A team effort all around in the success of Avenal’s vaccination rate

For this small town in the southwest corner of Kings County, it took a village to win against an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Avenal Mayor Álvaro Preciado said the city has been proactive in its battle against COVID-19 since the pandemic began in 2020.

Measures range from giving businesses and the community free masks, free soap, free sanitizer, to issuing an order requiring people inside any business to wear a mask and imposing fines for enforce the order.

“But luckily our community cooperated and we didn’t have to issue a fine,” Preciado said. “The companies cooperated.”

Avenal not only had the lowest confirmed COVID cases in Kings County at any given time, but also had the highest vaccination rate, which caught the attention of senior state officials.

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Governor Gavin Newsom, with Mayor of Avenal Álvaro Preciado, Darcy Pickens, Acting Director of the Kings County Department of Public Health, and Pat Sánchez, Superintendent of the Reef Sunset Unified School District, during his visit to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Avenal to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters on November 16, 2021. María G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

In November 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom visited a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Avenal to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

At the time, Kings County had the lowest per capita vaccination rate of any county in the state, while Avenal was a local outlier. With approximately 75% of residents vaccinated in November 2021, Avenal had the highest vaccination rate in Kings County.

“So I think that reinforces our belief that vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19,” Preciado said, adding that at every city council meeting “we encourage the community to get vaccinated, to keep the distance and to wear a mask and follow the protocols for this that the State imposes.

Newsom praised the leadership of Avenal’s elected officials, from school district to mayor, for their resilience and determination to ensure the health and safety of their constituents.

“I realize the difficulty of that,” Newsom told Avenal executives during his visit as he acknowledged their leadership in defying the odds. “You are mobilizing and intervening in this pandemic.”

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Mayor of Avenal Álvaro Preciado, right, with Governor Gavin Newsom, during his visit to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Avenal to promote vaccinations and boosters against COVID-19 on November 16, 2021. Maria G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

From city government to school officials, everyone is on the same page when it comes to getting as many people as possible vaccinated against the virus that has changed the lives of many.

As Kings County enters its third year of the pandemic, in Avenal, 80% (6,548 people) of the adjusted eligible population (8,135 people) have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 70% (5 728 people) are fully vaccinated, according to the county’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard as of Feb. 16.

Kings County has 51% (66,960 people) of the adjusted eligible population (131,424 people) fully immunized. And 58% (76,183 people) have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. These numbers exclude the population incarcerated in county jails, which includes Avenal State Prison and Corcoran State Prison and Drug Treatment Center.

The county adjusted Avenal’s COVID-19 vaccine coverage of the eligible population to exclude the incarcerated population at Avenal State Prison.

Additionally, the numbers reported on the county’s immunization coverage rate dashboard have been updated to include the newly eligible population ages 5-12.

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Avenal not only had the lowest confirmed COVID cases in Kings County at any given time, but also had the highest vaccination rate, which senior state officials noted. A COVID-19 vaccine/test clinic in Avenal in November 2021. María G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

According to the dashboard, overall vaccination coverage has declined due to an increase in the vaccine-eligible population, but the actual number of residents vaccinated has not changed.

Although there has been continued hesitancy to get vaccinated in Kings County, it could be said that Avenal’s high percentage of vaccination rates is a success story that overcame the challenges facing the rest of the county. .

And what do you think is Avenal’s secret to this success?

“It’s a team effort all around,” said Lupez Chávez, Avenal’s senior code enforcement officer and school board president.

Growing up in the community, Chávez has a good relationship with local business owners and organizations, which has allowed him to go to each of them to present and explain why the mask ordinance was important, why getting vaccinated was important to community members and parents.

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Lupez Chávez, Avenal’s senior code enforcement officer and school board chair, right, with Governor Gavin Newsom as he visits a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Avenal to promote vaccinations and boosters COVID-19 on November 16, 2021. María G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

Chávez was one of the first to get vaccinated at Avenal and shared it publicly.

“Even when I was sick with COVID, I was also very open about it and I shared it, I raised awareness,” he said.

“I think it’s the leadership on the ground here at Avenal and the partnerships that we’ve been able to develop,” said Darcy Pickens, acting director of the Kings County Department of Public Health.

Partnerships that involve many people, from the county supervisor who represents that region to the mayor of the city.

“The school district has been absolutely fundamental in bringing testing to this community and bringing vaccination to this community,” Pickens said. “And speaking to the people on the ground about the importance of these measures, I really have to hand them all the success of Avenal.”

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Reef Sunset Unified School District superintendent Pat Sánchez during Governor Gavin Newsom’s visit to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Avenal to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters on November 16, 2021. María G. Ortiz Briones [email protected]

Pat Sánchez, Superintendent of the Reef Sunset Unified School District, said that first and foremost, what started their success was understanding that their priority was to help children go to school.

“Everyone agrees with that. And based on that premise, we just tried to make it easier to get vaccines. We tried to make it easy to get the support you needed, testing. And I would like to say that we would like to get there. So it’s kind of boring and routine for us to get you back to school,” Sánchez said, adding that partnerships like with the county health department have helped them “connect with the right people “.

“We really work with our community, listen to what they needed and treat them with dignity and respect. And it worked really well for us,” Sánchez said, adding that more than 85 percent of school district employees are vaccinated and tested weekly for free.

“We call it testing on Tuesdays,” Sánchez said.

Pickens said the county health department will continue to be at Avenal for service, “but they’re really the ones making this happen.”

She said vaccination “is a choice that protects the individual and everyone around them.”

“So we continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. We have vaccination clinics available in King County seven days a week on Sunday evenings,” Pickens said, adding that the county health department is strongly encouraging people to get their boosters, first dose and that pediatric vaccines are available throughout the county. clinics.

“We hope people will make the choice to protect themselves in their community,” Pickens said.

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Avenal Mayor Álvaro Preciado during Governor Gavin Newsom’s visit to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Avenal to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters on November 16, 2021. María G. Ortiz -Briones [email protected]

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