By OC Board Supervisor Lisa Bartlett
It has been almost one year since COVID-19 arrived on our shores and life as we knew it changed dramatically. Prior to March 2020, so many things were different: festivities went ahead as planned, paper towels and toilet paper were plentiful, a hug or a handshake was an acceptable greeting, smiling faces were on full display, and our economy was booming.
Then came COVID-19, which turned our daily lives upside down, from the way we shop to how we socialize, work and travel. Many lost their lives to the deadly virus, while others struggled to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
As challenging as 2020 was for all of us, we have come a long way since then and made significant strides in our battle against the virus.
In the early days of the pandemic, fear and uncertainty abounded. There were so many questions. How is the virus transmitted? What are the symptoms? Is there a treatment or vaccine? Answers were hard to come by.
Back then, as supervisor and president of the California State Association of Counties, testing became a high priority for me so that we could rapidly identify the rate of transmission and take appropriate measures to mitigate the spread.
Initially, testing was limited to those who were symptomatic, based on CDC recommendations. However, as more information became available and scientists discovered that the virus could be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals, testing was made more widely available.
Today, test kits are available at no cost for individuals who live in Orange County, regardless of whether they are asymptomatic or have had exposure to the virus.
When the first stay-at-home order was issued by the state, everyday household items became scarce and hard to come by. Within weeks, there were long lines at grocery stores of people looking to buy basic household supplies.
Manufacturers were unprepared for the sudden volatility in the marketplace, and production of these items soared to meet the demand. Fast-forward to March 2021—the panic buying has somewhat subsided, and the supply chain appears to be slowly returning to some sense of normalcy.
As many Orange County residents came to terms with wearing face coverings, social distancing and other safety protocols, scientists from around the globe got to work on developing a vaccine.
At that time, it was unfathomable to think that a safe and effective vaccine could be developed and on the market within 12 months. Yet, by the end of 2020, multiple biotech firms had developed safe and effective vaccines.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have since been approved by the FDA for emergency use and are now being distributed to eligible individuals at multiple PODs (Point of Dispensing sites).
As my district serves over 600,000 residents in South Orange County and has a very large senior population, one of my main priorities was to start up a Super POD in South Orange County.
On Jan. 23, we launched the opening of a Super POD at Soka University in Aliso Viejo and in February activated a drive-through service at the site for seniors with mobility issues.
While it has been a bumpy ride over the past 12 months, the road to recovery is starting to look better for all of us. The health and economic effects of COVID-19 will not be resolved overnight; it will take time, but we are headed in the right direction.
As federal and state officials continue to work on rolling out additional vaccine supplies, we need to remain diligent in our efforts to keep COVID-19 at bay. Wear a face covering, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently. Keep safe and stay healthy.
Lisa Bartlett sits on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District. She was reelected in 2018.