Berkeley mayor, health officials give COVID-19 updates in virtual town hall

Photo of people walking around Berkeley
William Webster/Staff
At a town hall Monday, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín was joined by public health officials to talk about declining COVID-19 rates in the city of Berkeley and Alameda County. Arreguín also discussed summer programs and housing assistance.

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Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín held a virtual town hall Monday evening to discuss the declining COVID-19 rates in the city and Alameda County, as well as address audience questions about topics such as summer programs and housing assistance.

Arreguín was joined by the city’s Health, Housing and Community Services Director Lisa Warhuus, city manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Berkeley health officer Lisa Hernandez. Given California’s expansion on vaccine eligibility and the city’s efforts to increase vaccine appointment availability, Arreguín encouraged the community to get vaccinated.

He also acknowledged the work of various city partners to establish “equity points of distribution” for the COVID-19 vaccine, including the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Multicultural Institute.

“In addition, a volunteer outreach team has knocked on doors in South and West Berkeley to sign up residents for vaccine appointments, with particular focus on multilingual populations,” Arreguín said during the event. “We seek to continue partnerships with churches and other community organizations.”

Hernandez provided updates on Alameda County and Berkeley’s case numbers, noting that the city has conducted a total of 326,569 COVID-19 tests, while averaging about 720 tests a day, as of press time. With the expansion in vaccine accessibility, 39% of the Berkeley population has been vaccinated, compared to 16% last month.

However, the city expects to stay in the orange tier, as outlined by California’s reopening system.

“We will not be moving into the yellow tier this week,” Hernandez said during the event. “We’re basically seeing a slight increase or leveling off of the cases, both in the city and county level, so we will continue to sit at this orange tier for a bit longer.”

Additionally, Hernandez and Warhuus touched on the COVID-19 outbreak at Berkeley High School from a boy’s basketball tryouts meeting. Hernandez and Warhuus emphasized that the city is working closely with the school district and school site to monitor the situation.

In regards to an audience question about the operation of summer programs, Williams-Ridley said there will be a variety of camps available, such as a day camp, sports camp and skate camp. Temperature checks, mask-wearing and sanitization of areas will take place as precautions against COVID-19.

Multiple questions were asked in regard to financial assistance for tenants and homeowners. While Arreguín acknowledged that there is more the city can do to assist homeowners, he and Warhuus pointed out that the Eviction Defense Center is a resource for tenants seeking assistance.

“You can call the Eviction Defense Center at (510) 452-4541 and leave a message with the following information: your name, your telephone number and that you are a Berkeley resident seeking assistance,” Arreguín said during the event.

Contact Karen Vo at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @karenvo_DC.