New Variant Presents New Challenges

City of Alameda City of Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft

New Variant Presents New Challenges

We learned a new Greek letter last month: Omicron, which is also the World Health Organization’s designation for a new COVID-19 variant. Omicron was first detected in South Africa in late November, then spread rapidly to other countries, including the United States where cases have been confirmed in Alameda County and other parts of the Bay Area.

New scientific information emerges daily, but initial analyses suggest that Omicron is highly transmissible, but the symptoms it causes may not be as severe as those resulting from the Delta variant, especially for those who are vaccinated and boosted.

It’s important to remember that the Delta variant is still the predominant cause of severe illness and death, primarily among the unvaccinated. Vaccines remain the best way to contain COVID-19 and are available for everyone five years and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advises ALL adults to get booster shots to maximize their body’s defense against COVID-19. Booster shots are available for everyone 18 years and older who had their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccination at least six months ago, or a Johnson & Johnson vaccination at least two months ago. To schedule your booster, or a vaccine for yourself or your children, call 833-422-4255 or visit www.alamedaca.gov/getvaccinated today! Don’t delay: protect yourself and others!

To avoid a winter COVID surge, just continue the safety precautions we’ve all mastered: wear a mask over your nose and mouth in indoor public spaces or crowded outdoor spaces; maintain six feet of distance from others; and wash your hands frequently. Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla also recommends getting tested before and after travel, and family gatherings.

Students helping achieve vaccine equity: Despite Alameda’s generally high COVID vaccination rate, County Public Health data shows that vaccination rates in several West End census tracts are lower than the city average. To address this imbalance, I enlisted the help of local students. Using materials developed for Alameda County Public Health’s vaccine outreach program, D.O.O.R. (Direct Outreach to Our Residents), I recently trained 45 Encinal High School students from Kevin Gorham’s Leadership class. (Alameda’s D.O.O.R. program is being underwritten by the office of our revered late County Supervisor Wilma Chan.) These students are now canvassing identified neighborhoods, wearing bright orange “Alameda D.O.O.R.” shirts, and equipped with literature to share the latest information about why and where to get vaccinations and boosters. I’m so proud of their commitment to protect all of our residents from COVID!

Neighbors helping neighbors: I want to highlight two impactful programs that have helped some of our most vulnerable residents during the pandemic: The Alameda Food Bank and Alameda Friendly Visitors.

At the height of the pandemic, Alameda Food Bank’s clientele increased eighteen-fold, just as seniors, a majority of the Food Bank’s volunteers, were advised to stay home to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. COVID protocols also required suspension of in-person shopping and implementation of drive-through grocery pick up. Fortunately, many residents who’d transitioned to working remotely from home stepped up to volunteer, as did members of the Coast Guard and Alameda CERT volunteers. Today, 200 Food Bank volunteers cheerfully maintain the Food Bank’s Alameda Point location where clients can once again shop for their food in a pleasant setting that resembles a well-stocked grocery store. AC Transit Bus line 96 also stops near the Food Bank for easy access.

If you or someone you know lives, works or goes to school in the City of Alameda and has trouble feeding themselves or their family, please call 510-523-5850 or visit alamedafoodbank.org to arrange to receive food from the Alameda Food Bank. No one should go hungry.

During the pandemic loneliness impacted many who live alone, especially seniors who were unable to spend time with family and friends. For some, extended periods of isolation can lead to depression and cognitive decline. Fortunately, Alameda Friendly Visitors (AFV), which grew out of Alameda’s Meals on Wheels program, provides screened and trained volunteers who make regular home visits to seniors, to provide companionship and offer assistance with light tasks. If you or someone you know would benefit from a regular visit from a caring volunteer, or would like to become a Friendly Visitor, please contact AFV Director Jane Neal at 510-748-0342.

We got this, Alameda. Keep doing what you’re doing to stay safe from COVID. Help others. Be Alameda Strong!