Alameda County able to open certain businesses, possibly schools

Photo of Downtown Berkeley
Jim Xu/Staff
Alameda County has transitioned to a less restrictive tier of California’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines Tuesday. Berkeley residents can expect new health orders in the coming weeks that may allow additional indoor activities, including in-person instruction.

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On Tuesday, Alameda County moved down to the red tier of California’s four-tiered, color-coded Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which includes reopening guidelines amid COVID-19.

The state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy has four tiers indicating a county’s risk level for COVID-19 spread, with purple for widespread, red for substantial spread, orange for moderate spread and yellow for minimal spread. With the move from purple to red, Alameda County can open some sectors of the economy with restrictions, according to a Tuesday county press release.

Businesses allowed to open under the blueprint include schools, retail stores, indoor movie theaters and indoor dining, according to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Egstrand added that these changes, however, can only happen once the shelter-in-place order is updated by Berkeley health officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez.

“While the community’s efforts to social distance and wear a mask has been effective in reducing cases in Berkeley, these efforts must continue to avoid a second wave,” Elgstrand said in an email. “We know there is still a serious threat of experiencing a second wave here if we move too quickly or become complacent.”

To move down to the red level, Alameda County had to meet certain criteria, including having 4-7 new cases per 100,000 people daily and a positive test rate of 5-8% during a three-week period.

According to Neetu Balram, Alameda County public information manager, for the county’s metrics to “remain stable,” the county will wait two weeks to release a phased plan.

Balram added in an email that residents should stay home if they feel sick, avoid gathering in other households and wear face masks when they leave home.

“It will be important for Alameda County to take a measured and phased approach to avoid dramatic increases in disease transmission and re-closures,” Belram said in the press release. “We are carefully examining the potential impact of activities that may be permitted to reopen or expand in the Red Tier.”

The county will also be prioritizing bringing students back for in-person learning in the next phase of reopening, according to the press release.

Balram noted in the press release, however, that while counties in the red tier are able to open schools for in-person instruction after two weeks, schools will continue distance learning until “local conditions” support in-person learning.

“We know that educational inequities and the achievement gap are likely exacerbated by having children learning from home,” Balram said in the press release. “All Alameda County schools and school districts are urged to prioritize preparing for reopening and engaging parents and staff in the planning so they can be ready.

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.