7 months of COVID-19: Berkeley reports impacts, lessons learned

Over 550 staff from different Berkeley city departments were rerouted to the city’s COVID-19 response beginning in January, and their work peaked at almost 2,500 hours in April, a new report from the city manager’s office shows.

Health, Housing, and Community Services, Parks, Recreation and Waterfront and Berkeley police bore the brunt of these organizational changes, leading to cutbacks in municipal services and modifications in other areas of their work. Notably, with the initial closure of all city offices, 311 became the only full-service customer service center for residents.

City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley will dive into these and other municipal impacts of COVID-19 on Tuesday, presenting to the mayor and City Council the first comprehensive report on Berkeley’s response to the pandemic before and after its first reported case in March.

The report analyzes staffing changes in the city’s mobilization of the COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center in January, as well as impacts to homeless shelters, businesses and communities, a rapid shift into remote staffing, recovery grants and budget fallout.

The mayor and City Council will hear how Berkeley city departments responded to the pandemic, and determine if these systems will continue to serve the community in future and ongoing emergencies.

The report also addresses intersecting crises local communities have grappled with in the last year, including heatwaves, neighboring wildfires, local smoke impacts, “civil unrest” in response to high-profile police killings throughout the country, power outages and storms.

The City Council will meet at 6 p.m. in a virtual meeting. The link to join is available online.