January 7, 2021

Happy New Year! I hope you are all staying safe during this unprecedented time. I feel very fortunate to live in a community like Berkeley and are grateful for constituents like you. Please find some updates below.

If you traveled or celebrated with people you don’t live with over winter holidays, quarantine

Staying home for 10 days after an exposure stops the spread of COVID-19

If you traveled outside the Bay Area to celebrate winter holidays, spent time with travelers from elsewhere, or gathered with anyone outside your household, quarantine at home for 10 days to avoid spreading COVID-19 to others.

Mixing with other households creates a high risk of COVID-19 exposure, a risk that’s heightened amidst an unprecedented spread of COVID-19 nationwide.

It’s a good idea to quarantine if you:

  • Gathered with people you do not normally live with – especially if you were indoors, less than 6 feet apart, or around anyone not wearing a face mask.
  • Travelled outside the region - especially on planes, buses, trains, or other shared vehicles.

The activities that put you at risk may have seemed as routine as a child coming home from college or a plane trip to see a grandparent. But in a pandemic with a virus that spreads easily through breath, preventing further infections is something each of us can help do.

Quarantines stop the spread.

The fundamentals of staying in quarantine are straightforward. Stay home for 10 days and monitor your symptoms for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19 or engaging in a high-risk activity.

  • Watch for fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19
  • If possible, stay away from others in your home, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

Testing is a snapshot in time

A negative test doesn’t mean you don’t have COVID-19, especially when in quarantine.

The amount of the virus in an infected person may be undetectable at first.  A negative test on any previous day doesn’t rule out testing positive later in the disease process. 

That makes quarantines essential. While everyone should stay home when sick, an estimated 50 percent of COVID-19 cases are infected by people who didn’t have symptoms or know they were sick.  Quarantines can stop the otherwise exponential domino effect of COVID-19 spread.

Health Order requires quarantine for close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases

The City of Berkeley’s Quarantine Health Order requires people to quarantine if they were exposed to someone with -- or presumed to have -- COVID-19.

Public health workers, known as contact tracers, use interviews with a person who tests positive to identify and reach out to close contacts -- people who might be potentially infected and spreading COVID-19.

Someone is considered a close contact if they were within 6 feet of someone infectious with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can also be a close contact if you shared food or utensils with, had direct physical contact with, or were sneezed or coughed upon by someone sick with COVID-19.

Quarantines are different than isolation, which is required of those who test positive or are presumed to be positive for COVID-19.

With virus surging, continue to limit activities after quarantine ends

The entire Bay Area, including the City of Berkeley, is currently under a Regional Stay at Home Order, imposed by the California Department of Public Health. While this Order remains in effect, everyone should stay home except for essential needs and avoid gathering with anyone outside their household.

When you leave for work, groceries, or other essential errands, you greatly reduce potential exposure -- and chances you’ll need to quarantine -- by keeping your trip short, wearing a face covering, and staying at least six feet away from those outside your household.

$500 million California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program 

Announced by Governor Newsom and the Legislature, the program supports small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 and the health and safety restrictions.

The State of California and CalOSBA are committed to ensuring small businesses have access to the support, resources and capital they need – and this support is fundamental to California’s COVID-19 response.

Today we launched the new website CAReliefGrant.com so that you can review information on eligibility, prepare your business documents and get ready to apply!

Applications for Round 1 will open on Wednesday, December 30th, 2020, and close end of day on Friday, January 8th, 2021. Round 2 will be announced in the near future. Eligible small businesses and nonprofits may apply during these times, directly, at CAReliefGrant.com, or with assistance from a partner.

One of the state’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Lendistry, is supporting the state to distribute these grants and partnering with other CDFIs and small business centers to assist you with your application. To connect to a partner or find more information on the program and requirements, visit CAReliefGrant.com or join one of our small business webinars available daily in multiple languages. If interested in a webinar briefing on the grant program register here.

COVID Cases and Vaccine Updates

As of Monday, January 4, there have been 1,996 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Berkeley and 12 deaths. This is an increase of 642 cases and three deaths over the last 30 days. You can read the latest numbers on our COVID-19 dashboard.

Less than 6% of intensive care beds are available across our entire region--and we still have not seen the impact of spread that occurred over the winter holidays. Hospitalizations in Alameda County continue to climb to record highs, with 442 people currently hospitalized, 109 of whom are in ICUs. The Bay Area region (which includes the nine-county Bay Area plus Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties) ICU capacity is at 5.9% and dropping quickly. Two of the five California Regions, Southern California and San Joaquin Valley, currently have an ICU capacity of 0.0%. Under the current State’s Regional Stay at Home Order, the current restrictions will remain in place until ICU capacity goes above 15%. 

There have been 160,767 tests conducted on Berkeley residents since records began on March 2, with an overall positivity rate 1.39% and a four week positivity rate of 2.23%. For information on how to get tested, click here.

Vaccine Updates

There have been 2,075 doses of the COVID-19 that have been delivered to Berkeley. The first 975 went to Alta Bates to provide to their healthcare workers. The other 1,100 went to the City of Berkeley that will go to healthcare workers under Phase 1A (details on phases below). Of the 1,100 doses given to the City, 494 were administered last week, with the rest being administered this week. Additionally, skilled nursing facilities are receiving vaccines for both residents and workers through the CDC Pharmacy Partnership Program.

Our public health department is following guidance from the CDC and the California Department of Public Health to determine priorities. Here is the breakdown of priority groups. Note that Phases 1B and 1C are subject to change.  

Phase 1A (vaccinations underway)

Tier One:

  • Acute care, psychiatric and correctional facility hospitals.
  • Skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and similar settings for older or medically vulnerable individuals.
  • Paramedics, EMTs, and others providing emergency medical services.
  • Dialysis centers.
  • Staff of residential and inpatient Substance Abuse Disorders treatment, and staff of residential and inpatient mental health facilities.

Tier Two:

  • Intermediate care facilities for persons who need non-continuous nursing supervision and supportive care (staff only).
  • Home health care and in-home supportive services.
  • Community health workers, including promotoras.
  • Public health field staff.
  • Primary care clinics, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Centers, correctional facility clinics, and urgent care clinics.
  • Regional Center staff (service providers for individuals with developmental disabilities).
  • Staff of outpatient Substance Abuse Disorders treatment, mental health facilities, and crisis stabilization units.

Tier Three:

  • Specialty clinics.
  • Laboratory workers.
  • Dental and other oral health clinics.
  • Pharmacy staff not working in settings at higher tiers.
  • Persons working in the mortuary service industry.

Phase 1B (to begin later this month)

Tier One:

  • Age 75 and over.
  • Food and agriculture.
  • Education and childcare.
  • Emergency services.

Tier Two:

  • Age 65 to 74 years with underlying medical conditions/disabilities that place them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness and death.
  • Incarcerated individuals - jails and prisons.
  • Homeless/unhoused.
  • Transportation and logistics.
  • Industrial, residential, commercial.
  • Critical manufacturing.

Phase 1C

  • Age 65 to 74 years.
  • Age 16 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions/disabilities that place them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness and death.
  • Water and waste management, defense, energy, chemical and hazardous, communication and IT, financial services.
  • Government operations/community services

Vaccines are expected to be available to the general public in Spring, but it will still take time for everyone to get vaccinated due to the complex logistical challenges. 


Lori Droste

Berkeley Vice Mayor


Want to request a City service? 

Use Berkeley's online 311 form (either through the General Request form or a specific topic) or call 311 from a landline, or 510-981-2489.  Please note that my office routes all the service requests we receive through this customer service center, so your request will be handled most efficiently by directly contacting 311. 

Sign up for emergency notifications on AC Alert  and crime prevention/updates on Nixle.  

Holiday tree disposal

If you have a holiday tree you are ready to dispose of, please remove all lights, decorations, tinsel, plastic bags, and plastic tree stands. You can cut trees up and place them in your cart for curbside collection, or drop off whole trees at the City’s Transfer Station.

Curbside collection

Cut your tree up so it fits into your green plant debris cart with the lid closed. Whole trees can damage the City’s collection trucks and will not be picked up if left on the curb.

Flocked, or “snow-covered” trees are not compostable. If you have a flocked tree, cut it up and place it in your refuse cart.

If you don’t have tools to cut your tree to fit into your cart, the Berkeley Tool Lending Library  is a great resource for free tool rental.

Tree drop off

You may also drop off holiday trees at the City’s Transfer Station at 1201 2nd Street (off Gilman). Remember to remove all lights and decorations before bringing in your tree.

The Transfer Station will take compostable trees for free through the end of January. There is a $29 fee to drop off flocked or plastic trees.

The Transfer Station is open 8am-4:30pm Monday-Saturday, and will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s days.

Berkeley Relief Fund Needs Donations

Many of our businesses have been able to creatively reopen through outdoor dining, retail modifications and reduced capacity.  While this pandemic surges and capacity shrinks again, our small businesses, arts and tenants need our continued help.

Donations from last spring to the Berkeley Relief Fund, combined with City funds, supported 700 small businesses, 63 arts organizations and kept 214 families in their homes.  Funds raised from the community totaled over $1.4M.  The goal is to have the Berkeley community and beyond match the City contribution of $3M.  We are 1/2 way there!!!

For this holiday season, Can you make a tax-deductible donation to the Berkeley Relief Fund?


Berkeley is special because of our special businesses, dynamic arts organizations and the diversity of our people.  We need to come out of this pandemic as healthy as possible. 

Our goal is to raise an additional $1.7 million by the end of the month. These funds will be used by small businesses, many of them owned by women and/or people of color, to keep their businesses operating by paying wages, rent, and other operational expenses. Grants will also be provided to tenants who have been financially impacted as a result of COVID-19.  

There is hope around the corner, with the distribution of vaccines to begin later this month. However, too many people need help now and cannot wait for the pandemic to end. Consider donating today to the Berkeley Relief Fund to support your fellow Berkeley neighbors. Your support will make a difference. Donations are tax deductible. 

Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley Can Provide Affordable Home Renovations, Big and Small. 

Habitat provides limited income renters and homeowners up to $10,000 of free home repairs or accessibility upgrades. For homeowners who need more extensive work, Renew Alameda County’s 1% interest loans with no payments up to $150,000 may be the answer to fix up your home! Learn more about both programs here.


Berkeley-based artists, art nonprofits, and festival organizers can apply for Civic Arts Grants. These grants provide funding to strengthen the local ecosystem of arts and culture.

Depending on their size, organizations can receive up to $12,000 - money that often allows them to leverage more outside funding. Berkeley's Civic Arts grants have supported dozens of organizations large and small, ranging from institutions like Freight & Salvage and the Aurora Theater to smaller groups like the Berkeley Ballet Theatre, Capoeira Arts Foundation, La Peña Cultural Center, and Youth Spirit Artworks. This annual support for a broad spectrum of organizations helps build a thriving base of arts and culture for the region.

Individual artists can receive up to $4,000 to produce new work, which comes with a requirement that Berkeleyans have an opportunity to view the work for free. In past years, this may have been through a gallery showing, reading, or performance. During COVID-19, it may mean a socially distanced outdoor event or a digital production shared online. The Civic Arts Program will organize an online public presentation for all individual grant awardees to showcase their work for the community during Spring of 2022.

Festival grants support a range of events throughout Berkeley from small, first-time events to large-scale, established festivals. These grants can be up to $7,000, depending on the size of the event. Festivals will need to comply with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Organizers should consider virtual formats or outdoor experiences that support social distancing.

Applications due January 19, 2021

All grant-funded activities must take place within the City of Berkeley between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022.

Applications are due by 5pm on January 19, 2021. Review the guidelines and get details on the application process on the Civic Arts Grant Program webpage.

Last year, Berkeley's Civic Arts Grants provided over $500,000 in funding to local artists, arts organizations, and festivals. Continuing this program during the COVID-19 pandemic will help ensure equitable access to high quality arts and culture for Berkeley residents and visitors alike during challenging times.

If you're an artist, nonprofit arts organization, or festival producer seeking to enrich Berkeley with arts and culture, we hope you'll apply for one of our grants. If you know others who might be interested, please spread the word!

For questions, contact the Civic Arts Program at [email protected] or (510) 981-7539.