Last Updated on December 5, 2021 by BVN

Zanesha Williams | 

As the holiday season begins, it is not unusual to have both excitement and fear of gathering with family and friends after last year’s holiday lockdown. Not only was it mandated to remain in your home last Thanksgiving, but a surge of confirmed Coronavirus cases came soon after.

This season, with the vaccine available and the push for booster shots, some of last year’s anxiety has been alleviated and transformed into holiday cheer. Although social distancing restrictions are lifted, many of the Inland Empire’s population has not been fully vaccinated—which may cause concern for health care workers and families alike.

When discussing the strong likelihood of her family coming together for the holidays, Janel Jackson, a Southern California native expressed,”One of my biggest concerns would be family [members] who are not vaccinated—and don’t plan on getting vaccinated, and who are not precautionary about getting tested before the holidays.”

Jose Arballo Jr, the Senior Public Information Specialist at Riverside University’s Public Health System, shared that while he does not know what to expect this winter, he is hopeful that residents will take all the necessary precautions to celebrate together, safely.

Much like the recommendations of Arballo’s team, Jackson petitions,“I wish my mom would be more assertive and let people know to have a negative test result or be vaccinated…I think she should because she’s going to be the one more at risk.”

Hopeful outlook for 2021 holiday season

“We’re hoping we don’t see the type of cases we saw last winter. Last year we had a surge that was difficult on our hospitals and ICU’s. Because the vaccine was not available last winter, and because of public education, we are hoping people will gather safely,” shared Arballo.

Arballo’s department spent a substantial portion of Riverside County’s lockdown finding new and interactive ways to keep the community up to date on all things COVID-19. He added, “For about seven days a week for six months we offered public health updates talking about the latest numbers, updates on vaccines and testing, and live streamed on Facebook to keep the information interesting and fresh.”

San Bernardino County’s Public Health Dashboard has a similar initiative to keep the public informed and in the loop. On the “Cases” page of the SBCPH Dashboard you are met by a large graph displaying the county’s COVID-19 analytics. The graph is updated daily and as of Tuesday, November 23, the number of new cases reported decreased since the start of the month.

Screen shot of San Bernardino County’s COVID-19 Dashboard taken Thursday, December 2, 2021. (source: covid19-sbcph.hub.arcgis.com, screenshot courtesy S. E. Williams)

The dashboard displays informative data such as the number of confirmed cases associated with known vaccination status, seven-day averages, and a legend citing where and how the data is processed and solicited. 

When asked if he expected any spikes from the Thanksgiving holiday, Arballo added, “The last three weeks there’s been a slight increase in cases leveling off in hospitals and ICUs, we’re hoping that it continues to stay leveled.”

Like that of San Bernardino County, the Riverside County Public Health Dashboard—as it relates to COVID-19, breaks down the number of cases and vaccination status associated with the recorded cases. SBCPH Dashboard reports that of all confirmed cases in the county, just over 17 percent were fully vaccinated individuals. 

Gathering with the unvaccinated

Arballo acknowledged the likelihood of gatherings that may have both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, to which he advises, “We hope that [fully vaccinated residents] get their booster shot and continue to do the safety precautions, and get their flu shot! You’re protected from COVID, but you don’t want to catch the flu.”

Screenshot of Riverside County Depart of Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard taken Thursday, December 2, 2021. (source: rivcoph.org screen, shot courtesy S. E. Williams)

Turning his attention to unvaccinated residents, Arballo bargained, “We think we’ve done everything to plead to protect your family and community, and to get communities reopened. We want people to gather but want people to gather safely…we want you to get vaccinated before.”

Taking in consideration the pleas of public health leaders, and in the spirit of keeping your loved ones safe during the time of cheer, it is encouraged to take all the precautions that have afforded us the opportunity to leave our homes and gather this year. Wearing a mask, staying home if you feel sick, and considering if someone you know is vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.

For engaging and regular updates about COVID-19 data in Riverside County, Arballo encourages residents to visit the University Health Systems website and socials. Explore the dashboard at : https://covid19-sbcph.hub.arcgis.com/pages/cases, website: www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus, Facebook: University health System and/or Twitter @publichealth. For COVID-19 information in San Bernardino County visit https://covid19-sbcph.hub.arcgis.com/pages/cases.

Zanesha Williams

Zanesha Williams is a freelance journalist who reports for the IE Voice and Black Voice News. Raised in Upland, California, Zanesha started her writing journey at Mt. San Antonio College where she served as a reporter for SACMedia. She went on to further her studies at San Francisco State University, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in Digital and Print Journalism with a minor in Africana Studies.