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Almost a year after California’s first shelter at home order, I can’t help but think about how the County of Orange so utterly failed so many people over the course of the year. Most of all, I can’t help but think about the ways in which the Board of Supervisors failed my grandpa.
He passed away on December 14, 2020. Alone. On a hospital bed in Los Angeles due to COVID-19 complications.
He was transported to LA from a hospital in Santa Ana after being told he would have to undergo treatment that was unavailable at the Santa Ana hospital. I was responsible for taking phone calls from his nurses and doctors the three days he was in the ICU. They were the longest 72 hours of my life. Every time my phone rang, a cold chill ran down my spine. I’d feel my heart stop for a second. I imagined the worst.
The night before his death, I had the opportunity to talk to him over the phone. It was my first time hearing his voice in over 48 hours. My grandpa was one of the strongest people I knew. Even at his lowest, he fooled everyone and made himself look like the strongest person in the room. For the first time in my life, I heard a weakness in his voice. He struggled to form a sentence. That night I assured him that we would be praying for his recovery and that he would be home soon. At around 5 a.m. the next morning, he passed.
Two days after his death, the hospital called me and informed me that his belongings were ready to be picked up. As I drove to LA, I began to make up these silly scenarios in my head that the doctors must have mixed up the names of two different patients. I was positive that the belongings that would soon be handed over to me would be of a stranger. I was clearly wrong.
The car ride back to Santa Ana was long. I drove in silence. In the passenger seat next to me, sat a tightly sealed plastic bag of the clothes he wore when the paramedics first arrived at our house Saturday morning. That bag was the last piece I had of him. That bag confirmed one of my biggest fears.
Almost three months later and I continue to mourn his death and look for closure. I wasn’t prepared for such a big loss. An immense amount of feelings have filled my body these past three months. Recently, a lot of anger has come over me because, since the beginning of this pandemic, the Board of Supervisors has failed the Latinx community in Orange County. As a result, Latinxs have been disproportionately infected and killed by COVID-19.
We continue to see the ways in which the Board of Supervisors prioritizes the health and wellbeing of white, affluent communities. A few weeks ago, the County of Orange faced a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines. Instead of prioritizing the vaccination POD at Santa Ana College, in one of the hardest-hit cities in the county, the Board of Supervisors shut down vaccination PODS in Santa Ana and Anaheim and continued to roll out vaccinations at Soka University in Aliso Viejo, a predominantly white community.
The Board of Supervisors must ensure that vaccine rollout is being administered in a way that centers equity. When the county faces vaccine shortages, we must dedicate those limited resources to the hardest-hit communities. A concerted effort must be made by the Board of Supervisors to vaccinate the county’s essential workforce, which predominantly lives in Santa Ana and Anaheim.
The Board of Supervisors has a responsibility to the health and wellbeing of everyone in the county, especially those most impacted by COVID-19. The county has always had the ability to reduce infection rates and hospitalizations but their neglect and lack of leadership have caused thousands of deaths across the county. The Board of Supervisors should have allocated more COVID-related funding to the County Health Department at the start of this pandemic, instead they chose to allocate the largest chunk of funding to the Sheriff’s Department. A department that has done absolutely nothing to enforce something as simple as mask mandates.
The county must begin to take vaccination rollout in Santa Ana and Anaheim seriously. No one deserves to drive home with the belongings of a loved one in a plastic bag.
Hector Bustos is a lifelong Santa Ana resident and student at the University of San Francisco studying politics with a minor in public service and community engagement. He serves as the Communications Coordinator with Chispa and has experience working in a dynamic political arena on both the local and federal level. Hector is committed to uplifting the voices of Latinx youth in Santa Ana and across the county through advocacy and community organizing.
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