Bay Area COVID-19 Update

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Monday May 25, 2020 - 08:51:00 PM

The latest developments around the region related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of Monday afternoon include: -more-

Page One

Gov. Newson Announces Statewide COVID-19 Contact Tracing Campaign

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Friday May 22, 2020 - 03:35:00 PM

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the launch of a public awareness campaign for the state's COVID-19 case investigation program. -more-

Public Comment

Better COVID-19 Tracking Data Needed to Plan for
Re-Opening Berkeley

Claire V. Broome, M.D. , Assistant Surgeon General, US Public Health Service (retired)
Sunday May 24, 2020 - 01:21:00 PM

Residents of Berkeley need better information to track Covid-19 in Berkeley and Alameda County

I worked in public health for 28 years, so I understand the challenges facing Health Departments in the City of Berkeley, Alameda County, and the state. The fundamental tool for health departments facing a new frightening disease like Covid 19 is data –how many new cases each day? Are case numbers stable, increasing, or decreasing? Where are cases happening? What are the risk factors (eg exposure to known case, essential worker, crowded facility)?

Many residents may not understand that with a new disease, Public Health Departments at all levels of government are learning as they go, doing what is urgent based on knowledge and past experience, and figuring out how to improve that response. Systems that worked for routine disease tracking may need to be adapted on the fly to track and respond to Covid-19.

But residents of Berkeley like me need to know what's happening in our city now, and how the City will make informed decisions as we move forward with re-opening. The essential questions: are NEW cases stable, going up, or down? As we re-open, where are new cases coming from? How will the City effectively control spread so we are safe but can get back to school and work?

The City of Berkeley and Alameda County provide the number of new cases each day confirmed by PCR testing. But the number of cases confirmed by testing may be difficult to interpret due to recent increased availability of testing. Testing may also not reach vulnerable populations. -more-

Pompous Pompeo & Trump

Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday May 23, 2020 - 02:44:00 PM

It’s past time to apply the brakes on the Trump-Pompeo duo who are determined to remove the oversight guard rails of our democracy. The latest watchdog to receive a pink slip is State Department inspector general, Steve Linick who was reportedly close to completing his report on Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s efforts to bypass Congressional oversight in an end run to close a $8bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates. This is yet another example of “American Exceptionalism.” – selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, the architects of 9/11, and the torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. These weapons will enrich US defense contractors, but will be used to blow up innocent men, women and children in neighboring Yemen, a country on the brink of mass starvation, a cholera epidemic and Coronavirus pandemic. It is inconceivable that Pompeo and VP Pence, who claim to be devout Christians, would negotiate arms deals with such autocratic regimes. Jesus must be weeping. -more-

New CEQA Guidelines for Traffic Impacts Make Assessment Meaningless

Bob Silvestri
Thursday May 21, 2020 - 05:05:00 PM

As anyone knows, during normal times, traffic is one of the top concerns of Bay Area residents. Prior to the current, unprecedented economic lockdown, local traffic was intolerable during rush hour--something it will likely become again, once the pandemic has passed.

It is generally acknowledged that traffic jams have a direct relationship to air pollution from all those idling and bumper to bumper vehicles. And until we live in a fully electric or hydrogen powered world, this will remain the case.

One of the current methods of mitigating against this, as it relates to new real estate development, include assessing the impacts of the traffic that a zoning change or a new project will add to adjacent roads and how that will effect congestion at intersections. That method is called "Level of Service" (LOS) and it's analyzed by doing traffic counts and recording congestion times.

It's a method that has served us well for decades. California’s public policy makers, however, disagree and have made changes to CEQA Guidelines to take this issue in an entirely new direction. -more-

We Must Become Loving, Fierce, and Brave Now

Thomas Lord
Monday May 18, 2020 - 04:44:00 PM

What a terrible predicament we're in during this pandemic shut-down, but there are some very bright silver linings. Let's consider three big problems we face:

Problem: The climate emergency

Scientists tell us that we are out of time. Our greenhouse gas emissions must fall very sharply this year, and every year for years to come. If we get to, or very close to, 0 emissions this decade, there's a ghost of a chance. If we fail, scientists tell us every tree a young adult sees today, in every forest on earth, stands a good chance of dying during her lifetime. They tell us that not only trees but species of all types will die off so rapidly that there are questions about whether we'll be able to keep eating. This is the world we have been preparing to leave those young adults and children! Our society as a whole is doing this to generations who are already alive!

The silver lining? This "shut down" of large parts of the economy has, overnight, reduced our greenhouse emissions far and fast. In fact, at the moment, we have reduced emissions farther and faster than has been accomplished in the entire history of the environmental movement. And if nothing else, look at the sky. You have never seen air this clean, for this long, in the Bay Area. -more-

The Dangerous Mix: Coronavirus plus Air Pollution

Harry Brill
Friday May 22, 2020 - 11:53:00 AM

The American public is aware that both the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and air pollution are major killers. So far in the United States the Coronavirus has killed over 95,000 people. Air pollution takes over 100,000 lives a year. But not as well known are the consequences of their interaction,

Scientists at Harvard have found that the Coronavirus death rate in highly polluted counties is 4.5 times higher than those in counties with low levels of air pollution. So if a community decides to allow more businesses to operate normally, which results in increasing traffic, the additional air pollution combined with the same level of the Coronavirus could result in a higher coronavirus death rate. -more-


Building for the Future, Not for the Past

Becky O'Malley
Sunday May 17, 2020 - 02:07:00 PM

“Never allow a good crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do the things you once thought were impossible.”

This quote, from Rahm Emanuel, the frequently disliked ex-mayor of Chicago, is often cited by paranoids left and right who see things happening that they worry about.

But as we know, even paranoids have enemies, so attention must be paid.

Let’s just take a look, in no particular order, at current attempts to push through causes beloved of a variety of interests while the noisy public shelters in place.

They have common threads. Many are related to the lately-challenged theory that making dense cities even denser by feverish construction is a social good. That’s so last year, if you’ve been watching the analyses of what’s gone wrong with the rapid spread of COVID-19.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at an op-ed in this week’s online (and Sunday’s print) New York Times, from a UC Berkeley B-School faculty administrator and urban planner: Now Is the Time to Embrace Density. It’s a thorough explication of the dogma of density as the cure for all social ills.

Then take a look at the comments from readers. The Times closed them out at 254—and my quick reading didn’t see more than 5 which supported the writer’s thesis. It turns out that when you’re confined to home having a modest backyard -- open space with a little sunlight--is more appealing than ever. And also, density helps disease to spread faster.

So what’s up in the beleaguered Bay, density-wise? -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE:What is the 2020 Democratic Message?

Bob Burnett
Friday May 22, 2020 - 11:49:00 AM

On Friday, May 15, House Democrats passed "The Heroes Act." It's a $3 trillion pandemic-relief bill, providing assistance to state and local governments, hazard pay for frontline health care workers, election protection, and many other benefits. Dems concocted a list so long that political pundits asked: "What's the message that Democrats are trying to send?"

"The Heroes Act" is a symptom of a larger problem: in the face of Donald Trump ranting "Covid-19 is nothing to be afraid of; it's safe to come out now," Democrats don't have a coordinated response.

1. Bad Donald: Many observers have suggested that Democrats adopt a variation of "Trump is a lunatic who is ruining our country" as the Party's mantra. This approach is tempting because Donald keeps doing all the wrong things, in prime time. Nonetheless, I recommend that Democrats do not make "Donald bad, Joe good" their primary message.

While such an approach might stir up the deep-blue base, it's unlikely to attract thoughtful voters who want to understand what the Democratic Party stands for. And this message won't sway Republicans who already know Donald is "bad" and don't care -- in fact, seem to love him more the badder he gets. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT:On Reopening the Economy

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday May 21, 2020 - 05:10:00 PM

Trump was alerted about COVID-19 in January and February but did not acknowledge its seriousness until March. He refused to take charge of the war against the virus, deferring instead to the states, and then continually undermined their efforts. Now he is quitting while he’s behind by encouraging the abandonment of state shelter-in-place orders. -more-


Jack Bragen
Friday May 22, 2020 - 12:13:00 PM

If you can withstand having a full-blown psychotic episode, it isn't a giant intellectual stretch to deal with a society instituting massive changes to battle a deadly pathogen. This is not to claim superiority of any kind, nor do I minimize non-afflicted people's bravery or their fortitude. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday May 23, 2020 - 02:39:00 PM

This week, another great issue of Mother Jones hit the newsstands (Hmmm…. Do we still have newsstands?) with a cover showing a tilted statue of Sen. Lindsey Graham in the process of being toppled. -more-

Arts & Events

Michael McClure Performance Video is Online Memorial

Ken Bullock
Thursday May 21, 2020 - 05:15:00 PM

Famed poet Michael McClure, longtime Oakland resident and teacher at the California College of the Arts at Broadway and College Avenue, died May 4, age 87.

In memoriam, Mel Vapour and Paul Kealoha Blake of the East Bay Media Center of Berkeley have posted a never before released two-camera video of 'Double Moirè,' an hour- long jazz/poetry performance by their longtime friend and collaborator McClure and George Brooks, the well-known jazz and world music saxophonist/composer, produced and shot by the Center at the Jazz Café of the California Jazz Conservatory, where Brooks has taught, on Addison, a block from the Media Center, on May 22, 2009: -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Week May 24 – May 31, 2020

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday May 23, 2020 - 02:26:00 PM

Worth Noting

There are six City meetings this coming week.


The Budget Committee, 10 am, is meeting weekly, but there seems to be a disconnect between the expressed concerns of the impact of Covid-19 and Council agendas and actions. The FY 2021 budget agenda item was accompanied by page with “No Material Available for this Item.” The last update is from May 19.

The City Council 6 pm meeting contains some mind-boggling items and agenda order. Take a look at Consent items 18, 19, 20, 21, 23 and Action 27. Item 18. $6.1 million on recyclable materials – (recycling/reuse seems to be hitting an all time low with Covid-19 and there needs to be an honest discussion on “wish” cycling), items 19., 20., 21. total $10,193,714 in contracts to generate parking revenue through fees and fines, 23. On CycloMedia system produces high-resolution, 360 degree, 3-d panoramas of every street view it is deployed on (see explanatory letter following the weekly calendar) and item 27. The Emergency Ordinance to enhance tenant protections during the pandemic is placed as the very last item on a long agenda. Will the Council even get to tenant protections. -more-

Back Stories


Public Comment

Better COVID-19 Tracking Data Needed to Plan for
Re-Opening Berkeley
Claire V. Broome, M.D. , Assistant Surgeon General, US Public Health Service (retired) 05-24-2020

Pompous Pompeo & Trump Tejinder Uberoi 05-23-2020

New CEQA Guidelines for Traffic Impacts Make Assessment Meaningless Bob Silvestri 05-21-2020

We Must Become Loving, Fierce, and Brave Now Thomas Lord 05-18-2020

The Dangerous Mix: Coronavirus plus Air Pollution Harry Brill 05-22-2020


Bay Area COVID-19 Update Eli Walsh (BCN) 05-25-2020

Gov. Newson Announces Statewide COVID-19 Contact Tracing Campaign Eli Walsh (BCN) 05-22-2020


THE PUBLIC EYE:What is the 2020 Democratic Message? Bob Burnett 05-22-2020

ECLECTIC RANT:On Reopening the Economy Ralph E. Stone 05-21-2020

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Resiliency Jack Bragen 05-22-2020

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces Gar Smith 05-23-2020

Arts & Events

Michael McClure Performance Video is Online Memorial Ken Bullock 05-21-2020

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Week May 24 – May 31, 2020 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 05-23-2020