West Campus Pool pool photo by Michelle Pitcher
West Campus Pool. Photo: Michelle Pitcher

Starting Monday, the city of Berkeley will close its recreation centers, including pools and clubhouses, to limit the spread of COVID-19, officials announced Sunday.

City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said staff are “temporarily closing all City of Berkeley recreation programs, recreation centers, pools and clubhouses to limit the ways this virus can spread.”

“We must act decisively,” she said in a prepared statement.

Williams-Ridley said she made the call because COVID-19 continues to spread through Bay Area counties. As of Sunday, the Bay Area had more than 200 confirmed cases and three deaths. The city of Berkeley has reported three confirmed cases, and UC Berkeley has reported one. There has been no evidence yet in Berkeley of “community spread,” according to the city, where it’s unknown how someone contracted COVID-19.

The city’s health officer, Dr. Lisa Hernandez, said in Sunday’s statement that it’s important to realize that Alameda County, however, has cases that are spreading “without a known source.” Hernandez has urged everyone to limit the size of large gatherings, particularly for “those more susceptible to severe COVID-19 illness – people over 60 or those with chronic conditions” — who should limit the size of groups to 10.

“Kids home from closed schools should also stay home as much as possible,” the city says.

On Sunday evening, the Centers for Disease Control said gatherings should be limited to no more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. Berkeley staff plans to review the new guidance and may adjust its recommendations in light of them.

“Our elders and those with chronic conditions particularly need us to act,” Williams-Ridely wrote.

Berkeley announced Friday that its senior centers would be closed starting Monday. The Berkeley Public Library and public schools are all closed as of Monday as well. Many local restaurants are following suit.

On Friday, the city said it would cancel meetings for dozens of commissions but would let quasi-judicial bodies continue. That includes the zoning board, the Planning Commission, the Police Review Commission and several others.

The City Council “will be teleconferenced, and will have a publicly accessible location for public comment and meeting observation,” according to a statement Friday. Council plans to cancel special meetings and work sessions and will only focus on time-sensitive or otherwise critical issues, officials have said.

Williams-Ridley said in Sunday’s statement that she is taking public health risks seriously. City staff have been meeting daily for weeks to prepare for and make decisions about local impacts related to COVID-19.

“As City Manager, I am marshalling all of our available resources to limit the impact of COVID-19 in Berkeley,” she wrote in Sunday’s statement. “We will be looking to see how we can use these temporarily shuttered facilities to support the City’s nurses, paramedics, police officers, outreach workers and others on the front lines against COVID-19.”

Recreation facilities that remain open include Berkeley parks and sports fields, the Berkeley Skate Park, picnic sites and tennis courts and pickleball reservations. The Berkeley Marina is also open, other than Adventure Playground and Shorebird Park Nature Center.

The city asks community members to “stay current” about all public health guidelines by reviewing the city’s coronavirus page on its website.

Closures starting Monday, March 16

Anyone with questions for the city can email recreation@cityofberkeley.info or call 510-981-5150. Offices will be closed to the public.

Recreation centers:

  • Live Oak Community Center
  • James Kenney Community Center
  • Frances Albrier Community Center
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center / Young Adult Project (YAP)
  • Willard Clubhouse
  • Shorebird Park Nature Center & Adventure Playground

Aquatic Centers:

  • King Pool
  • West Campus Pool
  • Recreation Customer Service

Programs including:

  • After-school programs
  • Spring break camps
  • Aquatics programs, including swim lessons, drop-in programs, lap swim and the Berkeley Barracudas after-school program
  • Recreation and athletic programs, including youth and adult sports, leagues, drop-in activities, open gym, classes
  • Tots/pre-K programs, teen programs and field trips

City-wide special events

  • 2020 Census event (April 4)
  • Flashlight egg hunt (April 10)
  • Spring egg hunt (April 11)
  • Berkeley Bay Festival (April 18)
  • Shoreline cleanup (April 25)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...