OAKLAND (KPIX) – With more than 2,600 COVID-19 cases in Alameda County, health officials were hoping that number doesn’t spike after the warm Memorial Day weekend. Oakland is a hot spot for the virus so crowd control at Lake Merritt, the heart and crown jewel of Oakland, is especially important.
“It’s so therapeutic to be at the lake. Everybody comes over here,” said Shakari Jackson, who works out daily at the lake.
That’s the worry. City and county health officials said big crowds and big parties could result in more exposure and lead to more COVID-19 cases.
So far, Oakland has the most positive cases in Alameda County and the county is leading the Bay Area in the number of cases, overtaking Santa Clara county as the new epicenter in the region.
“I just feel like it’s going to be a lot of people out here and it might be hard to have a crowd control,” said Brandon Bailey, who was working out at the lake with friends.
Oakland started a new park ambassador program a few weeks ago. On Friday, they were walking around the lake to educate people about minimizing risks.
Ambassadors like Chris Kyriacou said they were looking for groups that were sitting too close and people who weren’t wearing masks.
“If they’re going to come out here, we would like them to be covered, keep their distancing and probably the biggest thing we’re doing is handing out these masks. The price is right. They’re free,” said Kyiacou.
Their orange shirts also serve as a visual reminder.
“Sometimes when people see us coming, and they don’t have the mask on, then they’ll go ahead and put it on,” said park ambassador Michael Tatmon.
“It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it. And instead of throwing stones, we’re just trying to maybe offer some alternatives,” said Kyiacou.
Lake users are noticing more compliance in recent days but they still see some rowdy parties and bad violations from time to time.
“I’ve seen packs of 12 (people) sitting around, you know, like I said, trading food, you know, hugs and kisses,” said James Driver of Oakland.
The city also banned street parking and food trucks adjacent to the lake on weekends and Memorial Day to make it less attractive for people to go to Lake Merritt.