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    By Henrietta J. Burroughs                                        Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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    March 22, 2021                                    EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon


    Graphic courtesy-San Mateo County


    San Mateo County moved into Tier 3 (Orange) on March 18, 2021. In this tier, shopping malls, places of worship, dine-in restaurants and some non-essential businesses can open indoors with modifications. East Palo Alto Council member Antonio Lopez issued a statement asking that San Mateo County officials recognize disproortionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color and be "laser focused" on communities of color in the county with respect to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.

    Read his complete statement below:

    Council member Antonio Lopez wrote on March 18, 2021:

    Today, the County sent out a press release announcing expanded access to COVID-19 vaccinations geared toward communities highly impacted by the virus. As councilmember of one of those cities in question, I am grateful for their acute attention over the disproportionate impact of this pandemic. The words of Supervisor Canepa are exemplary, “We are laser focusing our vaccinations efforts by providing clinics in highly impacted ZIP codes to get more doses in arms right in the neighborhood you live and the language you speak.”

    The City of East Palo Alto makes up 4% of San Mateo County. Nevertheless, we make up 10.9% of all positive cases.

    My call is simple: I urge the county to commit to an equitable distribution of no less than 10.9% of the vaccine distribution for my community. 

    The reasons are painfully known, but allow me to cite two: we serve, and proudly I add, as the essential workforce of the Silicon Valley. If tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Sun Microsystems provide Silicon, that we provide the backbone, the sweat that never takes a day off, the salt of the earth that keeps the Valley rich—that cleans offices, that caters its events, that risks its life, day in day out, without even so much of a demand.

    Until now.

    There is much fanfare around the county’s turn to Orange Tier. In one respect I understand this excitement. We are all fatigued from this year-long recession. These months of sheltering in place have damaged our mental health, our bodies, and so many of us are yearning to return to some sense normalcy.

    But as an elected official, I simply cannot do that at the expense of my community.

    I remind the County not of my standards, but of their very own. In Attachment A of announcement’s fact sheet, they highlight a commitment to “double vaccine allotment for hardest hit communities.”

    My parents come from a generation that has been reared to keep its head down, to not rock the boat out of fear.

    But that is not my generation.

    And what is the point of being the first generation of citizens, to this county and country, if I do not speak on behalf of those too busy or afraid or both to do so.

    It is in this spirit that I remind readers and elected officials alike that the people of East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, North Fair Oaks, do not just deserve more vaccines, but are entitled to it. 

    To date, there have been no mass vaccination sites for the south of the county. And while we are grateful for the neighborhood clinics made possible by collaboration with the County and local clinics like the Ravenswood Health Center, as the aforementioned statistics show, it does not constitute a fair share.

    The moral, economic, and equity-minded strength for this argument is well established. What we need now is the political one.

    And so, County Manager Mike Callagy, Vaccine Czar Justin Mates, Assemblyman Marc Berman and State Senator Becker, it is in the spirit of Supervisor Canepa’s words that I implore you all to be “laser focused” on communities like mine, to commit to the hard number of no less than 10.9% of the vaccine supply for the city of East Palo Alto, and ideally, to commit to establishing a mass vaccination site in our area so as to benefit not just us, but our sisters and brothers in Belle Haven, in unincorporated Redwood City, and in the other “hardest hit communities.”

    Affirm to my constituents that even as we march to Orange, the Black and Brown will not get left behind.


    Antonio López, Councilman for the City of East Palo Alto

    To contact Henrietta J. Burroughs, send an email to epatoday@epatoday.org.