Teachers, food industry workers to start receiving COVID-19 vaccine in Santa Clara County
Dr. Sara Cody announcing the expansion of vaccinations in the county. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Santa Clara County announced Wednesday it will start vaccinating teachers as well as childcare, food, agricultural and emergency services workers starting Feb. 28.

“This expansion of eligibility will help ensure that many of our essential workers — particularly those essential workers who are living in communities that have been hardest hit — will have access to vaccines,” said Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s health officer.

The county is able to move to the next phase, Cody said, because it reached an important marker in vaccine rollout: More than half of county residents 75 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and soon half of those 65 and older will receive their first dose.

The expansion is welcomed news for Bobbi Urbano, a childcare worker who directs an afterschool center for preschool to eighth-grade children at Willow Glen Elementary School in San Jose. The elementary school has been closed since March. Urbano’s program was given the option to remain open but decided to stay closed for the children’s and staff’s safety.

The program’s 19 employees have not been able to return to work for almost a year.

“I’m excited for the strong start,” Urbano said about the county’s announcement. “We are more than ready to adapt to the situation. But I’m also still very concerned for the children — my own and those who will come back to our program.”

The county’s announcement follows a “no wrong door” policy directive by the county earlier this month that any resident 65 or older, regardless of insurance status, can receive a vaccine at any hospital, clinic or mass vaccination site countywide.

According to data from the county, the county health system is currently scheduling around 10,000 appointments at its vaccination locations daily. Last week, the county announced it would be bringing more vaccination clinics to East San Jose, one of the hardest-hit regions in Silicon Valley.

Cody also assured that the county is focused on ensuring equity in its vaccine rollout.

“As we expand this access, we will continue our focus on equity to ensure that those who are living in communities that are hardest hit by COVID-19 have access to vaccines and get vaccinated,” Cody said.

With the announcement, the county will move to Phase 1B of Tier 1 of the state’s multitiered vaccine rollout. In Phase 1B of Tier 1, adults 65 or older, education workers, food and agriculture workers and emergency service workers are eligible for the vaccine.

Urbano’s co-director, Sophia Valdez, hopes that receiving the vaccine will give her and her coworkers the confidence to help the program’s children adapt to a new reality safely.

“I’m nervous,” Valdez said about getting the vaccine and returning to work. “But if given the support and patience from our community needed to handle this delicately, I am excited to move forward and reopen.”

The state expects to have most Californians vaccinated by this summer. President Joe Biden meanwhile suggested this week that all Americans could be vaccinated by August.

As of Wednesday, the county reported 107,980 COVID-19 cases and 1,682 deaths.

The county is encouraging everyone to schedule a vaccination appointment once their turn comes up. To do so, click here.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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