OAKLAND (KPIX) – With more than 2,600 COVID-19 cases in Alameda County, health officials hoped that number would not increase after the warm Memorial Day weekend. Oakland is a hot spot for the virus, so crowd control at Lake Merritt, Oakland's heart and crown jewel, is especially important.
"It is very therapeutic to be on the lake. Everyone comes here," said Shakari Jackson, who works daily on the lake.
That is the concern. City and county health officials said big crowds and big parties could lead to more exposure and more COVID-19 cases.
Oakland so far has the most positive cases in Alameda County and the county leads the Bay Area in the number of cases, surpassing Santa Clara County as the new epicenter in the region.
"I feel like there are going to be a lot of people here and it could be difficult to have crowd control," said Brandon Bailey, who was working on 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 on how to minimize risks.
Ambassadors like Chris Kyriacou said they were looking for groups that were sitting too close and people who were not wearing masks.
"If they are going to come here, we would like them to be covered, keep their distance and probably the most important thing we do is deliver these masks." The price is ok. They are free, "Kyiacou said.
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 put it on," said Park Ambassador Michael Tatmon.
"It is not always what you say, but how you say it. And instead of throwing rocks, we are just trying to offer some alternatives," Kyiacou said.
Lake users notice increased compliance in the past few days, but still see some loud parties and serious violations from time to time.
"I've seen packages of 12 (people) sitting, you know, like I said, exchanging food, 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.