On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California would be joining up with FEMA to create 2 new large-scale mass vaccination sites.
At a press conference outside the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in Oakland, Governor Newsom said that the sites chosen were the Coliseum and California State University Los Angeles (CSULA). The chosen sites are also part of President Joe Biden’s plan to have 100 mass inoculation sites in 100 days. Due to the increased federal help, the sites will be jointly managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CAL OES).
While the federal 100 site pilot program did not provide any details on where mass inoculation sites must be placed, Governor Newsom noted that both sites were chosen to help ensure that communities typically left behind, such as low-income or minority communities, would be better served. The 2 new sites will also join other mass inoculation sites currently set up across the state, including those at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Disneyland in Anaheim, Cal Expo in Sacramento, and Petco Park in San Diego.
“Partnership is key, especially when it comes to reaching Californians in underserved areas,” explained Newsom at the press conference on Wednesday. “These new sites will help us get available supply to some of the California communities most in need.”
Many lawmakers supported the decision, including Oakland officials, including leaders at the press conference on Wednesday: Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Mayor Libby Schaaf, and Oakland Athletics President Dave Kaval. Los Angeles officials welcomed the news as well.
“The new site is a welcome signal that we are ramping up at the federal, state and local level with the practical, boots-on-the-ground solutions,” Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis said on Wednesday.
Challenges over the new inoculation sites
However, some have warned that the two new sites may not be prepared to help those in the area.
“We’ve seen in California, New York, and especially in states like Florida that wealthier people from communities not hard hit will go to those sites first, even if they are in rougher neighborhoods,” explained Bryan Selkirk, an independent researcher who has been following the demographics of people at inoculation sites in 10 states, including California. “In Florida, wealthy people are coming from all over the state, including outside the country, in this so-called vaccine tourism. It’s really happening. And when I was in New York last week, some sites in poorer neighborhoods in New York City had lines with mostly older white folks. Those who volunteered wealth levels were all classified to be upper-middle class or above.”
“And California is reporting much of the same. There are a lot of Mercedes’ and BMWs going into some of those centers out there in places where beater cars are the norm.”
“It’s great that these centers are going up to get more people vaccinated, but they are allowing everyone eligible in and not limiting people to radiuses of where they live to ensure communities are served. It’s still very much a mad dash for appointments and walk-ins.”
During the press conference, Governor Newsom also noted that over a million more vaccine doses were on the way, allowing the vaccination centers to continue inoculating people, and a new “My Turn” website that would allow for easier vaccine sign-ups statewide.
“The federal government doesn’t have the doses to support states like ours on a scale we would all like to see,” added the Governor. “We are limited on the basis of supply. This week we will receive 1,060,000 doses of the vaccine. That’s encouraging. We are averaging over a million vaccines being administered at this moment a week, so we can certainly keep up with that rate. Supply will only increase that pace and distribution.”
The new joint-FEMA sites are expected to open up soon, with the Oakland Coliseum site set to open on February 16th with the goal of administering 6,000 doses a day.