also canceled its March 26 performance at Zellerbach Auditorium. That will not be rescheduled.
URBAN ADAMAH STOPS PUBLIC PROGRAMMING The community farm with Jewish values in West Berkeley has stopped its public programming and closed the farm to the public until the end of March.
CAL WILL CONTINUE REMOTE CLASSES ALL SEMESTER UC Berkeley students can officially head home. A few days after the university suspended in-person classes, switching mostly to online lectures and seminars, the campus has extended remote learning through the end of the semester. “Students will be able to choose where it is best for them to reside,” receiving reimbursement of their housing and dining fees if they leave, the university said. If in-person lessons do start again before the mid-May conclusion of the semester, students will still have the option of studying remotely. Research programs and student services will remain open.
AURORA THEATRE COMPANY CANCELS NEXT PLAY Aurora announced it won’t put on Joe Orton’s “Loot,” as planned. The play, currently in rehearsals, was supposed to run from April 3 to May 3.
FREIGHT & SALVAGE CANCELS PERFORMANCES The music venue has canceled all performances through April 7. Some have been rescheduled for later in the year. However, most of its classes and workshops will go on as scheduled. Many of the artists were the ones to cancel.
BERKELEY ART MUSEUM CLOSES After discontinuing film and other programs earlier this week, BAMPFA said it is closing its galleries through March 29.
CITY OFFICIALS SUPPORT BERKELEY BUSINESSES BY DINING OUT Restaurants, performance venues and small businesses are struggling as people practice social distancing.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín and City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn are planning to eat at Revival Bar and Kitchen at 6 p.m. to show support for eateries. City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn called around 4 p.m. to say that she and Mayor Jesse Arrguín have been working so hard today to hone the city’s response to COVID-19 that they don’t have time for a sit-down dinner. They are doing take-out from Revival instead.
UC BERKELEY CANCELS CAL DAY The very popular day, where the university opens its doors to prospective freshmen and the community, won’t happen this year. It had been scheduled for April 18.
BERKELEY FREE CLINIC CLOSES In a tweet, the clinic announced it would close for three weeks because “as a clinic staffed by lay volunteers, we lack the gear, training, and knowledge to respond to COVID-19.”
NO SAT TEST AT BERKELEY HIGH The test, scheduled for Saturday, March 14, has been canceled.
THE BERKELEY SCHOOL CLOSES Starting Monday, this private school on University Avenue will shut down for three weeks, according to an email sent out by its board of trustees. The school’s Early Childhood Campus on Francisco will also close.
THE UC THEATRE POSTPONES SHOWS David Mayeri, president of the board of directors, said all March and April shows have been postponed. The theater hopes to reschedule.
Thursday, March 12
BERKELEY UNIFIED CANCELS CLASSES BUSD announced at about 8:30 p.m. that Berkeley High and BTA will close Friday over concerns of coronavirus spread. All other Berkeley schools will follow suit Monday.
WALDEN SCHOOL TO CLOSE BUT IT MAY NOT LAST Walden Center & School has announced it will close Friday “out of an abundance of caution.” Walden has not decided what it will do next week, according to an email from the school that a community member shared with Berkeleyside. Walden staff wrote that it had learned Thursday about a member of its school community who had “developed symptoms that could be consistent with Covid-19” earlier in the week. Staff wrote that Walden called Berkeley Public Health as soon as it became aware of the situation but the call “was interrupted by an emergency on their end, so [we] are waiting to hear back.” Walden said it expects to hear from public health staff Friday.
ALAMEDA COUNTY NOW HAS COMMUNITY SPREAD Alameda County public health officials have announced four new cases of COVID-19, and say two of them “are the first incidence of community-acquired transmission in Alameda County.” The county has public health staff that is separate from Berkeley, but the announcement is still significant. Alameda County now has seven confirmed cases, while the city of Berkeley has reported two: “Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have experienced mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Over eighty percent of individuals have mild disease,” the county reported, adding that there will be no additional information about these cases. Alameda County says it will update its website with any news. Again, these reports do not include anything happening in Berkeley, which has its own health division.
HABITOT TO CLOSE Habitot Children’s Museum will be closed from March 13-31. All the museum’s camps, classes, events and programs are canceled through the end of the month. Habitot’s executive director Gina Moreland told Berkeleyside that visitation has been less than half of what it was two weeks ago and the museum has experienced a drop in reservations for its spring break camp. Moreland and Habitot’s board made the decision to close, according to a statement Thursday, because they “believe this to be the socially responsible thing to do.”
BERKELEY FARMERS MARKETS REMAIN OPEN The Ecology Center will continue its three weekly farmers markets, but said it will continue to monitor both federal and local recommendations and guidelines daily. Food and Farming Program Director Carle Brinkman told Nosh the Ecology Center has shared best practices with its farmers, vendors and market partners and will be disinfecting “surfaces/objects” at the market regularly. The Ecology Center updated its website to include further information about precautions it is taking, including ceasing food sampling at the market and suspending “high touch activities,” like the Kids’ Patch.
BERKELEY REP CANCELS PERFORMANCES Berkeley Repertory Theatre has joined a rapidly growing list of venues calling off their concerts, plays and talks. All future performance of Berkeley Rep’s current play, Culture Clash (Still) in America, have been canceled, and the upcoming show, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, will be on hiatus until April 5, the venue announced.
BUSINESSES HIT HARD Theaters are selling fewer tickets and restaurants are seeing a significant drop in customers. A number of local restaurants are announcing a pause in on-site dining and focusing on delivery or counter service instead.
Wednesday, March 11
BAMPFA CANCELS EVENTS The UC Berkeley-run BAMPFA has canceled all its film screenings, tours and public programs, effective March 13-29, with possible extensions based on the latest public health conditions. The galleries are open.
CAL ATHLETICS LIMITS ATTENDANCE Attendance at Cal Athletics home events will be limited to essential personnel only, beginning March 11 and through March 29.
BOOK FESTIVAL WON’T HAPPEN The organizers of the popular two-day Bay Area Book Festival have decided to cancel their 2020 event so as not to risk spreading coronavirus. The sixth year of the festival was set to take place May 2-3 in downtown Berkeley. (Note: Berkeleyside is a media sponsor.)
NO MORE CAL PERFORMANCES Cal Performances has canceled all events through March 29. This includes Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Ticketholders will be automatically refunded, the UC Berkeley organization said. The decision was made in accordance with recommendations from local public health authorities regarding slowing the spread of COVID-19, and in conjunction with Cal’s decision to limit campus operations.
ALAMEDA COUNTY FOOD BANK ASKS FOR HELP The Alameda County Food Bank has an “urgent need” for volunteers Thursday, March 12, to help stuff emergency food bags and prepare food for its partners. The organization said it has increased its cleaning standards to ensure volunteers remain safe from the spread of COVID-19. The food bank has added “additional mid-day cleaning of high-trafficked and touched surfaces throughout the facility” on top of its normal sanitation procedures. More help is needed from March 16-20, too. Sign up on the food bank’s volunteer page.
CAL GREEKS SUSPEND ALL INTERFRATERNITY EVENTS On Wednesday afternoon, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) made the decision to suspend all events until March 29: “As of today, the IFC is suspending ALL IFC events, including social, philanthropy, fundraising, etc., for all IFC chapters regardless of the expected attendance. The suspension of all IFC events will last until March 29th.” At that time, the council “will make a determination to extend this suspension or adjust the suspension using the latest UC and CDC guidance.”
BERKELEY PUBLIC LIBRARY CANCELS EVENTS The library has announced it will cancel public events from March 12-31. This includes any use of library community meeting rooms as well as classes. One-on-one meetings, such as help with tax preparation, will continue, the library said Wednesday.
UC BERKELEY IS EERILY EMPTY With most classes moved online, the campus feels deserted. A Berkeleyside freelancer who attends UC Berkeley has shared an inside glimpse.
BERKELEY CITY COLLEGE CANCELS CLASSES The Peralta Community College District has canceled all face-to-face classes at Berkeley City College, College of the Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College starting Wednesday and lasting through Saturday, according to a notice from the college sent Wednesday morning. What happens next is less certain. The break will let teachers “attend trainings offered at their respective college and evaluate optional resources for potentially transitioning their classes to remote forms of instruction as needed,” according to the notice.
Peralta said it would continue to follow the guidance of health experts including the Alameda County Public Health Department and the California Department of Public Health, as well as the CDC. Wednesday, the Peralta board of trustees has scheduled an emergency meeting to consider whether to change the academic calendar. The chancellor has recommended moving spring break to March 16-20 (it had been set for April 13-17), and adding a “flex day” March 30.
Remote classes for instructors who want to take that approach would begin March 23 and last through April 4, according to the notice, but they are not a mandate: “Faculty may continue to teach face-to-face, however, we strongly encourage faculty who can opt to use remote forms of instruction to do so.”
CORONAVIRUS LEADS TO CHANGES AT BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL, TOO Coronavirus was a recurring theme at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. As the meeting began, the mayor shared some new guidance to address public health concerns. Mayor Jesse Arreguín asked attendees to “maintain a distance of 6 feet between you and other people” to the extent possible. At the very least, he said, people should keep an empty seat between them. Three council members called in. The city also decided to limit capacity in the room to 100 people and will provide an overflow room at future meetings if needed. For public comment, the mayor said he would call up five speakers at a time. Those speakers should maintain the 6-foot distance, he said. Berkeleyside reporters monitored the meeting from home out of an abundance of caution.
Tuesday night, council also approved a “Proclamation of Local Emergency” that was issued March 3 “due to the spread of a severe acute respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) Coronavirus (‘COVID-19’).” The item basically governs how the city manages an emergency and grants it certain authority as to how this works.
Tuesday, March 10
ALAMEDA COUNTY REPORTS NEW CORONAVIRUS CASE Alameda County, which has a separate public health division from the city of Berkeley’s, now has three confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): “The individual is the spouse of the second confirmed case, and is an older adult, who had disembarked from the Grand Princess cruise ship in February. This individual had already been quarantined at home and remains isolated; we are monitoring this new case’s condition and no additional contacts were identified.” The city of Berkeley has two confirmed cases.
SCHOOL DISTRICT CANCELS LARGE EVENTS The Berkeley Unified School District has decided to cancel all large events through March in line with Tuesday’s directive from the city’s public division. Schools will remain open.
PERSIAN NEW YEAR FESTIVAL IS OFF The organizers of the popular annual Persian New Year Fire Festival have decided to call it off this year. Lisa Bullwinkel shared the news on Berkeleyside, writing, “With a heavy heart, we have decided to cancel the Persian New Year Fire Festival on March 17 in Berkeley. The event is all about jumping over the fire to give it your sickly pallor and taking back it’s rosy glow, creating health for the coming year. If anyone became ill it would not be in keeping with the reason for producing the festival. Wash your hands! Stay well. See you next year.”
CITY SAYS MASS GATHERINGS SHOULD BE LIMITED Berkeley’s health officer is urging residents to limit their attendance at “mass gatherings” to slow the spread of a novel coronavirus, though she stopped short of calling for school or office closures in an announcement Tuesday afternoon. The city of Berkeley now has two confirmed COVID-19 cases, including one passenger from the Grand Princess cruise ship. “The time to act is now,” the city urged the public.
Monday, March 9
BERKELEY SCHOOLS REMAIN OPEN Berkeley’s public K-12 campuses are still open. “As of right now, we are continuing to follow guidance from City of Berkeley Health, which aligns with [the Alameda County Public Health Department]. We have not canceled events and have no plan to close any school at this time,” says BUSD spokeswoman Trish McDermott in an email to Berkeleyside. BUSD officials will discuss coronavirus at their March 11 School Board meeting too. (Unless they, like some of their City Council counterparts, decide to phone in to the gathering.)
UC BERKELEY CANCELS IN-PERSON CLASSES UC Berkeley suspends most in-person classes, “offering ALL lecture courses (including discussion sections) and seminar instruction and assessment through alternative modalities,” campus officials tell faculty in an urgent email sent just after noon. A town hall event about the disease planned for later this month is canceled. UC Berkeley Extension has suspended most classes and lectures are being offered through “alternative modalities.” Downtown Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory has suspended its programs through March 30.
Friday, March 6
TWITTER TOWN HALL The city holds its first ever Twitter town hall answering questions on the coronavirus.
Thursday, March 5
PRIVATE SCHOOL CLOSES Private elementary school Black Pine Circle closes citing an “abundance of caution” after a school family that had traveled internationally was potentially exposed to COVID-19.
Wednesday, March 4
EXTRA PRECAUTIONS FOR SENIORS Senior residences in Berkeley are taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Tuesday, March 3
FIRST CORONAVIRUS CASE IN BERKELEY Berkeley reports first coronavirus patient. A patient in Berkeley who had visited Italy has tested positive for COVID-19, a new coronavirus, authorities report.
Berkeleyside’s Frances Dinkelspiel, Natalie Orenstein, Emilie Raguso, Tracey Taylor and Supriya Yelimeli contributed to this report.