Lack of social distancing led to rise in COVID-19 cases, Berkeley officials say

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Sunny Shen/File
The city of Berkeley has reached its goals for hospital capacity and testing, but not its thresholds for case and hospitalization rates, disease containment and personal protective equipment.

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As of July 11, three of five city indicators for managing COVID-19 have not been met in the city of Berkeley.

Goals for hospital capacity and testing have been reached, but thresholds for case and hospitalization rates, disease containment and personal protective equipment have not been met, according to Berkeley health officer Lisa Hernandez. The number of cases has been rising in Berkeley over the last few weeks, which can be partly attributed to violations of the current shelter-in-place order, according to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

“Failure to follow social distancing and mask orders will result in increased cases,” Elgstrand said in an email. “Many cases throughout Alameda County can be attributed to such violations, including house parties and unauthorized large gatherings.”

The disease containment indicator in particular has not been met because Berkeley is transitioning to a statewide platform for contact tracing, Elgstrand added. The disease containment and contact tracing work has been done, but the information has not been stored into the new system yet, making it seem as though the threshold has not been met, Hernandez said at a July 11 town hall.

To address COVID-19, Berkeley’s Emergency Operations Center is providing assistance and education to high-risk individuals, according to Elgstrand. He added that the center is also working with businesses to protect essential workers.

The most effective action Berkeley residents can take, however, is wearing a mask and socially distancing, Elgstrand said in the email. Arreguín said at the town hall that while it may be challenging to follow requirements, it is essential.

“My one message to the Berkeley community today is please wear a face covering when you’re outside. Please practice physical distancing,” Arreguín said at the town hall. “We need to take very seriously these precautions and these requirements because this is a matter of life and death.”

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