Businesses take extra health precautions, Berkeley halts further reopening

Downtown Berkeley BART Station
Michael Drummond/File
Due to recent increases in the number of positive COVID-19 tests, the city of Berkeley and local businesses are implementing extra precautions to keep residents safe.

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As the number of COVID-19 cases rises, the city of Berkeley is freezing further reopening plans, and businesses are operating with increased safety precautions.

According to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley will not relax shelter-in-place policies anytime soon, due to the recent increase in cases and hospitalizations. Businesses that have started to reopen are taking extra health precautions, according to Telegraph Business Improvement District Executive Director Alex Knox.

“Berkeley’s plans for relaxing our Shelter in Place Order is based on five indicators and our progress towards those goals,” Elgstrand said in an email.

These indicators include hospitalization and case rates, hospital and testing capacities, personal protective equipment supplies and disease containment. Berkeley is currently in phase two of the reopening plan, but Elgstrand said moving forward with phase three will not be plausible anytime in the “immediate” future.

Phase three of the four-phase reopening process would include allowing indoor dining and for salons, barbershops and pools to resume in-person operations.

A number of retailers and shops have had success reopening already — both online and in person — often with more health precautions than mandated, according to Knox.

Retailers have a “high sense of responsibility” when it comes to public safety, and they hope to keep employees and customers safe, Knox said. He added that the businesses “go above and beyond” when it comes to health precautions.

Other businesses, however, have had incredibly limited opportunities to operate because they are not set up for online or remote services. While owners have worked hard to keep their businesses afloat, Knox said, the switch to online sales and remote customer interactions is often unsustainable.

These businesses have been trying to gauge how many of their student customers will be present in the fall.

“It’s a calculation they’re trying to make — whether or not the consumers are here, how many students are in the area,” Knox said. “For many businesses, that is a very big factor, and they are trying to judge whether or not it’s feasible to reopen with the amount of sales they anticipate.”

Knox added that it is important for these businesses to be able to open with limited activity.

Financial assistance programs have given many business owners, who may have otherwise had to make serious decisions regarding the futures of their businesses, the ability to take time to strategize and see how reopening progresses.

“Our goal is to keep and retain as many businesses as possible,” Knox said. “It’s very sad to see anyone go or have to make that decision to close down.”

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_.