As COVID-19 cases decline, elementary schools and some other services may re-open with restrictions

The city is increasing testing availability to help schools open as soon as Oct. 13. Nail salons, tattoo parlors and other personal services may open Oct. 9.

Washington Elementary School. Photo: Pete Rosos

Berkeleyside is sharing this latest message from the city of Berkeley about coronavirus-related rulings. This one, about re-opening, was issued Friday around 7 p.m., and follows an order put out on Sept. 24 which anticipated many of the new rules. It appears below in full.

Berkeley’s Health Officer will allow elementary schools to open on October 13 if they create verifiable plans to reduce spread of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff.

This Health Order affecting Transitional Kindergarten to 5th grade accompanies limited permissions for some new businesses — such as gyms, personal care and museums — and is the result of declining case rates throughout the County, including Berkeley as a separate health jurisdiction.

Schools seeking to open must implement practices that delve deeper into core preventive actions that everyone should undertake: face coverings, physical distancing, limiting gatherings, staying home when sick, and increased hygiene and cleaning.

“The preventive actions of many people work in tandem with the testing, contact tracing and other disease containment infrastructure we and others have built up,” said Dr. Lisa B. Hernandez, Berkeley’s Health Officer. “We have collectively lowered the spread. But as each household decides what public activities they add, risk rises, so they should also consider balancing their risk by giving up or budgeting other public activities.”

Guidance for schools

Each school in Berkeley seeking to re-open must create a plan that complies with requirements outlined in the state’s Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs.

Schools must also follow additional rules outlined in the City of Berkeley’s Health Order.

This plan must be posted on a school’s website and shared with their school community prior to reopening.

Elementary schools in Berkeley must:

  • Conduct systematic testing, regardless of symptoms, of all staff and volunteers at least once a month, and should also consider these “screening” tests for students.
  • Ensure prompt testing and isolation of any symptomatic staff and students as well as those who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Meet state requirements on social distancing by using strategies such as hybrid school schedules that allow only a subset of students on any given day.
  • Designate at least two trained COVID-19 liaisons who will coordinate with the City of Berkeley on all COVID-19 related matters, including case investigation and contact tracing.

These restrictions, which will need to be outlined in a specific plan for each school, acknowledge that this often debilitating and deadly virus still has neither effective treatment nor vaccine. COVID-19 has killed more than 200,000 people nationwide, 420 in Alameda County and nine in the City of Berkeley. Many suffer symptoms for months without fully recovering.

Families sending their kids to school increase their risk of exposure. To balance their risk, they should consider tradeoffs and what other public activities they might forgo. The reopening of schools does not mean those kids can then have slumber parties or socialize outside of school. There will be cases of COVID-19 in schools, and the City will support schools when those cases emerge. The goal is to limit the spread before and after a case is discovered.

Questions can be directed to covid19@cityofberkeley.info.

Permanent Testing Site Opening to Assist Schools

To help support the community, but especially schools, the City will be opening a permanent testing kiosk off San Pablo Avenue in partnership with Curative Inc., which until now has been working in the City on a pilot basis.

This walk-up site open to the entire community will have reserved times to increase testing of teachers and staff.

Make an appointment online.

People who want walk-up testing can also use a state-run, South Berkeley site that’s also coordinated through the City.

Other industries can open in limited fashion on Oct. 9

Additional personal care services will be allowed to open on October 9, including body waxing, estheticians, massage therapy studios, nail salons, skin care and cosmetology services, electrologists, piercing shops, and tattoo parlors.

Each industry will be required to follow the requirements of the new health order as well as the state’s Expanded Industry Guidance for Personal Care Services.

Service providers will be required to follow a number of Berkeley-specific measures that are outlined in the City order. Any personal services or treatments requiring staff or customers to remove their face covering are prohibited.

Museums, galleries, botanical gardens, and exhibition spaces may open outdoors or indoors at up to 25% of capacity. Museums, galleries, gardens, and exhibition spaces must follow State Industry Guidance for Outdoor Museums and Galleries.

Gyms, fitness centers, dance and yoga studios, and exercise class providers may open outdoors or indoors at up to 10 percent of capacity. All fitness facilities and providers must comply with State Fitness Facility Industry Guidance.

These activities are allowed under the state’s Red Tier.

Some public activities on pause

A key risk factor everyone should weigh when choosing to do a public activity involves where it takes place. Outdoor activities are much safer than those indoors.

That reasoning is why certain restrictions are being kept in place. Indoor shopping, for example, remains at 25 percent of capacity in Berkeley and throughout Alameda County.

Any business that can serve people outside should maximize opportunities to do so. The City expanded the range of allowed outdoor activities on both public and private property and streamlined permitting processes. See our outdoor commerce guide for assistance.

“Our collective actions and the work of so many public health workers on the ground is guiding us forward,” said Dr. Hernandez, the City’s Health Officer. “We know the virus remains embedded in our community. But the preventive actions we take and the risks we minimize offer us a path forward.”

Links

COVID-19 Risk Reduction Health Order
Guidance for Schools
Guidance for Personal Care Services
Guidance for Outdoor Museums and Galleries
Guidance for Fitness Facilities