California on the Brink of More COVID-19 Shutdowns

Written by Bobbie Wylie

January 2022 is beginning to feel eerily similar to March 2020. 

Starting today, large gatherings are banned in Sonoma County for the next month. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County urged residents to avoid some activities and postpone nonessential gatherings. On Saturday, the California state prison system halted in-person visits amid COVID surges of inmates and employees. Some hospitals are cancelling or postponing non-emergent surgeries.

Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, have said that they don’t expect further COVID-related shutdowns, but shutdowns are happening anyway as more people test positive for COVID. This raises concerns regarding understaffed schools, healthcare facilities, and businesses, many of which will not be able to remain open if omicron variant trends don’t improve soon. 

The state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, reopened Tuesday, but not without challenges. More than 62,000 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19, so nearly 2,000 district employees had to step in to keep schools running. Palo Alto managed to remain open on Monday after 450 parents volunteers filled various positions from custodial to roles in the classroom. On Monday, Hayward Unified moved online for at least a week after over 500 students and staff tested positive for COVID.

On Tuesday, West Contra Costa Unified reopened after two days without instruction, and is requiring staff members to wear KN95 masks and students to wear surgical masks. Teachers and students in San Francisco and Oakland are threatening to stay home from school if health and safety protocols are not increased. 

Education is not the only sector facing staff shortages. On Tuesday, approximately 4,000 prison workers were COVID-positive, over 800 of 12,200 Los Angeles Police Department employees were out sick, and restaurants across the state have shut down. The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, San Rafael, and Los Angeles have joined 21 others across the nation in asking Congress to provide emergency relief to hold off permanent closures and “catastrophic” economic impacts.

Photo Cred: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP