Interim City Administrator Messages on COVID-19

Date Posted: March 19th, 2020 @ 6:51 PM
Last Updated: April 17th, 2020 @ 4:55 PM

Friday, April 17, 2020

Dear City Staff,

I continue to be grateful for the amazing work you are doing during this unprecedented time. City staff have met daily challenges during this crisis with grace and determination. I appreciate all of your efforts.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on global, national, regional, and local economies. Many renowned economists have acknowledged an economic downturn and forecasted that a recession is inevitable. The City of Oakland will not escape this downturn.

This sudden and widespread impact has had our leadership team working very hard to strategize, develop, and vet viable options that are responsible, effective, fair, and equitable, while also being in alignment with our City’s values to address the needs of our employees and residents.

In light of the current and foreseeable fiscal challenges that the City is facing, I want to share three key things that we are doing to support staff:

  1. Despite the immediate financial challenges, the City has extended Paid Administrative Leave for an additional pay period, ending on May 1, 2020 for certain eligible employees. With this extension, these employees will be on paid administrative leave for a total of seven weeks. The attached FAQ has been revised and contains important information regarding your right to additional time off, including Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Please review this document carefully and contact your supervisor/manager or Departmental HR Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for clarification and additional questions. Revised COVID-19 Employee FAQs as of April 17, 2020. I understand this document is long and may seem daunting; however it is imperative that all employees read through all FAQs thoroughly, as there is key and critical information pertaining to safety and leave benefits that may impact your pay and benefits moving forward.

    NOTE: Friday afternoon the Alameda County Public Health Department issued new guidelines around wearing facial coverings in public. This information is being reviewed and will be added to updated FAQs to employees on Monday, April 20.
  2. Departments have identified opportunities to bring more staff back who perform essential government functions in compliance with the City’s safety protocols, in addition to exploring opportunities for Disaster Service Workers (DSW). Next week, more detail will be provided along with a separate DSW FAQ.
  3. Our Third Quarter Revenue and Expenditure Results and updated Fiscal Year 2020-21 revenue forecasts impacted by the COVID-19 crisis will be presented to City Council for review next week Tuesday, April 21, 2020. As we look at the next fiscal year, we are sobered by the fact that due to the heavy financial hit that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, there will be many hard decisions facing us. We are anticipating that the gap will be so great that the approaches we have used in the recent past to balance the budget will not be sufficient to address the situation. We continue to explore a variety of other ways to bring our budget into balance. The budget report for City Council consideration can be read here.

As stated, some of the steps that the City will ultimately have to take will be uncomfortable and in some instances challenging. Rest assured that the leadership team is working very hard to develop solutions that are the most equitable, transparent and thoughtful of all City of Oakland employees.

As has been noted, this continues to be an intense and challenging time for our beloved City, our region, our nation, and our world. I thank you for your dedication. I thank you for your diligence. I thank you for your commitment to serving the City of Oakland.

Stay safe, stay well, and stay in touch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Dear City Staff,

I want to thank you all for the amazing work you are doing during this unprecedented and challenging time. Your service to the public is important, and I appreciate your efforts to keep Oakland working during this time of crisis.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us all, personally and professionally. Shelter-in-place orders have restricted our movements and kept us from traveling, shopping, dining out, attending concerts or movies, and generally going about our normal business. Given this decline in everybody’s activity levels, the pandemic is not surprisingly wreaking havoc with the world’s economies. Many economists believe we are already in a downturn, and virtually conclude that a recession is inevitable.

The City of Oakland will not escape this downturn. The stay-at-home order, while necessary to curb the transmission of the virus, is already reducing the City’s sales taxes, hotel taxes, airport revenues, and parking revenues.

Unlike previous economic downturns, the impact of COVID-19 is sudden and widespread. It has hurt our local, national, and global economies all at once. And so much is unknown: we don’t know how long this crisis will last, how hard-hit our revenues will be, or how long it will take to recover.

The City’s leadership team has been working long days and nights to manage our response to the emergency in ways that are safe, effective, fair, equitable, fiscally responsible, and in alignment with our City’s values. The reality, however, is that even under the most optimistic scenarios – which include the receipt of generous state/federal grants and emergency funding – Oakland will face significant fiscal challenges in the coming months. Our current projections suggest that, if the City makes no adjustments at all, Oakland’s annual general fund budget will be short by tens of millions of dollars.

Our immediate focus is to develop and implement a plan which ensures that, at minimum, the City can deliver critical functions necessary for public health and safety. To confront immediate revenue losses, we have already:

  • Implemented a selective hiring freeze that only allows the hiring of employees who perform certain essential functions; and
  • Temporarily released temporary part-time employees in non-essential roles who are not able to perform their duties remotely; this allowed these individuals to become eligible for newly enhanced and extended unemployment benefits and state-provided healthcare.

As we now begin consideration of the mid-cycle of the two-year budget, we are presuming that, going forward, the City’s finances will continue to be significantly and adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic -- and that the gap will be so large that the approaches we have used in the recent past to balance the budget will not be sufficient to address the current situation. We are thus exploring a variety of other ways to bring our budget into balance.

While some of the steps that the City ultimately enacts may be uncomfortable, rest assured that the leadership team will concentrate on solutions that are, to the largest extent possible, equitable, transparent, and compassionate, and we will focus on solutions that allow Oakland and its employees to recover as quickly as possible when the pandemic crisis recedes.

Our finance team will continue to evaluate the City’s revenue picture, and I pledge to keep you informed about the City’s financial condition and the many decisions required to balance the budget by June 30.

No doubt about it: this is an extremely difficult time for the City and the world. I recognize that uncertainty can be corrosive, but appreciate your patience as we work together to address the challenge that is before us.

Stay safe, stay well, and stay in touch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

To all City Employees:

As we move through these uncertain times, I want to again thank you for the work you do as City employees for the people of Oakland. I’m especially grateful for all of you who continue to support the essential government functions upon which our residents and businesses rely.

To follow up on the employee communication sent last night – and we will continue to send updates – I wanted to reinforce and announce a few things:

  1. Health and Safety remain our top priority. All decisions we are making will start from that foundation. Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to acquire the equipment that front-line workers need to address this crisis. Our purchasing staff is tracking down every opportunity for personal protective equipment. If you have special requirements, please make those known to your direct supervisor.
  2. Effective immediately, every City employee who can perform their duties from home shall work from home. Every employee working from home should have a telecommute plan in place, as established with their supervisor or department. This directive ensures we can continue to provide support for essential City functions while keeping you and the public safe.
  3. Every City employee who is not working but otherwise able to work is considered to be on call as a Disaster Service Worker. During times of emergency such as this, any City employee may be required to report to work and be assigned duties that are not part of their regular duties such as helping with conducting mission-critical or essential services to our community. Please ensure your supervisor and department have current, home contact information for you.
  4. City Hall is effectively closed to the public; only City staff and members of the public with special appointments will be admitted. Access to all other Frank H. Ogawa Plaza buildings is likewise limited. Public service counters at City Hall, 150, and 250 are closed and/or switching to online/phone/appointment access only. Departments have been directed to make all efforts to provide for online access to City services. We will develop protocols for building security staff to permit limited entrance for specific business and functions, but otherwise these buildings will be open for City employees only.
  5. Pursuant to Governor Newsom’s order, employees who are 65 years or older should stay at home. If you are in that category, please alert your supervisor or department head, who will work with the City to determine whether a teleworking plan or administrative leave or some other arrangement is appropriate. This applies to all departments including public safety
  6. If you believe you have an underlying condition that places you at special risk, or if you are caring for a qualified family member with an underlying condition, medical authorization must be provided. Please work with your supervisor and medical professional. Once the authorization is provided, you may be placed on FMLA/CFRA leave though the Risk Management Unit.

Another important note: if you supervise employees who do not have access to City email and who are reporting to work, please ensure all employee communications are distributed to your employees.

Finally, several people have requested guidance regarding employees over 65 or who have underlying medical conditions. In those circumstances:

More information will continue to be forthcoming as the situation develops. Thanks again for the great work you’re doing to keep our city safe and healthy.


Steven Falk

Interim City Administrator

Monday, March 16, 2020

Dear City Staff,

Today, the Health Officer for the County of Alameda, along with six Bay Area county public health officials, issued a countywide order that, effective 12 am tomorrow, March 17, 2020 until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, “all individuals living within the County of Alameda are ordered to shelter at their place of residence.” This latest order from the County seeks to reduce community transmission, decrease the introduction of COVID-19 into new communities, and slow the spread of the virus, particularly among vulnerable populations.

Click this link to read the full order from Alameda County:

In accordance with the County’s order, and with the health and well-being of Oakland residents and employees in mind, it is our intent to continue to provide critical services to our residents while allowing people to remain sheltered in place at home and maintaining social distancing.

All of the functions we undertake here at the City for the benefit of the people we serve are important, and we are aiming to keep as many of them available to the public, provided we can do so safely with the health of our employees as paramount.

Oakland Police and Fire first responders and other Essential Government Functions will continue pursuant to the Alameda County Public Health Department order dated March 16, 2020.

What Does this Mean for Non-public Safety City Employees?

The City is working diligently to maintain employee wages and benefits during this Shelter in Place.

Starting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17:

  • Employees assigned to an Essential Government Function will receive direction from their supervisor to determine if they are required to report to work and/or create a telecommuting plan. See attachment for guidance on telecommuting.
  • If employees are not required to work, they must be accessible (email and phone) to their immediate supervisor.
  • If you have a telecommuting plan in place, follow that plan unless otherwise directed by your supervisor.
  • If you do not have an approved telecommuting plan and you are considered “non-essential,” you will be placed on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the pay period ending on March 20th.
  • With regard to payroll for this week (through March 20th):
  • Temporary part-time employees who cannot telecommute and do not work the remainder of their regular schedule from March 17th through March 20th should use the Administrative Leave (ADO) time element. Use of ADO from March 17th through March 20th may not exceed a TPT’s regularly scheduled hours during this four-day period.
  • For remote timecard entry, please use the following link to access the Oracle self-service time module: You should be able to log-in using your standard Oracle ID and password.
  • Employees who submit paper timecards should continue to submit their timesheets through the normal procedures (i.e., employee submits paper timecard to supervisor; your supervisor will forward your approved timecard to your departmental payroll representative for processing). If you are not reporting to work in person, please make arrangements with your supervisor to submit your timecard for approval.
  • Additional instructions will be forthcoming on future pay periods.

The City Administration will continue to work with each department head to refine and identify functions that relate directly to the ongoing continuity of Essential Government Functions.

All City employees – like all other public employees in the state – are designated as Disaster Service Workers (DSW). During times of emergency such as this, any City employee may be required to report to work and be assigned duties that are not part of their regular duties such as helping with conducting mission critical or essential services to our community. Please note that even if you are directed to not report to work, it may be necessary to call you back depending on the status of the City to perform essential functions. During this period, you may be called upon to fulfill an emergency role that is outside your normal job responsibility. Even if you’re not physically in the office, there may be work you can do remotely as a DSW. Please ensure your supervisor and department have current, home contact information for you.

Supervisors should report any questions or needs through their usual chain of command and the City Administrator’s Office will work diligently to provide responses as swiftly as we’re able.


Steven Falk

Interim City Administrator

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear City Staff,

This email provides the latest updates on the effects of COVID-19 on City staff and facilities. There are two (2) attachments to this email:

  1. An update letter to City Staff about facility closures. This letter is also in the body of this email below.
  2. The Temporary Telecommuting Policy. The Telecommute Agreement and Application form is forthcoming and will be available online. Should you have any questions, contact your department director for guidance.

Mayor Schaaf shares the following message to City staff:

“The health and well-being of Oakland’s residents and employees is our first priority. We understand the closures will impact many people’s lives in Oakland and particularly hard-working families who will be challenged to provide childcare and maintain work schedules. We will continue to work with our county, state, and federal partners to create new measures of relief to assist all residents during this time. I ask all Oaklanders to do what we do best: Unite, help one another, and move through this moment with resilience and grace.”


COVID-19 City of Oakland employee update

Dear City Staff,

With the health and well-being of Oakland residents and employees in mind, the City Administrator’s Office has announced the temporary closure of specific City facilities and programming.

This decision is a result of the most recent guidance for mass gatherings from the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPH), meant to reduce community transmission, decrease the introduction of COVID-19 into new communities, and slow and decrease the spread of the virus. These recommendations have been updated to align with guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on March 12, 2020 and replace ACPH’s local guidance issued on March 10, 2020.

Oakland Police, Fire and other emergency public safety services will not be affected during this time, and all other City facilities will remain Open unless and until otherwise announced.

The facilities listed below will be closed as of Monday, March 16 until further notice.

Specific Service Closures:

Oakland Public Library:

  • All library locations will be closed.
  • All Recreation Centers will be closed.
  • All permitted activities, including facility rentals, are cancelled. Our staff will inform individuals with current reservations and registrations. Should you have any questions, please contact the Central Reservation Unit at (510) 238-3420.
  • All Senior Centers will be closed.
  • All Head Start and Early Head Start program sites will be closed.

Note: OPL will extend loan periods during this time, and patrons do not need to return materials until OPL is back in full operation.

Oakland Parks Recreation & Youth Development:

Human Services:

Senior Centers

Head Start/Early Head Start Programs

Again, all other City facilities will remain open unless and until otherwise announced

In many cases the details of how staff’s daily duties will change are not yet finalized. Staff who work in these facilities should report to their supervisors and discuss next steps. We recognize these closures will have direct impacts on many of you and we are working now to provide clarity about where to report and when.


Many of you have asked about the City’s telecommuting policy and whether some City employees may be permitted to work from home. As I announced Thursday, our team evaluated that policy and have attached it to this email.

We recognize that many employees do not have regular access to work e-mail and we are asking for the support of those employees’ supervisors to provide updates in person and by phone. Supervisors should report any questions or needs through their usual chain of command and the City Administrator’s Office will work diligently to provide responses as swiftly as we’re able.

Looking Ahead

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop, it is impacting all of us, affecting both our workplace and our personal lives, especially as school districts and childcare centers close temporarily. In order to mitigate the outbreak’s effects and to support a return to normalcy, the City is working with professional experts, coordinating with other agencies, and doing its best to implement best practices and efficiently distribute information. While this process continues, we understand that many employees and members of their family may suffer from higher than normal levels of anxiety and stress and feelings of uncertainty.

Given the current situation, the City would like to remind all employees of Oakland’s Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”). EAP can help you and your family with practically any personal challenge or concern and through EAP, you can receive confidential counseling at no cost. For free and confidential support, please call Claremont EAP at: 800-834-3773 or visit and fill out an online request form. Through Claremont EAP you can discuss your question or issue with an experienced counselor who will refer you to the resources most appropriate for your needs.

If you have any questions or concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak or the City’s EAP program please reach out to Risk Management at 510-238-7660.

We are in unprecedented times, and it will take all of us to guide our operations, serve the public and come together as a community to weather this storm. As we make decisions over the next days and weeks, we will choose options that maximize employee and public safety and save lives. There will undoubtedly be uncomfortable trade-offs ahead. Those of us who have chosen public service are needed now more than ever. Thank you for being patient, kind to one another, and continuing to serve Oakland through these challenging times.


Steven Falk

Interim City Administrator