BERKELEY (CBS SF) – As much of the United States is dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases, city officials in Berkeley announced the lowest rates of infection in the city since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said as of Tuesday, there have been 757 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Berkeley, representing 0.63 percent of the population. The city’s seven-day average is about two cases per day and the test positivity rate is 0.29% over the last four weeks.

Berkeley officials said their COVID-19 case rate is less than half compared to the rest of Alameda County, which has had 22,191 cases, representing 1.48% of the population. The city’s case rate is far below the country’s case rate of 2.70% of the population (8.8 million cases).

Nine Berkeley residents have died from COVID-19, representing 0.08% of the city’s population.

Berkeley launched its Emergency Operations Center in January in response to the coronavirus. More than 550 employees across all departments were mobilized to address the crisis, which included COVID-19 testing, working with vulnerable populations, along with public information and outreach.

“The actions we took early on saved lives. If the United States had the same death rate as Berkeley, we would be talking about 26,000 deaths instead of over 227,000,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said.

The mayor went on to credit “efforts and sacrifices” among city officials and residents for “following the science.” City officials said voluntary compliance with mask orders has been effective, and no citations have been given since the city approved fines for not following mask orders last month.

With infection rates low, Berkeley Public Health Director Dr. Lisa Hernandez allowed for the reopening of certain activities last week. As of October 23, indoor dining, worship services, along with weddings and funerals, are being allowed with capacity limits at 25% or 100 people whichever is less.

On Wednesday, the health officer said middle and high schools that submit and distribute a reopening plan could have the option to reopen in-person learning as early as November 9. Also on that date, small groups of 8-12 elementary students will get back to the classroom, but on only four campuses. Most schools in the Berkeley Unified School District are not expected to reopen for in-person learning until January.

Officials stressed that residents need to continue to abide by social distancing and mask wearing protocols, with cases continuing to rise nationwide and with flu season approaching.

“This pandemic is far from over and we must remain vigilant,” Arreguin said.

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