COVID-19 Emergency & Berkeley

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Subject: Governor Newsom & COVID-19 emergency

Governor Newsom
covid 19 and BerkeleyMarch 25, 2020

First, let me thank you for your decisive actions in response to the statewide COVID-19 emergency.

My present concerns relate to Berkeley and the potential COVID-19 exposure of construction workers engaged in non-essential construction projects. When queried, City staff revealed that ALL construction activities within the Berkeley city limits, regardless of their nature, are not required to respond to the State’s directive to shelter in place. There are absolutely no restrictions and the city appears quite unwilling to impose any limits.

Currently, workers arrive, often with other workers in their vehicles, at their sites, whether residential or commercial, and they seem to be totally unaware of the need to maintain a safe distance from each other, if indeed that’s even possible on their jobs. Nor does it appear that they have adequate protective equipment. As yet, Berkeley hasn’t issued any guidelines for these construction activities, whether on large commercial sites or residential properties.

The city should be concerned about the potential exposure of the workers and their families to the virus, especially since these individuals are driving home to many parts of the county, and even further, potentially exposing many others and expanding the virus’s outbreak. Social distancing strategies and viral containment will not be effective if these construction activities are allowed to continue unchecked.

It was hoped that the City of Berkeley would naturally take a more responsible and precautionary posture to our state’s health emergency. Yet, the response from our city manager is similar to what is being said in Washington by the President:  that we are already seeing a flatting of the curve in the Bay Area and that these construction activities will not harm the state’s ability to contain the spread of the virus. Apparently, he has not been watching the horrific emergency unfolding in New York City.

Without statewide and national testing, such assumptions by the City of Berkeley are only going to result in much longer shelter-in-place restrictions, the overwhelming of existing medical capabilities and many more deaths in California.

One can appreciate the workers’ concerns about their wages, as do our city’s administrators, but for all of us who have taken your shelter-in-place order seriously, we also have the same financial concerns. The City of Berkeley’s double-standard renders our community’s huge sacrifices and the state’s efforts to protect us and our economy meaningless.

Is Berkeley exempt from the Governor's orders? Are ALL Berkeley construction projects, despite their non-essential status and their potentially negative impact on the COVID-19 emergency, acceptable to you?

CC

Berkeley City Council
City Manager

_________________________

ORDER OF THE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE CITY OF BERKELEY DIRECTING ALL INDIVIDUALS LIVING IN THE CITY TO CONTINUE SHELTERING AT THEIR PLACE OF RESIDENC EEXCEPT FOR ESSENTIAL NEEDS; CONTINUING TO EXEMPT HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS FROM THE ORDER BUT URGING GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO PROVIDE THEM SHELTER AND HAND SANITATION FACILITIES; RESTRICTING ACCESS TO RECREATIONAREAS; REQUIRING ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES TO IMPLEMENTSOCIAL DISTANCING PROTOCOLS; CLARIFYING AND FURTHER LIMITING ESSENTIAL BUSINESS ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING CONSTRUCTION; AND DIRECTING ALL BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS TO FURTHER CEASEN ON-ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS DATE OF ORDER:
MARCH 31, 2020

UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF CALIFORNIA HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTIONS 101040, 101085, AND 120175, THE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE CITY OF BERKELEY(“HEALTH OFFICER”) ORDERS:

13.Definitions and Exemptions.

f. For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” are:

v. Construction, but only of the types listed in this subparagraph below:

1. Projects immediately necessary to the maintenance, operation or repair of Essential Infrastructure;

2. Projects associated with Healthcare Operations, including creating or expanding Healthcare Operations, provided that such construction is directly related to the COVID-19 response;

3. Affordable housing that is or will be income-restricted, including multi-unit or mixed-use developments containing at least 10% income-restricted units;

4. Public works projects if specifically designated as an Essential Governmental Function by the lead governmental agency;

5. Shelters and temporary housing, but not including hotels or motels;

6. Projects immediately necessary to provide critical non-commercial services to individuals experiencing homelessness, elderly persons, persons who are economically disadvantaged, and persons with special needs;

7. Construction necessary to ensure that existing construction sites that must be shut down under this Order are left in a safe and secure manner, but only to the extent necessary to do so; and

8. Construction or repair necessary to ensure that residences and buildings containing Essential Businesses are safe, sanitary, or habitable to the extent such construction or repair cannot reasonably be delayed;

Note: Workers on constructions site near Bonita (including the city's NBSC) still do not ALL use protective equipment or practice social distancing during work or lunch.


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