Report shows Berkeley has lower COVID-19 rates compared to Alameda County, US

Photo of Berkeley Public Health Building (1947 Center Street)
Momoka Sasaki/Staff
The city of Berkeley stated in a press release that 0.63% of the Berkeley population has a confirmed case of COVID-19, compared to 1.48% in Alameda County and 2.7% in the United States as a whole.

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On Tuesday, Berkeley City Council read a report showing that the city has significantly lower COVID-19 test positivity rates than much of Alameda County and the United States.

The report, prepared by UC Berkeley’s Emergency Operations Center, details how COVID-19 test positivity rates have declined from 7.8% in March to 0.3% in September. It also focuses on numerous aspects of the city’s response, including COVID-19 testing, work with vulnerable populations, public information and outreach, support for businesses and the arts and cost recovery.

The city stated in a press release Wednesday that 0.63% of the Berkeley population has a confirmed case of COVID-19, compared to 1.48% in Alameda County and 2.7% in the United States as a whole. This press release attributed the low case rate to actions taken by city leaders and officials.

“Berkeley and the Bay Area took quick action, calling for a Shelter in Place on March 17th before cases had an opportunity to surge in the region,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “This action, along with the continued revisions to the Health Order that takes the latest data and science into consideration, has helped us keep case rates low.”

Arreguín also acknowledged the impact of demographics on the low case rate. He noted that Latinx people in Alameda County have contracted COVID-19 at 2.7 times the rate of the county’s overall population. Latinx individuals make up 22% of Alameda County’s population but only 10% of Berkeley’s population, according to Arreguín.

Additionally, Arreguín suggested that the higher case rate could be due to Latinx people being more likely to be essential workers, live in larger groups and have less access to health care.

City Councilmember Rigel Robinson, however, noted the difficulties that the city faced regarding safety during the pandemic.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we had so many factors working against us, between a massive public university, proximity to two major airports, a robust public transit system, and more,” Robinson said in an email.

Other possible reasons for the low positivity rate could be the actions and beliefs of Berkeley’s residents; both Arreguín and Robinson said the vigilance of the people and their trust in science are important factors in the low rates the city boasts.

According to the press release, “voluntary compliance” with mask orders has been largely successful in Berkeley.

“We are fortunate to live in a city where our residents are accepting of science and know that masks play a critical role in protecting the community,” Arreguín said in his email. “It is unfortunate that nationwide the act of wearing a mask has become politicized. This is not about politics, this is about saving lives through health and science.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.