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Teachers, front-line workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Santa Clara County starting Feb. 28

Planned expansion comes as the region's supply of doses remains limited

Clinical nurse Jeffrey Vongjesda administers a dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to Michael Bello, 63, at a mass vaccination site at the Mountain View Community Center on Jan. 26. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Educators, food service workers and emergency personnel in Santa Clara County will all be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 28, county health officials announced Wednesday.

The decision shifts the county away from age-based eligibility by allowing those in higher-risk occupations to receive the vaccine, including restaurant and grocery store workers, food manufacturers and public safety workers. It also opens the door for teachers and child care workers to get vaccinated, largely seen as a key to safely reopening schools and garnering the support of teachers unions.

The expansion comes despite the fact that vaccine supply in the county remains limited and future allocations from the state are still largely a mystery. County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said that has not changed, but vaccine progress to date shows that the county is "in very good shape" to broaden eligibility for front-line workers.

With the broadened eligibility, Cody said it will be a top priority for the county to ensure that residents in ZIP codes with the highest infection rates — particularly east San Jose and south county — will have easy access to the vaccine.

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

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The new eligibility encompasses a trio of occupation types — education and child care, emergency services and food and agriculture — all three of which are defined by the state and available online. For education and child care, the list includes all formal and informal child care workers including day care; college and university staff; and education support service workers. Even workers outside of the classroom, such as bus drivers and crossing guards, will be included.

For months, teachers unions across California have repeatedly argued that the safe reopening of schools is conditioned on educators receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Many Bay Area school districts remain closed for in-person instruction, in part due to reluctance on the part of staff to return to the classroom.

But it's unclear how much can change from the new vaccine eligibility, at least right away. Cody cautioned that she does not have the authority to compel schools to reopen, and that county health officers can only close schools and provide reopening guidance. And even if school districts seek to reopen, students in grades seven through 12 cannot resume in-person instruction until the county has reduced community transmission of the virus and returned to the "red tier" and stays there for five consecutive days.

Gov. Gavin Newsom made public statements last week that he has yet to strike a deal between state legislators and school groups, notably the California Teachers Association, on reopening schools — many of which are still shuttered nearly one year into the pandemic. Palo Alto Unified and the Los Altos school districts returned to in-person instruction late last year, while the Mountain View Whisman School District has taken a more cautious approach and aims to reopen next month.

The Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, meanwhile, is preparing to return to in-person learning once the county reaches the red tier. Daily new cases in the county have sharply declined since the peak on Jan. 8, and are back down to the same level as mid-November last year. COVID-19 hospitalizations, likewise, have declined significantly since the surge during the holiday season.

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Though good news, Cody said the county still has to contend with new, more virulent strains of COVID-19 that are spreading in the county and across the country, which could keep case rates elevated and delay the reopening of middle and high schools.

"It's difficult to say how that might impact the case rates," she said.

Later next month, California residents with developmental disabilities and other high-risk conditions will also be eligible to receive the vaccine, substantially increasing the number of residents eligible to receive the vaccine.

At the same time, state officials announced that a private organization, Blue Shield of California, will be responsible for the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout starting in March. The company has vowed to accelerate vaccine availability, but how it will impact the county largely remains a mystery, Cody said.

"We are not quite exactly on what our role will look like in mid-March, but between now and then we are going to continue to move as fast as we can to get shots in arms, and ensure equity while we do it," she said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Teachers, front-line workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Santa Clara County starting Feb. 28

Planned expansion comes as the region's supply of doses remains limited

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Feb 17, 2021, 5:52 pm

Educators, food service workers and emergency personnel in Santa Clara County will all be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 28, county health officials announced Wednesday.

The decision shifts the county away from age-based eligibility by allowing those in higher-risk occupations to receive the vaccine, including restaurant and grocery store workers, food manufacturers and public safety workers. It also opens the door for teachers and child care workers to get vaccinated, largely seen as a key to safely reopening schools and garnering the support of teachers unions.

The expansion comes despite the fact that vaccine supply in the county remains limited and future allocations from the state are still largely a mystery. County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said that has not changed, but vaccine progress to date shows that the county is "in very good shape" to broaden eligibility for front-line workers.

With the broadened eligibility, Cody said it will be a top priority for the county to ensure that residents in ZIP codes with the highest infection rates — particularly east San Jose and south county — will have easy access to the vaccine.

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

The new eligibility encompasses a trio of occupation types — education and child care, emergency services and food and agriculture — all three of which are defined by the state and available online. For education and child care, the list includes all formal and informal child care workers including day care; college and university staff; and education support service workers. Even workers outside of the classroom, such as bus drivers and crossing guards, will be included.

For months, teachers unions across California have repeatedly argued that the safe reopening of schools is conditioned on educators receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Many Bay Area school districts remain closed for in-person instruction, in part due to reluctance on the part of staff to return to the classroom.

But it's unclear how much can change from the new vaccine eligibility, at least right away. Cody cautioned that she does not have the authority to compel schools to reopen, and that county health officers can only close schools and provide reopening guidance. And even if school districts seek to reopen, students in grades seven through 12 cannot resume in-person instruction until the county has reduced community transmission of the virus and returned to the "red tier" and stays there for five consecutive days.

Gov. Gavin Newsom made public statements last week that he has yet to strike a deal between state legislators and school groups, notably the California Teachers Association, on reopening schools — many of which are still shuttered nearly one year into the pandemic. Palo Alto Unified and the Los Altos school districts returned to in-person instruction late last year, while the Mountain View Whisman School District has taken a more cautious approach and aims to reopen next month.

The Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, meanwhile, is preparing to return to in-person learning once the county reaches the red tier. Daily new cases in the county have sharply declined since the peak on Jan. 8, and are back down to the same level as mid-November last year. COVID-19 hospitalizations, likewise, have declined significantly since the surge during the holiday season.

Though good news, Cody said the county still has to contend with new, more virulent strains of COVID-19 that are spreading in the county and across the country, which could keep case rates elevated and delay the reopening of middle and high schools.

"It's difficult to say how that might impact the case rates," she said.

Later next month, California residents with developmental disabilities and other high-risk conditions will also be eligible to receive the vaccine, substantially increasing the number of residents eligible to receive the vaccine.

At the same time, state officials announced that a private organization, Blue Shield of California, will be responsible for the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout starting in March. The company has vowed to accelerate vaccine availability, but how it will impact the county largely remains a mystery, Cody said.

"We are not quite exactly on what our role will look like in mid-March, but between now and then we are going to continue to move as fast as we can to get shots in arms, and ensure equity while we do it," she said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 17, 2021 at 6:38 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2021 at 6:38 pm

This is how you safely reopen the schools. You drive down community transmission and vaccinate teachers. You don’t just open up and “hope for the best” citing opinion articles, pseudo-science, those pesky pediatricians, and the constant moving of the Covid case data goalposts. Does it REALLY make sense that no other indoor establishments like churches, gyms, and restaurants are allowed to be opened but somehow “the science” says schools are safe? Does it really make sense that you aren’t supposed to travel, have your own family over for the holidays, and private company employees are all working from home but a class of 20 students is safe because...masks? This is a workers rights issue regarding health and safety. If you are mad about the school situation blame the lack of federal leadership for digging us all into this hole in the first place, not teachers. Thankfully we now have experienced leadership in Biden who is actually getting things done and isn’t out on the golf course. Thank you to the teachers unions for stating vaccines are mandatory for reopening despite the CDC’s political push to reopen for child care purposes so that parents can return to work and restart the economy. Reopening without teachers being vaccinated is immoral despite all of the silly and meaningless complaints and outcry from the simple minded “open the schools” side of the argument. The premise of risking lives for “in person learning” is completely absurd. Although I am concerned about the variants in March through May, things may be starting to head back toward normalcy my fellow palaltonians and palymoms! You can soon go back to the pre-pandemic complaining about how PAUSD(the #2 ranked school district in California) is supposedly run so poorly and that you all have the answers on improving it. The good old days! I’m also thrilled that other essential workers and people with developmental disabilities are now eligible for the vaccine. Stay safe everyone!


VB coach
Registered user
Charleston Gardens
on Feb 17, 2021 at 7:17 pm
VB coach, Charleston Gardens
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2021 at 7:17 pm

Is there somewhere to ask questions about the new eligibility?

In particular, are part-time city or district employees (i.e. sports coaches for middle and/or high school) eligible as teachers?


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2021 at 8:56 am
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 8:56 am

Nope. Teacher’s unions are powerful. This is a political thing.
AGE is the predictor of illness, ICU bed usage and death from Covid.
It is a travesty 50-64YOs are being delayed, maybe to September, maybe to the low efficacy Astra Zeneca/Oxford or J&J vaccines while millions of far younger persons will be vaccinated soon. There isn’t a magical, cut-off of severe risk at 65.
Politicians are uninterested in 50-64YO cohort.


JCC
Registered user
Los Altos
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:23 am
JCC, Los Altos
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:23 am

I think it's great that teachers will finally be vaccinated. However, the other categories really need to be narrowed. Right now it seems like I could register to be a DoorDash or Instacart driver and qualify to be in the food service category. If that's the case, then all of non-essential businesses like coffee shops and restaurants will have their young employees vaccinated while pushing the 50 year olds to the end of the line


Curious Parent
Registered user
Community Center
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:29 am
Curious Parent, Community Center
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:29 am

"For months, teachers unions across California have repeatedly argued that the safe reopening of schools is conditioned on educators receiving the COVID-19 vaccine."

This seems completely backward to me. It seems that this should read: "allowing the teachers unions to receive early access to the vaccine is conditioned on teachers agreeing to return to in person teaching".

Why are allowing teachers to jump the line when the majority of teachers have not agreed to go back to teaching even after they've been vaccinated? Vaccinate those teachers who are in the classroom now or will be in the classroom in the next 6 weeks. For those teachers still waiting until September (or later), they should stay in line with the rest of us.


slc
Registered user
another community
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:39 am
slc, another community
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:39 am

Thank you Anonymous! I've been saying this until I'm blue in the face. Age is the predictor of illness, ICU usage, and death and it is unbelievable that 50-64-heck how about 60-64!- have been cast aside and forgotten. I see that now we're even removed from the 1c tier. Every group with a more powerful voice has been inserted in front of the people more likely to die if they contract this virus.

The only piece I applaud is the move to make sure that vaccinations are distributed to communities that have been hardest hit by covid.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2021 at 11:05 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 11:05 am

@CP:I disagree. This is the latest way of vilifying the union and by extension the teachers. The teachers have moved up in the vaccination line because of the outcry of parent complaints about school closures during a dangerous global pandemic. Backed up by the corporate media blitz from such publications as The WSJ, it is also part of the Biden administration’s plan to try to restart the economy in the first 100 days in office he has prioritized child care/education workers to be vaccinated so that children and teachers can be herded back into classrooms so that their parents can return to work. If you don’t think teachers/child care workers should start being vaccinated now in Group 1B, they won’t be fully vaccinated by September. One fallacy of your thinking is that schools should even be open right now while the CDC is simultaneously reporting the dangers of the new variants. Another fallacy in your thinking is that only teachers working in person right now should be vaccinated. The thought should be to try to safely reopen fresh in the fall. Also, who are teachers jumping in front of in the vaccine line? Senior citizens and health care workers have been prioritized in Group 1A while teachers and other essential workers have been moved to 1B. If you want a return to normalcy and are on the side of saying schools must be reopened because students are depressed/isolated, then you should be backing teacher vaccinations. Also, if people followed public health advice by even simply wearing a mask then the outbreak might not have been as bad. Finally, if the previous administration would have not spent the last 3 months lying about election fraud and would have done its job to increase the supply of vaccine for the people, vaccine availability would have increased. There may not have been the need to prioritize groups because of a lack of supply. You aren’t going to get to “punish” teachers for working remotely. Teachers are next up. Sorry!


midtownmama
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Feb 18, 2021 at 11:48 am
midtownmama, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 11:48 am

I don't understand why no one cares about Type 1 diabetics despite plenty of evidence that we are at high risk of worse outcomes from Covid.


Educator
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 18, 2021 at 1:43 pm
Educator, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 1:43 pm

I can’t wait! I’ve been in-person for months. I’m still surprised that teachers who are teaching distance until August get to get vaccinated now.

I wish PAUSD would let more elementary students return. We had to make a choice in October when we didn’t know when a vaccine would be available, and we were warned about a very bad winter virus season. I know many families who are now more comfortable but are still stuck at home.


Hal
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 18, 2021 at 5:38 pm
Hal, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 5:38 pm

So now teachers are less than dogs? We certainly would not allow our puppies to socialize with other dogs until their vaccinations are complete yet, you expect teachers to take the chance? [Portion removed.]


John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 18, 2021 at 6:28 pm
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 6:28 pm

Cops and firefighters have been on the street, working, coming into contact with sick, filthy people every day since this plandemic began. Many of them still refused vaccines. The refusal to work by anyone reasonably healthy and under 65 is overwrought and a little pathetic.


Hal
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 18, 2021 at 7:39 pm
Hal, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 7:39 pm

@John, Yes give teachers the same retirement and service benefits as police and firefighters and you might see a bit more buy in. Pathetic to think they are equally treated. Do your research . As you write your rebuttal, remember who taught you how to read and write.


GaryB
Registered user
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:10 pm
GaryB, Greendell/Walnut Grove
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:10 pm

As someone just below the 65 and up threshold, I'm so glad I'm not just a clock tick older where I'd be in danger. They shouldn't be holding 2nd doses back, but just keep working through the population and hope supply catches up. We'll end it faster for everyone that way.


John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:16 pm
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 9:16 pm

@Hal “You might see a bit more buy in.” Yes, I agree with you that money is the real factor here and their primary motivation.

I don’t think they are equally treated, far less injuries and corpses in the teacher’s daily schedule.

“Do your research.” Classic cop out. You’re not fooling anyone.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2021 at 12:08 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Mar 3, 2021 at 12:08 am

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