As Halloween approaches, be safe. There will be no Halloween gathering on Russell St.
Bay Area Health Officials urge everyone to limit Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos activities to those you live with and use the time to focus on activities, like decorations or virtual costume parties, that keep physical distancing and other safeguards in place.
Trick-or-treating increases contact with people outside of your household who may not be as careful about COVID-19 prevention. Parties mix people who don't live in the same home. These high-risk activities increase chances the virus can pass from one person to another and mirror the kind of gathering and mixing that Bay Area contact tracers have seen contribute to infection. Read more here.
Red flag warning for the Berkeley hills - October 21st
Power shutoffs not expected in Berkeley
Hills residents should prepare for a high fire danger warning starting at 10pm on Wednesday, October 21 by signing up for alerts, reviewing evacuation routes, packing or refreshing "go bags," and parking off street when possible.
This “Red Flag” warning, which is scheduled to end at 8am Friday October 23, means that people should use extreme caution when operating BBQs, power equipment, or other heat sources such as idling cars. Fires that start during Red Flag Warnings can spread rapidly due to high winds and dry vegetation. Remember that fireworks are always completely forbidden in Berkeley and surrounding areas.
Take these steps to prepare:
- Sign up for AC Alert and leave your phone turned on. Make sure everyone in your home is registered for AC Alert, the City’s emergency notification service. Keep your phone on in case a fire starts while you are sleeping.
- Review your household’s evacuation routes. Make sure to plan at least two routes away from your neighborhood. During an evacuation you may not be able to drive, so including walking routes in your plans. See https://www.cityofberkeley.info/wildfire/ for evacuation information and download our printable evacuation checklist.
- Pack or refresh your go-bag. Everyone in your household should have a go bag with the things you would need to safely evacuate. In the era of COVID-19, this includes face coverings and hand sanitizer. If you have a go bag already, check it and replace any expired items, like food or batteries.
- Park off-street. Back your car into your driveway or garage, leaving streets clear for emergency vehicles.
- Power shutoffs not expected in Berkeley
PG&E has announced plans for a “Public Safety Power Shutoff” (PSPS) in some areas of Alameda County. The expected shutoff area does not currently include Berkeley. If a shutoff is announced for Berkeley, there will be a notification on AC Alert.
Ballots have been mailed
If you are registered to vote, you should have received your ballot by now for this November's election. Check your mail from the last few days and make sure to find your ballot. Ballots were mailed to every registered voter to minimize the spread of COVID-19, allowing us to safely vote from home and avoid going in person to a polling place. If you have not yet received your mail-in ballot, you can track its status here.
You can vote now
- Just fill out your ballot, using blue or black ink, follow the folding instructions, and put your completed ballot in the return envelope
- Be sure to sign your name on the back and seal the envelope
- Then put it in the mailbox. No stamps are necessary
If you make a mistake on your ballot, you will need to go to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office in Oakland to surrender your ballot and get a new one. You should call the ROV at 510.272.6973 to confirm hours and visitor protocols.
If you choose not to mail your ballot through the U.S. Postal Service, you can drop off your completed, signed ballot at one of the official drop box locations. Berkeley locations are listed below:
- Frances Albrier Rec. Center 2800 Park Street
- Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Avenue
- North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda
- West Branch Library, 1125 University Ave
- Civic Center Building, 2180 Milvia Street
- UC Berkeley (Campus) Sather Gate /Architects & Engineers Bldg.
You can also drop off your ballot at one of the voting locations on election day:
- Epworth United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins St
- Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda
- MLK Student Union 3rd floor Pauley Ballroom, 2455 Bancroft Way
- Berkeley High School Gym, 1980 Allston Way
- Willard Middle School, 2425 Stuart St .
- Longfellow School Gym, 1500 Derby St.
- Ed Robert Campus, 3045 Adeline St
- Lawrence Hall Of Science, 1 Centennial Dr.
- City Of Berkeley Private Building, 1011 University Ave.
Accessible Voting Locations will be open for voting beginning on Saturday, October 31, and will generally be open from 8:30am-5pm on Saturday 10/31, Sunday 11/1, and Monday 11/2, and 8am-8pm on Election Day, 11/3. If there are updates to the locations and timings, that will be provided in a future email. For more details on ballot drop boxes and AVLs, visit the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.
Voting now will help ensure that your ballot is among those that gets counted by Election Night. Reminder: Ballots must be put in a drop box, delivered to a polling place, or postmarked by no later than Nov. 3.
Track your ballot
After you have mailed in your ballot or dropped it off, you can check its status here. You can also use this same link to sign up for alerts about your ballot's status and find out whether your ballot was accepted or needs further action by you.
If you are not yet registered to vote, you can also register in person through Election Day, Nov. 3. If you just need to change your address or want to check your registration status, go online here.
Finally, please do not discard your mail-in ballot if you plan to vote in person. Instead, bring it with you to the polling station. Bringing it with you shows the poll workers that you have not yet voted and will prevent you from having to cast a "provisional" ballot. Provisional ballots don't get counted right away, because they have to go through an additional review.
Ranked Choice Voting
Voters can -- but aren't required to -- indicate their first, second, third, fourth, and fifth choice for an office. Some voters choose only one top choice. If a candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, they are the winner.
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first place votes, then the ranked choice process is used:
- First, the candidate with the fewest first place votes is eliminated.
- Second, voters who selected the eliminated last place candidate have their votes transferred to their second choice. If they didn't choose a second choice, they do not have a vote in the second round.
- Third, votes are re-counted to see if there is a candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote.
- If no candidate receives more than 50 percent, the process of eliminating the last place candidate and transferring votes is repeated until a majority winner is declared.
For more information, visit The Alameda County Registrar of Voters RCV website at www.acvote.org/voting/rcv or call (510) 272-6933.
Updated Health Order
Collective actions taken by people in Berkeley and Alameda County along with diligent public health work have led to decreasing daily COVID-19 case rates and lower test positivity -- metrics that mean that other public activities using safeguards will be allowed in the coming weeks.
This marks the second consecutive month in which those key state measurements have gone down, allowing the City and County to plan to open additional activities in a phased manner that minimizes potential for a surge of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Elementary schools, personal care services, gyms and indoor museums and galleries can already open with restrictions, aligning with the state. Please keep in mind that Berkeley Unified School District is working with city and county public health officials to prepare for a gradual reopening of elementary schools, when it is safe to do so. The District has created an Elementary School Reopening Readiness dashboard, updated weekly, to communicate its progress.
Berkeley’s Health Officer will also over the coming weeks allow opening of several public activities permitted by the state.
Playgrounds opened on Oct. 16. Other activities may open with restrictions starting Oct. 26:
- Indoor dining up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less
- Indoor worship services up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less
- Indoor movie theaters up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less
- Expansion of indoor retail and malls at up to 50% of capacity and permitting food courts
Just because an activity is permitted doesn’t eliminate risk of infection. In fact, we know that indoor activities pose greater risk of transmission than outdoor ones. Shared, high-touch surfaces remain a potential source of exposure. People age 60 and over or those with underlying health conditions remain at greater risk of severe illness.
“COVID-19 remains a threat, so each person will need to evaluate their own risks and assess which activities they would like to prioritize and participate in,” said Dr. Lisa B. Hernandez, the City of Berkeley Health Officer. “Developing good habits and making good choices collectively allow us to advance together."
Good habits and smart choices reduce risk
Everyone should ask three questions when considering a public activity. Instead of doing all public activities, budget your risk by prioritizing which ones are the most important and forgoing others.
While making tradeoffs to choose activities, everyone should always do the essentials: stay home when sick, wear face coverings, wash hands frequently, and keep physical distance with those not in your household. Get a flu shot.
Businesses can now serve more people outside, as the City has streamlined permitting processes and significantly expanded the range of allowed outdoor activities on both public and private property. See our outdoor commerce guide for assistance.
Playgrounds to open, but risk remains
Playgrounds may open on Friday Oct. 16 in compliance with the requirements in the State’s guidance. But parents and guardians will need to be conscious of the risk, and, if they choose to have their children use them, take steps to reduce those risks. They include:
- Keeping face coverings on anyone over the age of 2
- Using playgrounds only when 6 feet of distance or a capacity limit is met
- Consider alternate, less busy times
- Don’t eat or drink while at playgrounds
- Washing or sanitizing hands before and after use
- Limiting use to 30 minutes
- Avoiding coming to playgrounds if you are over age 60 or have underlying health conditions that put you at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
“I am hopeful that the strong practices our community has embraced will continue to move us forward," said Dr. Hernandez. "We cannot control the virus, but the actions we do control have an impact and help open up more activities for us all."