A closely divided Orinda City Council has decided to bring back the city’s Fourth of July parade this year despite concerns it is still too soon to safely assemble thousands of people while COVID-19 is still a public health issue.

The council Tuesday voted 3-2 to close the necessary streets for the parade and musical performance afterward, with Mayor Amy Worth and Council member Inga Miller dissenting.

Council member Darlene Gee acknowledged she was the swing vote and, though she understood the concern, she did not want to obstruct the celebration.

“I wouldn’t have elected to do it this year, but I won’t oppose it,” Gee said. “And I would be happy to attend … and I will wear my mask.”

Vice Mayor Dennis Fay and council member Nick Kosla said if the city follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and county health regulations, the city should be fine.

“The rate of vaccination in this area is as high as it is in the entire county,” Fay said. “We’re well past, in my view, herd immunity — at least in Lamorinda. I’m not terribly concerned about whether we’re going to be a super spreader or not. I would go with what Dr. (Director of U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony) Fauci says: ‘You’re outside, the chance of transmission is almost zero. It’s very, very low.’ The real challenge is going to be are people going to be smart enough to stay away from each other if they aren’t vaccinated?”

“We’re well past, in my view, herd immunity — at least in Lamorinda. I’m not terribly concerned about whether we’re going to be a super spreader or not.”

Vice Mayor Dennis Fay

Kosta said he recently went to area school graduations at which everyone was “respectful, everyone was wearing masks.” He said the parade would be safer than the usual celebration afterward, which the council eventually decided to scale back on Tuesday to a small musical performance without food sales.

“The scaled down nature of this, I think it protects a lot of folks,” Kosta said. “At the end of the day, if you’re over 12 you should be vaccinated, if you’re 11 or under you wear a mask if you’re outside. I think this can be a great event.”

Worth said she spoke with officials in neighboring cities that canceled this year’s celebrations, including Piedmont, Concord, Clayton, Martinez, and Danville, which postponed its parade until Labor Day.

Worth said she fears Orinda will become “the Fourth of July event in Central Contra Costa County,” because — unlike school events — the city lacks the ability to control how many people show up.

“We could have large numbers of people that would come to the event which, of course, they would be welcome, but the question is you plan for two or three (thousand people) and you get five or seven thousand people there, you just don’t know. That’s the challenge.”

Officially, the council voted to authorize the closure of part of Moraga Way, Brookwood Road, Camino Diablo, Santa Maria Way, and Orinda Way, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 4.

Officials from the event’s main sponsor, the Orinda Association, told the council they plan on following whatever guidance is passed on by Contra Costa Health Services. They said the association will also send out mailers encouraging mask wearing at the parade.