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Costa praises Newsom's SJ Valley vaccine push

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Lawmaker does about-face after the California governor pledges more vaccines for the beleaguered region.

In an about-face from earlier in the week, the San Joaquin Valley's Rep. Jim Costa is now praising Gov. Gavin Newsom's coronavirus vaccine rollout after the governor pledged more vaccines for the beleaguered region.

Newsom held a press conference Feb. 10 at the Big Fresno Fair to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines to the hard-hit valley while announcing another vaccine site at Reedley College, the Visalia Times-Delta reported.

Costa, a fellow Democrat who chairs a House of Representatives subcommittee on livestock and foreign agriculture, thanked Newsom for the visit.

"Governor Newsom recognizes the extreme need for more vaccines in our region," Costa said. "I have worked closely with him and the Biden Administration to address this shortage and to close the gaps. As one of the hardest hit areas in the nation, with underserved and minority populations disproportionately affected by this disease, vaccinating our residents is key to overcoming this health crisis.

"By working together, it will get better. With a FEMA megasite in the valley hopefully within the next month, and the passage of the President’s COVID-19 legislation, we will have the financial resources to overcome this pandemic," he said.

Costa and eight other congressional Democrats sent a letter Feb. 9 urging Newsom to start a robust educational campaign, including linguistically accessible and culturally appropriate resources, to ensure that farm laborers feel secure in seeking out and accepting the vaccine. 

Costa and Democratic Rep. Josh Harder joined three valley Republicans -- Reps. Devin Nunes, David Valadao and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy -- in sending another letter Feb. 10 to Newsom and Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton strongly urging the establishment of a COVID-19 vaccination site in Fresno.

During his visit, Newsom didn't name a mass vaccine site like those recently designated in the Bay Area and Southern California, the Times-Delta noted. There has been speculation a mass vaccine site will be set up at the Save Mart Center on the campus of Fresno State, according to the newspaper.

That location has not yet gotten approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Newsom said, according to the Visalia paper.

“Though the announcement of a new vaccination site in the Central Valley is welcome news, this is just the beginning of fixing a subpar vaccine distribution plan,” McCarthy said. “The State must not forget Californians in the region as it continues to work with FEMA to identify locations and secure federal resources to enhance vaccine administration. The Central Valley is unique, and any expanded efforts must support the diverse socioeconomic and rural communities we are proud to represent.”. 

California is preparing to shift operations from a county-driven vaccine effort to a centralized approach run by Blue Shield of California, with a contract being awarded this week and the project slated to be up and running by next week, the Times-Delta reports.

President Joe Biden's administration is now giving California a three-week preview of how many vaccine doses to expect, and the state is trying to give counties a similar forecast, according to the newspaper.

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