Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín held a virtual town hall meeting Saturday to update residents on Berkeley’s efforts to tackle COVID-19.
Arreguín has held a series of virtual town hall meetings over the past couple of months. In the latest meeting, he discussed how a lot has happened since the shelter-in-place orders began and said the city has significantly ramped up its testing and seen more positive cases.
Berkeley health officer Lisa Hernandez addressed the number of cases in Alameda County and Berkeley. As of press time, Alameda County has 7,731 cases with 148 deaths. In Berkeley, there have been 260 cases and one death.
Hernandez added that 13,254 tests have been done on Berkeley residents, as of press time.
“Right now, we’re at an average of 288 tests per day,” Hernandez said at the meeting. “We are in a great place. Part of that has to do with our test sites that we have that we run, and some of that has to do with the increased capacity in our jurisdiction with our providers.”
With increased COVID-19 testing available, however, comes problems, Arreguín said.
He highlighted two major issues, the first being that there have been delays in people receiving testing.
“We still encourage you to apply if you need to get tested and are not able to get tested through your health care provider,” Arreguín said at the meeting.
The second issue Arreguín addressed is the increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Berkeley. He suspected that it may be correlated with increased available testing.
He also said the increased cases are due to the college students who have participated in parties in close proximity, which is in violation of the city’s health orders.
“I know it’s challenging to have to comply with the requirements, but this is essential to keep you and our community safe,” Arreguín said at the meeting. “My one message to the Berkeley community today is please wear a face covering when you’re out and please practice physical distancing. This is very important to fight the spread of COVID-19.”
Arreguín also said the city is working to educate the Berkeley community in order to help residents take the pandemic more seriously.
The city plans to increase awareness around wearing face masks as Arreguín sees it as a “matter of life and death.”
“We’re not interested in looking at any criminal activity around this,” said Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley at the town hall. “We’re not even interested in having our police officers out there trying to talk to people and tell them they need to get their mask on.”
Instead, she said city employees will be wearing masks to model city guidelines.
Williams-Ridley added that city officials are taking this pandemic very seriously. She encouraged people who see others not complying to report any “egregious” lack of face coverings.