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West Oakland Leads Alameda County in Highest COVID-19 Case Rates

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Oakland has some of Alameda County’s worst COVID-19 statistics, which makes it frustrating to hear that customers in an Oakland market are verbally and physically abusing employees when asked to mask up.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story Monday about violent customer behavior at Community Foods Market, which reinstated a mask policy in mid-July, ahead of the county’s mandate. Since then, a bag of groceries — containing glass — was thrown at a cashier, a watermelon was chucked at an employee and the general manager had to avoid being struck with a full can of soda aimed at his head.

At the risk of overstating the obvious, it’s never okay to assault store employees, ever, yet we’ve seen countless videos of customers behaving badly throughout the pandemic. This particular story is especially maddening when you consider COVID-19 data for the West Oakland neighborhood where the store is located. 

The Alameda County Public Health Department reports that the 94608 zip code has seen a test positivity rate of 7.6 percent and 797.5 cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days. Less than 66 percent of the neighborhood residents are fully vaccinated. 

The adjacent 94607 zip code has the unfortunate designation as the county’s highest transmission rate with nearly 900 people per 100,000 infected over the past 28 days.

Zip code heat map on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 reflecting COVID-19 case rates over the past 28 days. (Courtesy of Alameda County Public Health Department)

For comparison purposes, the nearby Berkeley zip code of 94702 is reporting well below half the cases seen in West Oakland.

Oakland and San Leandro remain the county’s hotspots in terms of community transmission and low vaccination rates, and are heavily contributing to the county’s rising hospitalization rate. As of Sunday, there were 179 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the county, with 48 admitted to ICU beds — those numbers haven’t been seen since February. Eleven people in Alameda County died last month as a result of the virus. 

Management at Community Foods Market can see that writing on the wall and reinstated the mask policy as a way of protecting both employees and customers. What they’ve had to endure as a result is wholly unacceptable, and we can only expect to see more of the same now that seven Bay Area counties have made the indoor mask policy an official order effective Tuesday. 

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Bay Area soon implements a vaccine requirement similar to what was announced in New York Tuesday, which will require that people provide vaccination proof for indoor dining, gyms and indoor entertainment venues.

At this rate, businesses may have to seriously consider employing bouncers to handle the unruly and keep their workers safe.


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.