Officials Hope Mask Announcement Will Spur Vaccinations

Photo courtesy Glendale Fire Department
A firefighter with the Glendale Fire Department administers a coronavirus vaccine as part of the city’s home vaccination program, which recently resumed after federal officials OK’d continued use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson inoculation.

The announcement by President Joe Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week that they feel fully vaccinated people can comfortably shed their masks in most public locations was a welcome one for many Americans.

It was also welcomed by Glendale Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas, who, like many others, read between the lines when the president said that if you’re vaccinated, the federal government won’t be the one to tell you to keep your mask on. A popular interpretation of the statement is that, as vaccination rates tumble, officials are hoping to encourage more Americans to get their inoculations against the coronavirus.

“We’re hoping to capitalize on that,” Lanzas said in a phone interview Friday. “We’re hoping that some of those people will now change their mind and come get the vaccine. Clearly, [the vaccines] are making a difference, which is why we are where we are.”

Where we — that is, Los Angeles County residents — are is in the yellow tier, the least restrictive of California’s levels reflecting the extent of coronavirus spread throughout the state. Following a surge in cases and deaths during the winter months that pushed the county to the brink, caseloads have plummeted so much — while vaccination has continued to proliferate — that Gov. Gavin Newsom aims to retire the color tier system next month.

California officials expect the state this summer to reach the 70% vaccination threshold that would put the state in “herd immunity” territory, in spite of a slowdown in vaccination rates. That deceleration, officials note, is not as stark as it is in other states.

“I think the reason for that is that in general, the people who wanted it went out and got it, and the majority of people we’re seeing now have changed their mind after they were waiting to see how it rolled out,” Lanzas observed.

The fire chief said that the Jewel City Vax Clinic, which was set up at Glendale Community College in collaboration with the college, city and Adventist Health Glendale, continues to operate under capacity, meaning that walk-ups are being accepted alongside appointments.

“We have plenty of vaccine,” Lanzas added. “We’re just not seeing the number of people showing up to get it.”

According to data from L.A. County, more than 90,000 eligible Glendale residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, making the city at least 51% vaccinated. More than 11,000 residents in unincorporated La Crescenta-Montrose have gotten at least one shot, putting the community at 66% vaccinated.

Glendale this week recorded enough new coronavirus cases to place the city at more than 20,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. This means that around one in 10 residents have caught the disease. Still, the daily new case rate has utterly tanked since a high of several hundred in February — the rate in Glendale has hovered around a dozen so far this month.

Deaths have also plummeted, with the city recording its first new deaths in weeks this week.