Vaccines distributed unequally in Oakland; federal COVID Relief on the way

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, implementing President Joe Biden’s “American Rescue” plan. A few key features includes individual $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension of unemployment benefits, and aid for small businesses and non-profits. 

The plan’s proposal to phase in an increase to minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 has been held up by an U.S. Senate rule, but Vice-President Kamala Harris could overrule the Senate parliamentarian, as Rolling Stone explains. Oakland’s minimum wage is currently $14,14. In November 2014, Oakland voters approved Measure FF, which raises minimum wage based on the Consumer Price Index.

East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee released the following statement:

“The coronavirus pandemic and economic crises are destroying lives and livelihoods across the country.  Tens of millions of Americans have been infected, and on Sunday, we passed the tragic milestone of having lost 500,000 lives to the virus. Over 18 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, nearly 24 million Americans are struggling with hunger with an estimated 12 million children living in households with food insecurity, up to 40 million Americans cannot afford rent and fear eviction, Over 2.3 million women have been forced to leave the workforce entirely, including nearly 1 million mothers, and eight of ten minority businesses are on the brink of closure.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Stimulus checks could come as early as tax season. Democrats hope that the COVID-19 relief plan is approved by March 14, when unemployment benefits and some other aid expires.

Unequal Vaccine Distribution in Oakland

Even though COVID-19 has disproportionately hit Black and Latino residents in Oakland, that’s not who is getting vaccinated. Darwin Bondgraham at The Oaklandside reports that inequitable vaccine distribution has impacted the hardest hit communities in the Town.

Nearly a quarter million Alameda County residents have received at least one vaccine. BondGraham writes that, “According to data collected by the Alameda County Department of Public Health, white people have received a larger share of first doses than what would be expected if doses were distributed equitably based on the overall makeup of the county’s population.” Citing data from the Alameda County Public Health Department, Oaklandside notes Latino, Black, Asian Americans are not receiving as many doses as white Americans. 

There is also growing concern that some individuals are falsely claiming eligibility to receive vaccines. 

In total, 392,048 vaccines have been administered in Alameda County, including 285,777 first doses and 103,447. In Oakland, this includes 72,960 first doses and 25,256 second doses. Alameda County does not have enough vaccines for everyone who wants one and prioritizing populations based on capacity and availability. Groups currently being prioritized are frontline healthcare workers, “essential” workers in childcare, grocery stores, emergency services including law enforcement, educators, and elders over 65. 

COVID-19 cases in the Town

Oakland has 25,075 cases of COVID-19 todate. There have been 80,777 total COVID-19 cases in Alameda County, and 1,242 deaths. The highest positive test rates are still in the flatlands of East Oakland, especially zip codes 94621 and 94603. 

Cases peaked again this past winter, with the highest number of of cases per day on January 7, 1,280, but the trend appears to be reducing. 

When should school’s reopen?

The debate over when schools should reopen came to the Town this past week. Well, parents, teachers and staff, learners, and administrators have been discussing this for the last year, but the race and class dimensions to the conversation went public in Oakland last week. 

First, an Oakland teacher came under fire for tweeting that “rich white parents” were a primary force pushing to reopen schools. This past weekend, dozens of people rallied near Lake Merritt. The group, Oakland Parents for Transparency and Safe Reopening, said they are concerned that their children have been distance learning for nearly a year. The rally has been criticized because the attendees were predominantly white. Mercury News covered the rally. 

OUSD is currently surveying parents of young students TK-5 for their perspectives on reopening.

One year of the ‘Rona

It’s almost been one year since shelter-in-place. To commemorate this solemn anniversary, we will be asking for your stories and commentary. If you’re interested in sharing your experience or perspective of this past year, please reach out.

Author Profile

Rasheed Shabazz is a multimedia storyteller, urban planning historian, and youth development professional based in the Bay Area. He is co-director of Oakland Voices. He recently completed his Masters of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. 

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