By John Ramos

HAYWARD (KPIX) — The Delta variant is allowing COVID-19 to make a comeback and health officials are scrambling to convince those who are hesitant to get vaccinated. On Saturday, across the East Bay, there were events offering incentives for people to get the shot.

The fight against the coronavirus is now being waged neighborhood by neighborhood such as at a small pop-up event in Hayward’s Cherryland District.

“Those big mega-centers started dwindling in numbers so now it’s really going to those hard-to-reach communities and going out where they’re at — not having them come to us,” said clinic organizer Denize Maldonado.

A community group called La Familia offered free groceries and ice cream to entice people to get the vaccine. News that cases are again on the rise because of the Delta variant convinced Mama Hemo to drive over from Tracy to get her first shot.

“I just didn’t want to take it,” she said, “but, because of the second virus coming, I’m kind of scared so, that’s why I’m here.”

Saturday morning, the Oakland Zoo offered free family passes for anyone getting vaccinated but only about 20 people took them up on the offer, including Oakland resident Lakountess Rollins. She said she wanted to be part of the solution rather than the problem but, to do it, she had to ignore a lot of scary rumors circulating out on the streets.

“It’s not for colored people, people getting blood clots and this and that,” she said. “Yeah, all negative stuff about it.”

They hear the same things in Antioch, Contra Costa’s least-vaccinated city so the county held a vaccination clinic at the local Boys and Girls Club and volunteer Terry Pierce was able to talk a man named Greg into getting his shot. That drew a round of applause from the crowd.

“It’s serious. You gotta take precautions,” said Greg, who admitted he was reluctant. “Yeah, I was, at first, because I heard stories, you know, sitting around here so I decided to do it.”

“I told him I hung a TV up in my backyard and if he wasn’t vaccinated he couldn’t watch football,” said Pierce with a laugh. “So, he went ahead and got it done.”

Free food, free passes, peer pressure — whatever it takes to get people vaccinated. Health workers say misinformation and the Delta variant are prolonging the life of a pandemic that has ended the lives of far too many.