COVID-19 Continues to Change Lives in Orange County
February 17, 2021
With over 242,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 3,848 deaths in Orange County, Calif., and 44,000+ in Santa Ana, it is clear that the coronavirus has had a major impact on our community.
Now more than ever, it is crucial to stay informed and aware of resources, developments, and updates during in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Here’s the latest about COVID-19 and how it has changed lives from a case investigator’s long hours tracing and contacting people who may have been exposed, to how one family in Santa Ana became infected and the aftermath from COVID-19.
Minimizing the Spread of COVID-19 One Vaccine at a Time
As a result of rising COVID-19 cases in Orange County, Disneyland, “the happiest place on Earth,” transformed into the first vaccination site in Orange County.
Known as a Super Point-of Distribution (POD), the Disney site is vaccinating on average 8,000 people a day. People eligible for vaccines include: law enforcement, first responders in high-risk communities, people residing in nursing facilities, and senior citizens ages 65 or older.
In order to set up an appointment, qualified people must go through Othena.com or Othena’s app for availability.
Other than Disneyland, Soka University, located in Aliso Viejo, is the second COVID-19 vaccination site in Orange County, which opened Saturday, January 23rd.
Photography teacher at Godinez Fundamental High School, Chester Maharaj, and his wife, Lynn, both received their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at Soka University.
“The vaccination was very painless,” said Maharaj, who added, “there were no complications.”
They were told to wait 20 minutes after receiving the vaccination and they have their appointments to get their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine on March 2.
At each site, identification and proof of eligibility is necessary when showing up for the appointment.
Santa Ana College’s POD site opened on Wednesday, February 17, where eligible residents can sign up to schedule an appointment through Othena.com. With Santa Ana being one of the cities greatly affected by COVID-19, they will continue to provide testing, starting on Monday, February 22 to staff and students on campus.
For senior citizens who have not had the opportunity to attend Orange County’s Super POD’s, smaller POD sites have begun opening up around Orange County for easier access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Southwest Senior Center in Santa Ana, which has the highest cases in all of Orange County, has opened and is distributing 400 to 500 vaccines a day, specifically for local “Santaneros” and people who work in Santa Ana 65 and older. Though they are low distribution numbers, these smaller POD sites are located in greatly affected areas in order to help families who may not have access or transportation to larger sites.
Outside of Orange County, Dodger Stadium and Cal State L.A., are some of the larger sites in Southern California to vaccinate people who are eligible to receive shots.
And local pharmacies like CVS, Vons, Walgreens, and Rite Aid announced that they will be offering the COVID-19 vaccine for those who are qualified to receive it, soon.
With many sites offering a drive thru option, the hope is just like the Maharajs, people will get their vaccinations sooner than later.
On the Case: Investigator for COVID-19 Infections Connects the Dots
Godinez alumni and former journalism student, Jessica Jimenez, works with contact tracers in Orange County as a case investigator.
The purpose of contact tracers is to inform any patients who have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 and give them enough resources on how to recover.
“I have to be an empathetic person when I do interviews. I have to be nonjudgmental and some of the interview skills I learned in journalism really helped me,” said Jimenez.
Jimenez said that her proper title as a contact tracer is case investigator. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley, Jimenez is responsible for calling patients and interviewing them while also providing resources and answering any questions.
Contact tracing is not an in person job. They usually call patients that have tested positive for COVID-19.
Sessions vary from person to person, however, the average session is 30 minutes per person. Jimenez receives about 10 new cases per day.
However, Jimenez said that some people have it worse than others. Many people who are infected have traveled and that takes more work.
“It’s important to understand the consequences and what might happen if people take those risks,” said Jimenez.
The hardest part for her job though is the emotional moments during an interview because she’s had to hear a lot of sad stories about people losing some of their loved ones.
Overall, contact tracing has been shown to be a highly effective strategy to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s important to know that they have to exercise caution, like six feet apart, stay at home, and wear a mask,” added Jimenez.
Do your part to stay safe.
One Santa Ana Family’s Experience with COVID
Editor’s Note: With the highest cases in Orange County in the city of Santa Ana, many Santa Ana Unified School District students have experienced the coronavirus firsthand. Here is one student’s story from our own newsroom.
The end of the semester wasn’t ideal for most people, especially me.
Finals week is always a rush and blur, but having it online this year made it in some way easier. I thought the whole week would consist of typical student things: staying up late studying, worrying about my tests, and even procrastinating. I should’ve known not to expect anything normal in 2020.
I was halfway through my AP Calculus test when my mom burst open the door in a frenzy and said those four words, “Your aunt has COVID-19.”
When you have grandparents in their 80’s who are at high risk, a positive result in the family is a nightmare. My aunt had been my grandparents’ strongest support system throughout the quarantine, running errands, cooking food, and keeping them company.
Shortly after, my grandfather tested positive for COVID-19 as well, while my grandmother tested negative. The fear became even more real.
With anxiety from my own COVID-19 test rushing through me, I said yes, when my mom asked if I could take care of my grandmother, who had developed a cold. I knew she was alone in her house, isolated from my grandfather, and it was my time to step up and help.
I began a new routine that day.
Right after finals, every day at 1 p.m., I’d pack my things (books, Chromebook, studying materials) and head on over to my grandma’s house to stay until 7 p.m. An uncle would take over afterwards and stay each night.
Days at my grandparent’s house were routine after routine. Put on a mask. Disinfect. Sit on the farthest couch possible and keep distance. Disinfect again. Study for finals and do homework. Talk with my grandma as we tried to find a way to conquer the boredom. Cook and try to convince my grandmother to eat. Clean and disinfect again.
The hours felt long for both of us, especially my grandmother who was so used to being active outside and in the company of my grandfather. After 60 years of marriage, this had been the first time they had been separated for so long.
I took care of my grandmother all of finals week. I soon got the call that my grandmother had also tested positive for COVID-19 and would now quarantine with my grandfather.
Now the new worry. Did I have COVID-19? My family worried. I had kept my distance, worn my mask, and cleaned each time, but the risk was still there. I knew that. But I didn’t regret taking care of my grandmother–not when she had done so much for our family.
I didn’t have much time to think about whether I had COVID-19 or not once my mom got sick. She had body pains, fatigue, and a runny nose—symptoms she thought were just a common cold. Still, she wore her mask and kept her distance as a precaution. Nobody had thought it was COVID-19. Since she spent most days in bed, I cooked throughout the week and did any major chores she was responsible for.
Christmas soon came around and it was uneventful. I tried to brighten up the mood by helping my mom make tamales and by baking a cake. We spent the night around the T.V., ordering COVID-19 tests and wishing for our family’s quick recovery. There were no hugs, photos, or any fun activities in 2020.
The weekend hit and we got another surprise: my dad fell ill. Like my mom had previously, he too spent all day in bed. The COVID-19 tests we had ordered arrived and the results followed a few days later. Both my parents received positives while my brother and I were negative.
In some twisted way, maybe this had been our Christmas present.
Living with two parents who have COVID-19 was tricky to say the least.
In our house, we tried to wear masks at all times and stay as far away as we could. We began to use separate bathrooms. When I cooked food, I served it to them since they couldn’t touch anything. My dad couldn’t work, my mom couldn’t go out, and so my brother and I became in charge of the weekly grocery store runs.
The new year came and after about two weeks of keeping our distance, cleaning, and trying to stay healthy, we were all given negative results and so were my grandparents.
With both my grandparents now vaccinated, 2021 has begun with a hopeful start.
COVID-19 can happen anywhere and to anyone. Although I’m grateful that no one in my family suffered from serious symptoms, I know that many people can’t say the same. Every family has been impacted differently. I hope that these anecdotes and information on test sites, vaccines, and other resources will help you and your family stay safe and healthy.
Testing Sites are Here to Stay
Even if you don’t feel any symptoms but you think you may be infected with the virus, please contact your healthcare provider immediately to know your options.
The Orange County COVID-19 Testing SuperSite locations, Costa Mesa Fairgrounds and the Anaheim Convention Center, offer free testing.
Appointments are required and can be made on OC Health Care Agency site.
On the day of your appointment, make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before and have your confirmation with you. Or else, you will not be assisted. The site is a drive-thru and the test is done with a swab inside your nose. But, it is painless and very simple. You will get your results within 2-3 days. While waiting for your results, stay home and self isolate.
Junior, Jasmine Delgado, and her family got tested for COVID-19 at Kaiser Permanente in Irvine. It was a drive thru and they waited for about 25-30 minutes prior to getting tested.
Delgado admits that they were nervous but it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.
“I feel like, at first, it seems a lot scarier than it is. The worst part was waiting in line, but the actual test wasn’t bad,” said Delgado.
If you want to avoid long lines, the Orange County Health Agency is now offering free at-home testing kits, both saliva and nasal swabbed.
The saliva based test is from Ambry Genetics and the nasal swab is from Picture Genetics. You create an account and then you can order your kit on the websites. Once you receive your kit by mail, make sure to register the kit number. Your results will come through in approximately 2-3 days.
Senior, Cynthia Santiago, has been tested for COVID-19 three times now. Recently, she went to EqualTox Laboratory in Santa Ana.
Santiago said, “Getting tested sounds scary but it was quick and easy. It’s a small sting, but it is not that bad.”
In addition, Latino Health Access offers free COVID-19 testing to everyone with or without symptoms in Orange County. These take place at schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District and other sites. Students are informed through their emails or they can check LHA’s Instagram page @latinohealthaccess. Appointments are required.
In July 2020, senior, David Nunez, was tested at Newport Center Urgent Care. He needed a negative test to travel.
“Although the nasal swab made me shed a tear, the process took less than 2 minutes and I got my results in 30 minutes because we paid the rapid test fee of $35,” said Nunez.
Though these are just a few of the COVID-19 testing options, there are so many more located in Orange County. Do your research and get tested if you feel sick.
According to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, 11% of all Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and everyday in America another 1.5 million vaccinations are given.
As many Californians wait for their shot, as always, please continue to follow the guidelines and precautions to stay safe.