Fil-Am health care workers remind community to stay vigilant as coronavirus risk remains high

AS COVID-19 vaccines continue to be administered in the Los Angeles area, Filipino American health care workers are sharing their experiences and are reminding the community to continue following public health orders while ringing in the New Year.

Dr. Antonio Moya, a neurologist and public health advocate, recently received his jab as part of LA County’s campaign to vaccinate 10,000 frontline health workers by New Year’s Eve.

“It is such a gift and blessing to be among the first in the country to receive this vaccine because I want to be able to take care of all my patients knowing that I am more protected from COVID-19,” Moya told the Asian Journal. “I knew that working in the inpatient hospital and ICU setting would put me on the list to receive the vaccine early, however, I think it is amazing that a vaccine for this pandemic was created so quickly using scientific rigor and scientific method.”

Dr. Antonio Moya, a neurologist, recently received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as part of LA County’s campaign to vaccinate 10,000 frontline health workers by New Year’s Eve. | Contributed photo

Like what many other health care workers have shared, Moya felt soreness at the injection site and some tiredness afterward, but was able to exercise the next day.

Though the Fil-Am physician now has another layer of protection in the fight against the virus — and will be receiving the second dose three weeks later — he said that he will still take the same precautions as he did pre-inoculation.

“The vaccine has not changed my behavior and I think we need to be clear that the vaccine is not a panacea to this disease. Rather, it’s the public health measure we take that will help our whole community stop this disease in its track[s],” Moya said, likening the pandemic to a marathon. “[Y]our eye has to be on the prize of getting through this pandemic without getting infected and not spreading the disease to others. We are all in this together.”

Filipina American Shielah Creus was the first health care worker to receive the vaccine at a Southern California hospital (the name of which she did not disclose). The registered nurse, who has pre-existing conditions and has experienced allergic reactions to other injections in the past, decided to take the chance and get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to “set a good example.”

Shielah Creus prepares to receive her jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a Southern California hospital, where is a registered nurse and director of multiple departments, including infection control. | Contributed photo

“I’ve been looking forward to the vaccine because for frontline nurses, respiratory therapists and everybody working day in and day out with COVID patients, it’s protection. There’s a fear that they’ll get sick because they’re pretty stretched thin,” Creus told the Asian Journal. “I decided to go ahead and get it to set a good example.”

Heading into the final week of 2020 and another holiday weekend, intensive care capacity in the Southern California region remains at 0% and hospitals continue to report longer wait times and limited availability for regular hospital beds.

“We’re getting the surge right now from people who have been traveling last Thanksgiving so they’re starting to get sicker. We don’t want that to happen again,” Martin Reyes, a registered nurse at LAC+USC Medical Center’s ICU, told the Asian Journal. “If you get sick after you travel for the holidays, there will be longer wait times in the emergency room and there’s a higher chance that we won’t be able to find a bed for you or an ICU bed.”

For now, frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are prioritized for vaccines. But once they are widely available, Reyes urges the community to look at the benefits.

“Other than the minor side effects, it’s a no brainer to get the vaccine when it’s available,” Reyes, who received his vaccine earlier in December, said. “The main reason why we’re doing this is to achieve herd immunity — the more people who get vaccinated, the more people can be immune to the virus and it cannot spread to others, especially those who are immunocompromised.”

During the three-day Christmas weekend, LA County reported a combined tally of 29,464 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, December 26, reflecting 13,185 cases reported that day as well as 15,538 cases on Christmas Day. Friday’s numbers delayed due to a service interruption in the LA area by Spectrum.

The two-day period also saw 142 new deaths — 131 fatalities on Friday and five on Saturday. To date, the LA County Department of Public Health has identified 706,448 positive cases of COVID-19 and a total of 9,438 deaths.

There are currently 6,770 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 20% of these people are in the ICU.

The county remains under the regional stay-at-home order, as of this writing, which was triggered after the ICU capacity fell below 15%.

Statewide, California has 2,122,806 confirmed cases to date, and 24,220 fatalities. The 7-day positivity rate is 11.4% and the 14-day positivity rate is 12.3%.

Similar to the guidelines shared for Thanksgiving and Christmas, families are advised anew to rethink travel plans, to celebrate within their households or to opt for virtual gatherings. Those who return to LA County from abroad or out of state are asked to self-quarantine at home for 10 days and limit contact with others.

“Filipino Americans have been devastated by COVID-19 as we are often on the frontlines as nurses or other health care workers in the hospital, or we work in the food or service industry. We also as a whole are at higher risk of death and serious illness from COVID-19 given our higher rates of heart problems, diabetes, cancer, and other preventable diseases compared to other communities of color. It’s so important for us Fil-Ams to stay vigilant,” Moya said. “We are at the beginning of the end of this pandemic with the availability now of two COVID-19 vaccines; we’ve all made it this far and together as a community, we can come out of this pandemic stronger than before.”

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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