Mayors' Forum on Bay Area coronavirus response

The Bay Area continues to grapple with the impact of the Coronavirus. Local leaders are working with state and federal officials on issues of public health, economic recovery and proper equipment for first responders, just to name a few.

Amidst ongoing challenges, KTVU held a digital forum with mayors of four major Bay Area cities: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Berkeley.


Six Bay Area counties announced shelter-in-place orders on March 16.  At the time, considered the strictest in the nation.  But since then, many cities and states have followed suit.  All of the local orders have since been extended.

Mayor Sam Liccardo: “We know these are very severe restrictions that are being imposed, but they do no good if they’re imposed 2-3 weeks down the road. So moving at the speed of this virus is so critically important.”

Mayor London Breed: “Of course it was a hard decision to make and a hard decision to explain to people why we were putting them in a situation where we were asking them to stay home.”  “We had to do what was in the best interest of public health and that has been the guiding principle for me as a mayor here in San Francisco. Because as hard as these decisions are, we’re very fortunate that we have incredible public health experts who provide us with guidance on what is going to happen and what is the best way to address it to really save lives.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf: “As we see the numbers kind of steady, we obviously are seeing increases, we know we’re not at the peak yet. But we have very clear evidence that suggests what we have done, has saved lives, has bought time for our health system to get ready for the surge.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguin: “Please shelter-at-home.  You’re not only doing this for your family, you’re doing it to protect your family. In the city of Berkeley, we’ve had great success in our residents complying with the shelter-in-place order. It’s honestly creating difficulty for people, clearly the impact on the businesses has been significant.” “Really the most important thing you can do to stop the spread of this virus is to stay at home and while it may be an inconvenience, it’s essential.”


Mayor Liccardo: “We really need to see the federal government step up in a big way and commandeer a process, to ensure we can scale testing at a national level so we can have the millions of tests we’re going to need for the identification, the contact tracing, isolation, the quarantining that communities across the world have been able to successfully implement to contain the spread, whether it’s Taiwan or Singapore or other places. We know what works.”

Mayor Schaaf: “The federal government has not done what it could do to actually consolidate the purchase of protective equipment (PPE): the masks, the gowns, the face shields that our caretakers need to stay safe themselves.  If we are not taking care of our caretakers, we are all in trouble.” “Here we are competing against one another for PPE. I will say in Oakland, very proud we’ve had the private sector step up to fund and stand up the first city run testing site.”


Mayor Breed: “Our focus has been the most vulnerable population…It is a process. People have to understand that at Moscone West, where we’re going to have basically almost 400 beds open, we were delayed by an additional day, because of our inability to completely staff the shelter beds we have available. We have to protect the people working with the population as well. We are extending our capacity like never before, in addition to adding these hotel rooms.” “It’s for someone to say we have 30,000 hotel rooms in San Francisco, we should give everyone a room. Well, it’s not that simple. It requires a lot of money, it requires a lot of capacity and the other thing is, everyone is afraid of being infected themselves. When we are managing these shelters now, we have to maintain social distancing. We have to reeducate the population that are working with this community.”

Mayor Liccardo: “We’re seeing opportunity in this crisis, and by that I mean under emergency orders you can move a lot faster, and I think this is a great opportunity for us to expand our capacity for emergency housing. For example, by buying those motels we’re moving people into, at a time when motel owners are quite interested in selling.”

Mayor Arreguin: “We are actually going to be working in partnership with the state to lease a hotel in the city of Berkeley to provide isolation for homeless individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.” “It is giving us much more flexibility and resources to expand our shelter capacity and our housing for those vulnerable in our community. I hope after this crisis, we can sustain those resources.”

Mayor Schaaf: “The first two hotels the state leased were in Oakland. And one of them, one is one we had also been in conversation with about buying. We want to prioritize the leasing of hotels that are willing to engage in a lease-to-own because we do not want to be kicking people back on the street when this is all finished.”


Mayor Breed: “We know there may be a need to shift our existing resources in some of our affordable housing money to help with back rent or other issues. This is why I launched this “Economic Recovery Taskforce” which I announced, with the goal of making plans for the future. After this is over, people are still going to be suffering financially.”

Mayor Schaaf: “What we can do is try and start raising philanthropic dollars to help people make this rent obligations as well as delay, put off, not allow penalties and fees, things like that to help all of us spread the pain out a little bit.”


Mayor Schaaf: “We did launch our small business emergency fund, again as part of our philanthropic efforts, in fact today, we learned we’re raising the total amount of grants from that to half a million. We’ve already had 395 applications, 80% have been from owners who are people of color, and tremendous percentage were actually some of our lowest income residents who are also business owners.”

Mayor Liccardo: “I’ve been really heartened by the response we’ve seen to ‘Silicon Valley Strong.’ We’ve had more than $17 million in commitments already, primarily to help low income families that are without a paycheck. They were already struggling but of course now the struggle is more intense.  The bad news is, we’ve already had more than 7,000 families fill out applications for those dollars. We know we simply are not going to be able to fundraise to meet the need, because the need is so much greater.  We also have a small fund for small businesses and we’re providing small $10,000 grants to businesses as well, we’re just going to keep hustling.”

Mayor Arreguin: “In Berkeley, we launched a relief fund, which the city provided an initial $3 million to capitalize the fund. We’re working hard to raise contributions to large businesses and residents. We’ve had thousands of donations from people throughout the city of Berkeley. Some as little as $5, some as much as $50,000. We’re deeply appreciative of the fact our community is really stepping up and working to support our small businesses, and our arts organizations and residential tenants who are facing evictions during this difficult time.”

Mayor Breed: “We launched a $1 million fund to provide no interest loans and grants to our small businesses.  If anyone needs information whether you’re a small business, an individual, you’re looking for help, you’re looking for resources.  We’ve been doing a lot great work in San Francisco. I’m so grateful we have private sector partners who are very generous in contributing and helping to support the need to try and get money in the hands of people who may not have access to unemployment insurance, who may not have access to any other resources.” 


Mayor Arreguin: “I’m inspired by how our community has come together, has been looking out for everyone, including the neediest in our community. Just some examples, not just those who have donated to our relief fund, people that are sewing masks, to provide them to first responders given we need to wear facial coverings. Businesses that have completely changed their operating to focus on PPE. Distillers developing hand sanitizer. We have had to adapt and change how we do things, despite that we’re seeing businesses and residents really think about the needs of not just themselves but of their community.”

Mayor Liccardo: “I think we’re seeing what makes the Bay Area so incredibly unique as a community.  People are just rising to this moment. I remember getting a call late one night from the head of Bloom Energy, saying we don’t do ventilators, we actually make energy cells, but I’ve got a lot of folks who are quite interested in how we can help renovate all those broken and old ventilators. Everybody just jumped in within 48 hours literally, 48 hours. He had an assembly line rolling of workers who weren’t just doing it because they were told. People who were working overtime and volunteering their hours, just to try and get ventilators in place to be able to address the critical need of hospitals in the state.”

Mayor Breed: “I’ve heard so many stories. A friend of mine whose mom lives in the Inner Sunset, basically someone called her, because she’s a senior and said “I know you’re part of the vulnerable population, you can’t leave I’m here for you. We can drop off groceries, whatever you need.” I’m hearing stories of people going outside their apartments at a safe distance and clapping at 7o’clock, for healthcare workers. It is bringing out the best in people and I really appreciate that. In times like this, it’s necessary, it’s necessary for us to put positive energy in the air.”

Mayor Schaaf: “I have so much deep gratitude for the resiliency and grace our entire community is showing up with in this moment.  Some specific stories, Oakland Spirits Company stopped distilling vodka to start making hand sanitizer. Family laundromats in the Fruitvale district, they were concerned both about their workers and the public that was coming, laundromats are considered an essential service. They decided to switch their whole operation to doing family’s laundry for them, wash and fold. They’re not charging senior citizens anything.”

“I want to give a huge shout-out to public servants. Our workers and it’s not just the firefighters and police officers that have been responding to your calls everyday, knowing they’re putting themselves in tremendous jeopardy with this disease out there. My head of parks and rec designed an entire childcare protocol for our first responders. The head of my animal shelter came up with protocol to take care of pets of our homeless community, who may not be able to take their pets with them…To all the public servants, the government workers, we see you, we’re grateful for your continued commitment.”