The city of Berkeley is increasing restrictions after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday a halt on opening efforts in response to increasing COVID-19 cases in the state.
COVID-19 cases in California increased by 51.3% during the first week of November, the fastest growth since the pandemic began, Newsom said in a Monday COVID-19 update. As of Wednesday, Alameda County moved into the purple tier, which is the most “widespread” risk category, according to a county press release.
There are 28 counties in the state that moved into California’s purple tier, according to a press release from Newsom’s office. Currently, 41 out of California’s 58 counties are in the purple range, a press release from the city of Berkeley states.
“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in the press release. “The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes. … Now is the time to do all we can – government at all levels and Californians across the state – to flatten the curve again as we have done before.”
In accordance with state guidelines for “purple areas,” Berkeley is increasing restrictions. According to the city’s press release, dining, gyms, movie theaters and places of worship are no longer permitted to operate indoors but can continue outdoors. Retail stores and shopping centers can stay open indoors at 25% capacity.
When Alameda County was categorized in the orange tier for “moderate” risk of COVID-19, grocery stores could open at full capacity, but since moving to the purple tier they can only operate at 50% capacity, according to a California Department of Public Health guide.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín reminded residents in a press release to wear facial coverings, wash hands frequently and budget individual risk when deciding to go out and participate in activities.
UC Berkeley is also increasing communications and technology to monitor and help stop the spread of the virus. University Health Services, or UHS, continues to promote free campus surveillance testing and will be increasing public health reminders to combat complacency and “pandemic fatigue,” according to UHS spokesperson Tami Cate.
To further initiatives for safety on campus, a smartphone-based exposure notification system called California COVID Notify was launched Monday, Cate said in an email. She added that this is especially important as upcoming holidays may incite travel, and she reiterated that public health experts recommend not to travel unless it is essential.
“All along, public health officials across the country have talked about a Fall/Winter surge in cases and so likely we are seeing that along with increases in cases after holiday periods,” Cate said in the email. “We will continue to work with the City of Berkeley and monitor the current restrictions.”