By T.A. Hendrickson
The new COVID-19 vaccine mandate by the Los Angeles Unified School District could be a tall order for Northeast Los Angeles.
The mandate requires all eligible LAUSD students ages 12 and up to get vaccinated by year end. As of Thursday, September 9, when the mandate was issued, only 56% of NELA residents ages 12 to 17 had at least one shot, according to data from the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
That works out to 6,114 12-to-17 year-olds who are fully or partially vaccinated – and 4,756 unvaccinated ones – in the NELA communities of Eagle Rock, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, Highland Park and Mount Washington, according to the L.A. County health department data.
Of course, not all of the 12-to-17 year-olds in NELA are in LAUSD schools and thus subject to the mandate. But the population figures are a meaningful indicator of the task ahead to vaccinate young people.
The share of 12-to-17 year-olds in NELA who are fully or partially vaccinated varies by neighborhood. In Eagle Rock, 64% have had at least one shot, followed by Glassell Park at 59%, Elysian Valley at 55%, Highland Park at 52% and Mount Washington at 51%, according to the L.A. County Health Department. (In health department data, “Mount Washington” includes parts of Highland Park and Cypress Park.)
Low vaccination rates allow for the continued spread of COVID-19, putting schoolchildren and school staff at risk.
According to the daily update by LAUSD, there were 21 active cases of COVID-19 at 10 schools in NELA on Sept. 8, including seven at Franklin High School in Highland Park; three at Eagle Rock High School; two apiece at Bushnell Way Elementary in Highland Park, Dorris Place Elementary in Elysian Valley and Irving Middle School in Glassell Park; and one each at Aldama Elementary in Highland Park, Eagle Rock Elementary, Glassell Park STEAM Magnet, Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights and Loreto Street Elementary in Montecito Heights.
In the NELA schools with more than one active COVID-19 case, the infections were not found to be related, that is, the virus was not transmitted at school from one student to another. The lack of active transmission at the schools is a testament to vaccines, masks, air filtration and other protocols to guard against infection.
And yet, the virus has persisted, giving rise to the vaccine mandate by LAUSD. In a statement after the L.A. school board voted for the mandate, L.A. schools Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly summed it up this way: “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”