OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled plans Wednesday for a massive COVID-19 vaccination site at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum — a joint venture between state and federal health officials.
Newsom said increasing vaccine availability will help hasten California’s return to some form of normalcy.READ MORE: Lake County Luxury Hotel, Housing Project Raises Concerns Over Wildfire Risk
“With these vaccines, with these case rates declining, we see light at the of the tunnel,” he said. “In order to get our businesses open, in order to get our schools open, which we are committed to getting our schools open for in-person instruction, to do that more efficiently, more expeditiously, we need to continue the good work we have done in this state.”
At a morning news conference, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf thanked Newsom for helping to address the city’s vaccine distribution needs.
“There’s never been a time where partnership has been more needed than now,” she said. “And this partnership…is going to accelerate the delivery of vaccines and get us back to normal as quickly as is safe and possible.”
The state has tripled the number of vaccines administered daily over the last few weeks.
“While that’s good, it’s not good enough,” Newsom said. “We were in the high 40s in terms of our national ranking (for vaccine distribution). We were in the high 30s, we are now in the high 20s. We are moving in the right direction. We are above the national average — we don’t want to be average. We want to do more and better.”
One of the driving principles of locating the mass vaccination site at the Coliseum is that it will be able to provide the shots to an underserved part of the Bay Area’s population.
“We’ve been very focused on trying to get African-Americans understand the issue of vaccines, not to browbeat them or criticize them because they choose not to,” said Oakland Dr. Michael Lenoir of LifeLong Medical Care.
Lenoir is a pediatrician, an immunologist, and he also serves as President of the African American Wellness Project. He told KPIX 5 an effort on the scale of the Coliseum is overdue.
“You know, I have a lot of people that are at risk who want to get the vaccine, but just don’t know where to go or how to get it,” Lenoir said. “I think that’s been one of the big tragedies of the whole roll out. People who are on the fence, if they can avoid it, they will.”
So beyond its geographic convenience, 6,000 shots a day on a landmark site like the Coliseum could become an awareness campaign on its own.
“We’re on a timeline with these variants,” Lenoir said. “I think that we have to be able to not only get the word out, but to make it convenient for people to go and get the vaccine, if we hope to be successful.”
Newsom said that the state has had 150 confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 mutation and 960 of what is being called the West Coast variant. No cases of the potent South African strain of the disease has been reported as of yet in California.READ MORE: Theft Leaves San Jose Couple Bereft: 'We’re Heartbroken, All Our Precious Things Are Gone'
“We are monitoring that variant [the West Coast strains], monitoring the UK variant and clearly we have no South African variant to report but we are clearly monitoring that also,” he said. “The viralness, the transmissibility of those variants are obviously of concern — that’s why we have to be cautious. That’s why we have to continually be mindful; that’s why we have to continue to do the things we know we have to do in terms of maintaining physical distance and wearing our masks.”
When it comes to reopening schools, Newsom said having all the teachers vaccinated in a particular school district was not a prerequisite for reopening classes.
“It’s not a non-starter,” Newsom said of the teacher vaccinations. “I’d love to have everybody in the state vaccinated — those who choose to be vaccinated. We are prioritizing teachers. The state put out guidelines — 1B — that prioritizes teachers. We want to get our teachers vaccinated and they have been prioritized in this state. So we want to see that happen.”
The Oakland site will be one of two in the state run by a collaboration between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Emergency Services. The other site will be on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles.
They are part of the Biden Administration’s plans to establish 100 vaccination sites nationwide in the federal administration’s first 100 days.
“In the fight against COVID-19, partnership is key, especially when it comes to reaching Californians in underserved areas,” Newsom said in a news release. “These new sites will help us get available supply to some of the California communities most in need. I thank the Biden Administration for standing with us as we continue our efforts to safely, swiftly and equitably vaccinate all Californians.”
FEMA will be providing resources and federal staffing support to establish the new community vaccination centers as well as operational support.
“This is truly additive (to Alameda County’s current vaccination effort) from our federal partners who have been with us from Day One,” Schaaf said.
“Today’s announcement is a significant step forward in the ongoing effort to ensure every American who wants a vaccine will receive a vaccine,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton.
In order to expand the reach of the new state-federal sites further into the local communities, each of these new sites will be paired with two mobile vaccination clinics which can be deployed to multiple locations to amplify and provide distribution to areas that otherwise lack sufficient support.
Officials said the preparations and buildout of the two locations were now underway and the sites were expected to be open to eligible members of the public beginning February 16.
Registration for vaccine appointments at these two sites will be available through the state’s MyTurn scheduling system in the coming days.MORE NEWS: Indoor Restaurant Dining Resumes, Movie Theaters Reopen in SF and Santa Clara Counties
Wilson Walker contributed to this story.