California and COVID-19
By Leah Martinez '22
(A vaccination site in Sacramento, CA. Photo: AP)
Back in March of 2020, when ICA shut down over concerns of a new virus, little did we know that two weeks of no school would turn into ten excruciating months of quarantine. Although in 2021 we have a better grasp on what COVID-19 and its symptoms are, and have even begun distributing vaccines, for many the pandemic has brought life-altering challenges and struggles, to say the least. While countries like New Zealand have been able to get a hold on the virus by listening to scientists, distributing medical supplies, and initiating mandatory lockdowns to prevent the spread, the U.S. is unfortunately nowhere near this. The U.S. especially seems to be behind other countries in terms of handling COVID-19 due to awful presidential leadership in the past, and not everyone across the country can agree on wearing a mask as a safety precaution. There are countless other reasons why the U.S. is failing miserably at even getting somewhat close to the progress New Zealand has made; from January 22 to February 4 of 2021, New Zealand has had a total of 41 cases while the U.S. has had 2,034,046. The U.S. has taken significantly more missteps like reopening restaurants and shopping districts too soon, along with vaccine shortages. So what does the future look like for California?
Moderna and Pfizer are the two most notable companies developing COVID-19 vaccines. In short, the vaccines from both companies use messenger RNA (mRNA) which creates instructions for cells to send proteins (known as “spike proteins”) to the SARS-2 virus and attack the virus by creating anti-bodies. About eight months after the initial lockdown, when COVID-19 vaccines were in their final authorization stages, Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, became the first American to receive the vaccine on December 14. In interviews with CNN and The View, Lindsay said she felt hopeful that volunteering to get the vaccine would encourage those who may be skeptical and hesitant to trust in the science and research behind it. Shortly thereafter, vaccines were distributed across the country, and the Biden administration announced a plan to open 100 vaccination sites in the first 100 days of his presidency. Following this announcement, Mayor London Breed of San Francisco also announced three vaccination sites to open throughout the city: one at the campus of City College, another at the Moscone Center, and a third at the Embarcadero. Although these sites are prepared to start, all over California there is already a shortage of vaccines since the first distribution. Since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, most cities have already rapidly run through their supplies, and there also doesn’t seem to be a clear answer as to when these sites can expect a consistent shipment to be able to give both doses and vaccinate new people. As of now in California, those first in line to receive the vaccine are healthcare workers, nursing home workers, teachers, childcare workers, grocery store employees, and those over 65. The limited supply is certainly frustrating because those first in line are most at risk.
Eagerly on January 25, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the end of the stay-at-home order for California, but for some Californians, this reopening is still too early considering the rise of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles and Riverside County. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, hair and nail salons, hotels, outdoor dining, museums, and zoos are allowed to reopen following COVID-19 restrictions. In Los Angeles, Governor Newsom is hopeful about reopening schools whether or not teachers are vaccinated. When he made this statement, he also announced that teachers would become a priority on the vaccination timeline. On the other hand, teacher unions in San Francisco have made it clear that they will not be returning until they get vaccinated. But the increasing pressure from parents and politicians to send children back to school has led the city to file a lawsuit against the school district in support of returning students to school. While many of us would like to return to in-person schooling to see our friends and sit in a real classroom, for San Francisco, the growing tension between school administrators and city politicians leaves schools without a proper reopening plan.