August News: “The War Has Changed,” Rental Assistance & More

As our understanding of the Delta variant evolves, our Bay Area health officers are updating health and safety guidance. Last week, we learned from an internal CDC presentation that “the war has changed” because the Delta variant is different from previous strains of Covid-19.

Please find below the new guidance on masking indoors in public settings released earlier this week.


Eight Bay Area health officers have issued Health Orders requiring masks indoors in public places.

The Orders require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings when indoors in public settings, with limited exceptions, starting on Tues., Aug. 3.

“We are deeply fortunate to have vaccines that so profoundly reduce the risk of severe illness and death from the newest, more dangerous variant,” said Dr. Lisa B. Hernandez, City of Berkeley Health Officer. “Adding a face covering when indoors with others, gives us all an easy, familiar and powerful tool.”

Health officials are very concerned by the substantial levels of community transmission now found across the Bay Area, especially among unvaccinated people. In part, this is due to the widespread Covid-19 Delta variant, which is substantially more transmissible than previous forms of the virus. Recent information from the CDC also indicates that even fully vaccinated individuals can in some cases spread the Delta variant to others, and so indoor use of face coverings provides an important added layer of protection.

Indoor settings, whether public or private, are higher risk for Covid-19 transmission, especially when you are with people with whom you do not live. Health officials also recommend that all employers make face coverings available to individuals entering their businesses, and businesses are required to implement the indoor face covering order.

The Health Orders are consistent with guidance from the CDC and the California Department of Public Health, which recommend that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks while in indoor public settings. Bay Area Health Officers will continue to monitor data, including increasing vaccination throughout the region, to determine when the Orders can be adjusted or lifted.


In this newsletter:

Covid-19 Vaccines Continue to Be Safe and Effective Against Severe Symptoms, Hospitalization and Death

With the fast-spreading Delta variant, getting vaccinated is more important than ever. Recent data from the CDC below confirm that vaccination significantly reduces the risk of infection, hospitalization and death.

The Delta variant is a powerful and sobering reminder that a high rate of vaccination is critical to bringing this pandemic under control.

I want to express my appreciation for the tens of thousands of Berkeley residents who are now fully vaccinated—a total of 76,418 residents age 12 and older have made the decision to protect themselves and our community. The City’s data dashboard is now showing that 70 percent of our eligible population is fully vaccinated. It has also come to my attention that this vaccination rate of 70 percent is understated; this is due to challenges in accurately capturing all of the vaccinated U.C. Berkeley students in our numerator—many of whom moved out and were vaccinated elsewhere—but who remain in our City’s population total, the denominator. This caveat is now prominently noted on our data dashboard.

The greater transmissibility of the Delta variant means the war has changed. We all need to follow the indoor mask mandate for now, and I believe our policies need to rapidly shift toward compelling the remaining unvaccinated population to get vaccinated in order to safeguard public health and to ensure the continuity of essential public services. To that end, I want to be clear that I support:

  • Public and private employers requiring workers to be vaccinated
  • Businesses asking for proof of vaccination from customers, especially in restaurants and bars where masking is not reasonably possible

I want to acknowledge the frustration so many of us feel over losing what we hoped would be a carefree vaccinated summer. The New York Times science and global health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli recently said, “The only way that we can get out of this pandemic is to vaccinate as many people as possible.” We’re starting to see employers, states, and municipalities align their vaccine policies to this reality, and that should give us hope that we are moving in the right direction in this race against time.

Rental Assistance Available for Tenants and Landlords

Federal financial relief totaling $5.2 billion is now available to California tenants and landlords for rent that a tenant may owe going back to April 2020, along with future rent payments, if needed. Under the state’s new program, up to 100 percent of back and future rent can be covered, along with unpaid utility bills. (For tenants and landlords who already applied through Housing Is Key and received up to 80 percent of back rent, the Housing Is Key program will automatically “top off” those recipients to up to 100 percent of what is owed without the need to reapply.)

Eligibility is based on your income and household size. Residents of Alameda County should visit the Alameda County Housing Secure website to see if they are eligible and to complete an online application in English, Spanish, or Chinese. Applications for tenants are also available to download in various languages.

Applications will be prioritized based on need, meaning applicants with the lowest incomes will have their applications processed first. However, the state does not anticipate running out of rental assistance funds, so everyone who has the need for this assistance and meets the income-eligibility requirement should apply as soon as possible, but no later than Sept. 30.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported on tenants experiencing difficulty in accessing rental assistance funds, and I have heard anecdotally that the application process can be complicated. The application works best (and fastest) if both the tenant and landlord complete it cooperatively; however, it’s not a requirement and tenants and landlords may apply on their own.

If you live in Berkeley and need assistance, please use the following resources:

Also, please keep in mind, the City of Berkeley continues to have a moratorium on evictions in place for the duration of the declared local state of emergency resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. More information is available HERE.

BART’s Berkeley-El Cerrito Corridor Access Plan Survey

N. Berkeley BART station. Photo: Pi.1415926535 (License).

In addition to working with the City of Berkeley to develop the Ashby and N. Berkeley BART stations, BART is also working with the City of El Cerrito to develop the El Cerrito Plaza station along the Richmond line. Homes at each of these three stations could potentially change how some people get to the BART stations. In response, BART is leading the Berkeley-El Cerrito Corridor Access Plan.

In collaboration with the cities of Berkeley and El Cerrito, BART’s Corridor Access Plan is intended to identify options for people to get to and from BART and is funded by the California Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration.

Take the BART Corridor Access Plan Survey through Aug. 20 to share your input:

Outdoor Movie Night at James Kenney Park TONIGHT

Berkeley’s summer of free Friday night movies in parks continues this week with a showing of Smallfoot at James Kenney Park TONIGHT at 8:15 p.m. 

The film will be shown on a large portable 20′ x 12′ inflatable movie screen with audio-visual movie equipment for outdoor cinemas. Guests are asked to arrive at least 30 minutes before the movie begins at 8:15 p.m. Bring blankets, sleeping bags, and/or low-back beach chairs with a maximum height of nine inches off the ground, so the view of others is not blocked. A flashlight or headlamp makes walking out at the end of the night easier. This is an alcohol-free event.

Click HERE for the remaining summer movie night schedule.