Berkeley, CA

Humpday in the East Bay: Berkeley Unified to lift outdoor mask mandate, local temps get frosty and more

Refugio Garcia
(Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

Berkeley Unified to end outdoor mask mandate Feb. 28

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Brent Stephens announced the district’s outdoor mask mandate will end Feb. 28 following a steep decrease in positive case rates, Daily Californian reports.

The announcement was made on Feb. 17 and was the result of a collaboration between the school board, labor partners and local health officials.

“The reality is that the outdoors has been our safe space for un-masking all year,” according to Berkeley Unified arts and humanities teacher Amanda Toporek. “I anticipate things won’t change much. Perhaps we’ll see more masks on chins in passing period than usual.”

However, indoor mask mandates will remain in effect for students, faculty and other school staff.

Winter makes a sudden return – local temps plummet
(Marcel Srauß/Unspalsh)

Temperatures around the East Bay dipped into the 30s Tuesday into Wednesday morning causing the National Weather Service to issue a freeze warning until Friday.

However, temps during the day Wednesday are expected to warm up to the 50s before dropping back down to sub-freezing levels Thursday morning.

The Bay Area also ended its 43-day dry spell Tuesday, with the National Weather Service reporting 0.07 inches of rain at Mount Diablo and 0.03 inches in Oakland.

In addition, many area residents experienced hail throughout the region from San Ramon to San Francisco. “It was a really cold air mass so that led to lots of reports of small hail,” NWS forecaster Matt Mehle told the East Bay Times. “It was BB size hail. Enough to cover the ground.”

Temperatures in the Bay Area are expected to warm up Saturday into Sunday with overnight temps in the 40s.

Former ‘American Idol’ contestant serenades Oakland’s Lakeshore Ave.
(Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

People walking along Oakland’s Lakeshore Ave. near Lake Merritt can hear the crooning of Donnie Williams, 38, a few times a week – and some might even recognize his voice from his stint on the popular singing competition “American Idol,” back in 2004, KTVU reports.

However, Williams’ shot at winning “American Idol” season three slipped away at the age of 21 after he was arrested for driving under the influence after a night celebrating his selection as a finalist on the show. He was subsequently kicked out of the competition.

Nearly 20 years later, Williams doesn’t look back at his misstep with regret but as a crucial life lesson.

"It was the best thing that ever happened to me considering," the singer told KTVU. "Because from that moment up until now it changed a lot of things. From that moment, people can look at it as a failure, as ten steps back. I'm looking at it because I was able to go through even more challenges in life," Williams said.

And while he’s looked back over the years at what might have been, Williams says he’s grateful for the experience that forced him to reevaluate his lifestyle before something potentially worse happened.

"What if I could’ve been the Jennifer Hudson, and I was still drinking and still clouded in my thinking?" Williams asked. "If that didn't happen, it could be a different outcome."

He says he’s pulled to his favorite spot on Lakeshore Ave. across from Peet’s Coffee. "Someone is calling, and I've gotta go and sing," adding that many days people stop to tell him that his singing brightens their day or provides some sliver of joy during an otherwise dismal workweek.

"That’s the gift – that’s the magic. That’s the moment," he said. "It’s that oneness. It’s you and that other person."

Williams also shared the moment when he chose a life of sobriety.

"I just sang and sang and sang, and the next morning I felt different. Something changed," he said. "I have stopped drinking and how I did it was not because I had to do the program. It was because I’d done it enough to the point where I had enough – that whole moment in life happened, and it just went away," he said.

Williams told KTVU he’s been sober for five years, choosing to focus on his musical journey in life.

"Being open and allowing things to happen, allowing life to be," he said, "to keep growing internally and stay in the moment and stay present. Anything farther than today, it’s too far for me."

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