Berkeley listed among safest areas in terms of COVID-19

photo of someone putting on a mask while sitting at a cafe
Antonio Martin/Staff
A student puts on their mask, helping to keep Berkeley one of the most COVID-19-safe cities in the nation.

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As the pandemic continues to afflict many communities, the city of Berkeley is among the safest places in the United States in regard to COVID-19.

The San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley metropolitan area has done exceptionally well in keeping virus contraction low, according to an MSN article. As of Sept. 21, there were approximately 7,077 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

“For comparison, the U.S. has so far reported 12,954.8 cases per 100,000 Americans nationwide,” the article states.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Berkeley has had 4,835 reported cases, which accounts for 3.9% of the population, said Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, in an email. This is lower than the state rate of 11.3%.

Berkeley was one of the first places in the nation to impose COVID-19 restrictions, Elgstrand added. According to the city website, public health officers in Alameda County announced a stay-at-home order March 16, 2020.

“These early actions saved lives, especially at a time when the virus was novel and scientists were still figuring out the best ways to treat it, and long before vaccines became available,” Elgstrand said in an email.

Berkeley is one of three cities with its own department of public health in California, Elgstrand said in an email. Having the Public Health Division has enabled the city to focus on its own needs rather than the needs of an entire county.

Along with the rest of the state, Berkeley lifted its restrictions June 15, Elgstrand added. Businesses are allowed to reopen if they can abide by the city’s health orders. Though these restrictions have been eased, District 5 Councilmember Sophie Hahn said in an email, additional work must be done to protect the community.

“We must continue to work to raise our vaccination rates even higher. New policies like the City of Berkeley’s vaccine mandate for employees — and requirement of vaccination or negative testing results to patronize bars or restaurants — is a key step in the right direction,” Hahn said in an email.

Berkeley residents can keep each other accountable by getting vaccinated, following social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask indoors, according to Elgstrand. Violating any health orders is a misdemeanor and may result in a fine.

Hahn noted that Berkeley’s success in keeping low COVID-19 rates is a result of the collaboration between the department of public health, other community health organizations and the citizens of Berkeley.

“We are fortunate to live in a city where our residents respect science and look out for one another. So it comes as no surprise that by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated, we, along with much of the Bay Area, have been able to keep our case rates among the lowest in the nation,” Elgstrand said in an email.

Contact Kelly Suth at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kellyannesuth.