Last year at this time, with many willingly vaccinated, there was a feeling the new year would bring an end to this pandemic.  

But this year, saying the words “Happy New Year” and toasting 2022 feels less jubilant.

Here we are one year later, wondering what’s to come. Yes, businesses have  reopened and freeways are bustling; but life is still far from returning to “normal.” 

The Delta and Omicron variants arrived in 2021, making life in many ways more uncertain and worrisome.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths to date are shocking — and continue to rise — yet, too many continue to be cavalier, refusing vaccination and flatly refusing to consider others by social distancing or practicing safety protocols. 

As conspiracy theories and misinformation have spread among even those we least expected — including our friends, families and globally — the COVID-19 and Omicron crisis has worsened. The vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated has polarized us, and impacted our homes and the workplace.                                                    

It’s shocking to find that even local neighborhood priests have told parishioners in the Northeast Valley not to vaccinate with claims the vaccine could cause cancer. It’s fair to say that such irresponsible clergy may have caused the numbers of local cases to rise and worsen; the numbers of  COVID-19 cases in the Northeast San Fernando Valley alone should stop anyone in their tracks. 

The local numbers are staggering. In the small City of San Fernando, 1 in 4 people have tested positive for COVID-19. In Pacoima, 20,028 people have tested positive. And nearly 20,000 people have tested positive in Sylmar.  

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol reports the numbers of COVID-19 cases in the Northeast San Fernando Valley each week, but most fail to read the information and still prefer to look the other way. 

If eyes were open, one would see that there is a reason why a testing and vaccination clinic at San Fernando Recreational Park has reopened.  

There are long lines of people looping around the park, worried that their symptoms are more than a winter cold. Some standing in line cannot return to work unless they are properly tested.  Needless to say, it’s not the line you want to find yourself in, especially if you haven’t been vaccinated. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 28, the City of San Fernando distributed 500 COVID-19 test kits and have requested more.  

Those who refuse vaccination and continue to be “spreaders,” endanger the community at large. 

While more breakthrough cases are expected, even among those who are fully vaccinated, health professionals point out that vaccinations will help to keep you out of the hospital with milder symptoms.   

This pandemic has felt like an obstacle course. It’s disheartening to find fake vaccination cards being bought and sold, putting others further at risk. It does little good to require proof of vaccination when those with fake cards are gaining the same entry and standing beside you. Wearing a face mask may not be enough to protect you.  

If those around you aren’t honest about whether or not they’re vaccinated, or are using a fake vaccination card, you cannot make an informed decision to attend a function. It’s like rolling the dice when making decisions to go to work, travel, or attending a get together with family members knowing that you may be among those who aren’t fully vaccinated or refuse to be vaccinated.  

The facts remain — those who aren’t vaccinated are “spreaders,” even if they are asymptomatic. The unvaccinated are 7.6 times more likely to get COVID-19, 11.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 14.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19, the California Department of Public Health reports.   

Some health professionals have suggested that we will have to accept a “new normal” and will have to consider that COVID-19, Omicron and new strains of this virus will continue, but the best defense is vaccination that will allow you to live and survive.  

Protect your health  and your family. Keep aware. Read news information, pay attention to the numbers of cases and what is going on in your community.

Speak up. Talk to your neighbors and family about protecting themselves and each other. We must all continue to be as cautious and diligent in 2022 as we were at the start of this pandemic. 

May we report a year from now that the curve of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated has leveled and COVID-19 and its variants are in our rear view mirror. 

San Fernando Recreation Park (208 Park Ave., San Fernando) Testing and Vaccination Clinic : Open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.These are all walkup services and no appointment is necessary.  Note that the site will be closed this Friday, Dec. 31, and Saturday, Jan. 1. Normal operations will resume next Monday, Jan. 3.

Mobile vaccination clinics offering the Pfizer vaccine, including Booster Dose for eligible residents (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday);

·         COVID Testing (Monday through Saturday);

·         Free Wellness Checks (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) and’

·         Information for Public Assistance Programs (Monday through Saturday).