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Mailbag: Is Omicron the end or does O.C. continue to face a COVID-19 battle?

Margarita Ochoa and Socorro Juarez from Latino Health Access dress in costume at a vaccine sight in Santa Ana.
Margarita Ochoa, left, and Socorro Juarez from Latino Health Access, dress in costume at a mobile vaccine sight at El Indio Botanas y Cerveza in Downtown Santa Ana.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Last week I was surprised to see that there were 756 new cases of COVID-19 in Newport Beach, a number not out of line with the rest of the county. On Jan. 21 the Daily Pilot confirmed that there were 709 confirmed cases among students and teachers in Newport-Mesa School District. That is a remarkable figure, but not in a good way. We must remember that Costa Mesa stats must be included and that there were 1,806 new cases in Costa Mesa. So given those figures, it becomes apparent that roughly 27% of the new cases last week occurred in our schools!

Those numbers are noticeably high. Part of that reason is that our schools are now open. As a former teacher, I could go on and on about that issue alone, but my focus is centered on the latest surge that we are experiencing, high numbers overall, and the future of the virus. It used to be friends of friends who got COVID-19, but few people you knew. But now it has come down to cases of COVID-19 in your own circle of friends, even in your family. And yet the vaccination rate of Orange County has not changed from many months ago. Don’t fool yourself that Newport Beach is way above the county average because it is not. Rates in Newport Beach hover around 70%, about the same as the rest of Orange County, lower than some cities like those in Irvine which are in the 90th percentile, slightly lower or above other Orange County cities.

We have all heard recently the theory that Omicron marks a downward trajectory in the evolution of the virus. This information came from health officials in San Francisco and UCLA just this last week. These sources say that the pandemic could become an endemic because of the mild nature of this variant compared to others.

However, another source, the World Health Organization’s director general, says that the virus will not become endemic like the flu as long as global vaccinations are so low. Remember how Omicron came out of South Africa in November and spread like wildfire.

No one knows for sure what the long term effects of Omicron will be. But it is very possible, like the Delta variant, that there will be some long-term effects.

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

Nothing has changed at NMUSD

For more than 25 years prior to 2018, Newport and Costa Mesa citizens voted for school board trustees at large. This meant that people in Corona del Mar voted for the trustee in the Mesa Verde area and vice versa. This was a poor system because people in one area knew little about what was happening in the schools in the other area but still had to vote for a trustee.

This law was changed in 2018 so that citizens only voted for a trustee to represent their area. This was primarily done so that the minority/majority would have a representative to speak for their interests and concerns.

In 2018, Ashley Anderson was elected to represent the west side of Costa Mesa with its large population of minority students. She was well qualified to speak for the area because she has not only taught elementary school but also attended Wilson School and Estancia High School. In addition she has been actively engaged with the local charities and has mentored and tutored students through the Wilson Learning Center.

During her tenure on the school board, Ms. Anderson has had multiple concerns regarding the education of the westside students which she has repeatedly brought to the attention of the Newport-Mesa trustees.

She has advocated for better internet access for her students. She has asked for a facilitator and a psychologist at each elementary school to address the poverty, homelessness and social trauma of students and parents in her area. This was just recently approved. She has also asked for better busing in her area so that small children do not have long distances to walk to the bus.

Instead of respecting her for her diligence in representing the west side, five of the school board trustees have consistently denied her a leadership position on the school board, including in the latest trustee officer election. Why did we change the laws if the school board is going to continue to deny the westside NMUSD trustee a leadership role?

Martie O’Meara
Costa Mesa

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