2020: What a Year
By: Al Ballesteros
2020 has been a very difficult year for must of us, and the community in general. We are still dealing with a pandemic, which has destroyed the US economy, caused lost jobs, businesses closed and changed our way of interacting with one another. The horrible instances of law enforcement brutality against black and brown people are marked in our minds as are the countless protest marches demanding justice. If this was not enough, this past year, as we were spending time in doors, we witnessed the craziest Presidential election in recent times. Even though President Trump lost by more than 7 million votes and huge margins in the Electoral College, he has not yet conceded or congratulated President-elect Biden.
2020 is a blur for many and went by way too fast for some and way too slow for others.
Corona Virus: Staggering Numbers of Infections and Deaths
I’m sure we all agree that our way of life changed in March 2020 when the Covid-19 virus caused widespread disruption in the cities and communities we live. Here in Los Angeles and much of California, the safer-at-home and/or shelter-at-home orders caused the closure of many places we frequent in the community. When the pandemic first began, I for one did not believe it would last for nearly 10 months now and soon to be a year. It’s likely we will be well into year two of this crisis before things begin to start returning to normal again. The vaccines for Covid-19 started being distributed last month, with healthcare workers receiving shots first. The vaccines will soon be offered to the general public but it will take some time to get tens of millions of people vaccinated. There will also be those who are hesitant to take the vaccine and we will need public education campaigns aimed at providing the information people need to make an informed decision.
The statistics are numbing. More than 340,000 people across the United States will have died from Covid-19 by the end of December 2020. That is such a huge number and it is very tragic and sad. To date, more than 19 million people have been infected in the United States. The more infections there are, the higher the death toll will be.
This is a very dangerous virus so please do what you can to protect yourself. Los Angeles County has taken its place as the “epicenter” of the pandemic in the United States. The County of LA Public website says the level is “wide-spread.”
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the Corona virus. The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). This occurs by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Continue to follow guidance to protect yourself: Stay home except for essential needs/activities; Practice physical distancing – stay 6 feet away from people; Wear a cloth face mask if you leave home; Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds several times a day; Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
Vaccines start to roll out
Two vaccines have been approved for use against the Corona virus. The Pfizer emergency use authorization is for people aged 16 and older and the Moderna product is for people 18 and older.
The Pfizer vaccine showed efficacy of 95% at preventing symptomatic Covid infection, measured starting from seven days after the second dose was administered. The Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, measured starting from 14 days after the second dose. Both the Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines require two shots. The interval between Moderna doses is 28 days; for the Pfizer vaccine, it’s 21 days.
Vaccinations started last month in Los Angeles County with hospital workers, skilled nursing facilities staff and residents and other acute care hospital staff, long-term care facilities staff, dialysis centers and ambulatory care workers and those in community health clinics.
Vaccines will most likely become available for the general population beginning in late January and early February. It looks like priority will be given to those in high-risk groups, including those over the age of 70, those with other co-morbidities, such as diabetes and heart disease and other chronic illnesses. If you are interested in getting a vaccine, you should contact your physician or health care provider to see when you may have the opportunity to get vaccinated. If you are uninsured, please check in our directory for medical organizations there to help you.
President Trump No More – On January 20, 2021 his term is over. Enough said.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – Our new United States President and Vice President will begin their terms in office on January 21, 2021. Both are making history, with Biden being the oldest person ever elected to the President and Harris the first woman, first African American and Southeast Asian person to ever be elected to the office of the Vice President. Both Biden and Harris are staunch supporters of LGBT issues and rights, firm supporters of the Affordable Care Act and health care for all; both hold favorable positions on immigration and law enforcement reform. For sure, brighter days are ahead.
Alex Padilla: Appointed first Latino United States Senator from California
SACRAMENTO — Alex Padilla, California’s Secretary of State, has been appointed to fill the Senate seat held by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Padilla will become the Jr. Senator from California and the first Latino US Senator representing the State of California.
Alex Padilla is the son of Mexican-born immigrants who settled in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley. His parents, Ernesto and Lupe Padilla, came to California in 1968 in search of a better life. They met in Los Angeles as both recently arrived from Mexico. Padilla says it was love at first sight and they got married and applied for green cards in that order.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust you have placed in me. On behalf of my family – my beautiful wife Angela, my three boys who are everything to me. I intend to work each and every day to honor that trust and deliver for all 40 million Californians,” says Padilla in a statement on his Facebook page.
“Whether you voted for Biden or Trump… whether you live in the North State or the Southland… whether you grew up speaking English, Spanish, Korean or Cantonese… we are all Californians. And I intend to be a Senator for all the people. Tengo la intención de ser senador para todos los Californianos!”
Padilla says his father never had a chance to finish elementary school and for forty years, he worked as a short-order cook. He says his father likes to brag that his kitchen never failed an inspection. “For those same forty years, my mom worked tirelessly as a housekeeper. It seemed like she never had a day off.”
“I grew up in a three-bedroom house in Pacoima in the Northeast San Fernando Valley… a community affected by more than its share of problems… from poverty to crime to environmental racism. It wasn’t the safest neighborhood, but we had a backyard. It was there my parents taught us about the value of education. They taught us that no matter who you are or where you live, you can be anything. In fact, you can even change your community if you are willing to work hard enough.”
Xavier Becerra: Nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, HHS.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been a friend of our community since before he was elected a United States Congressman in 1992. Becerra represented Echo Park, Silver Lake, Highland Park, Downtown and parts of East Los Angeles as a congressman.
Becerra says his first actions will be to fight the corona virus pandemic. His focus will be on vaccine distribution, availability of personal protective equipment and advocating that people wear masks.
Mr. Becerra will run the largest branch of the federal government, HHS with an estimated at $1 trillion annual budget. Within HHS are the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the Affordable Care Act, the Ryan White HIV Emergency Care Act, the Community Health Center Program and many more important programs on which our communities rely. As Attorney General, Becerra led the fight and sued the Trump Administration when it tried to take away the Affordable Care Act from millions of persons across the state. I am confident that he will seek to strengthen the ACA, while at the same time, add to it important provisions to deal with the disparities in health outcomes we continue to see in poor communities and communities of color. To be sure, the Corona virus pandemic is shining light on the fact that more communities of color and poor people are dying from the virus. This is largely due to disparities in access to medical care and years of neglected chronic disease problems our communities’ face that have not been addressed by the larger medical system in this country.
As California Attorney General, Becerra led the effort to protect the Affordable Care Act and its important protections and coverage for patients. Becerra has been a champion for affordable health access and coverage and he has consistently made people across America and their health a priority.
While in the congress, Becerra served as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for multiple terms. Becerra became the Secretary of State of California on January 23, 2017. Over the years, many of us have known him as a huge supporter of the Ryan White program and funding to combat HIV. He has been a champion of same-sex marriage and like protections and equal rights for LGBT people.