Three years in, what has changed?

Three years ago this week Chula Vista had its first tangle with COVID-19.

A retail store employee, having just returned from Italy, reported to work shortly after their arrival. The traveller didn’t stay long, reportedly feeling sick and making the trek back home to Orange County.

That employee tested positive for COVID-19, the storefront was temporarily closed for a deep cleaning and colleagues who came into contact with them were quarantined.

A snowball had formed. Later, when then councilman Steve Padilla was admitted to the intensive care unit at a La Jolla hospital, it started rolling downhill.

Chula Vista and National City were among the cities in the county hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It’s an historic episode we are still living through, though thankfully we now have vaccines, booster shots, and treatments. Optimistically, we appear to be on the waning end of the pandemic as cases, hospitalizations and deaths worldwide are reportedly waning, albeit comparatively and slightly.

We’ve gotten ahead of ourselves and celebrated “the end” of the pandemic before, only to be humbled by a resurgence of the virus in a new variant form. Heralding trumpets of triumph should remain muted until there is a sustained global decline in COVID-19.

Over these past few years the virus and the chaos it brought along put into sharp focus the inequities that have plagued our communities for much longer than the pandemic.

We saw the crippling consequences of having a healthcare system that does not cover everyone with affordable access and treatment.

Too often in the beginning it was essential workers holding down barely-more-than-minimum wage jobs who were most likely to have severe cases because of their preexisting conditions that were untreated for lack of insurance. Their personal tragedies became our collective inconvenience as businesses were forced to operate understaffed.

Statewide the pandemic emergency which provided some funding for health services and outreach came to an end in February. In May the federal government will cease treating the pandemic as an emergency. Testing and treatment will become costlier for many. In all likelihood for those who suffered most in the beginning. Sadly it feels like we’re coming full circle.