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Glen Ellen’s vaccination rate lags among north Sonoma Valley communities

A roundup of news about vaccination rates and testing

By Tracy Salcedo and Melissa Dowling, with Shannon Lee

If making sure all residents in north Sonoma Valley communities are vaccinated against COVID-19 were a race, Kenwood would be in the lead, Oakmont would be a close second, and Glen Ellen would be trailing by a good distance.

As of press time, according to Sonoma County’s Emergency Readiness, Response, and Recovery vaccination data dashboard, 62.2% of residents in the 95442 ZIP code (Glen Ellen; population 3,515) were fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated. By comparison, in the 95452 ZIP code (Kenwood; population 1,110), 98.2% of residents were either fully or partially vaccinated, and in the 95409 ZIP code (Oakmont; population 23,414), 87.5% of residents were either fully or partially vaccinated. Population numbers are for residents aged 12 and up; most children under 12 have yet to be vaccinated. Partial vaccination means a person has received one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, where two doses are required to achieve maximum protection.

Among all ZIP codes in the county, Glen Ellen ranks fourth from the bottom (or third, since no numbers are listed for the 94972 ZIP code [Valley Ford]), while Kenwood ranks fourth from the top. Oakmont is in the upper tier (12th from the top) among the 33 ZIP codes listed. Countywide to date, 84% of the adult population has been either fully or partially vaccinated.

The Glen Ellen numbers were mentioned in a coronavirus community briefing and media question-andanswer (Q& A) session with county officials and local health experts on Aug. 19. In the Q& A, the Kenwood Press asked panelists if they had data to explain why the vaccination rate in Glen Ellen was so low. The panelists, including Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s health officer, explained that, as of the date of the briefing, the county didn’t have information that could explain why vaccination rates in specific communities varied, or why Glen Ellen’s rate was lower than that found in Kenwood and Oakmont. The county also didn’t have any initiatives planned to increase vaccination rates in communities with lower rates, according to Dr. Mase.

In discussing potential reasons for Glen Ellen’s lower vaccination rate with Kenwood Press editorial staff, Dr. Shannon Lee of Glen Ellen speculated that the village’s high number of vacation rentals and second homes might be a factor. Those owners might be vaccinated but would be counted in the counties or cities where they live and where their primary residence is located, which would skew the numbers. However, Lee noted other Sonoma County ZIP codes with high numbers of second home owners don’t reflect this trend.

Another factor could be vaccine hesitancy, which has been documented among Hispanic/Latino residents in other communities. While data specific to ethnic groups in Glen Ellen, Kenwood, and Oakmont was not available, overall, the county’s population is 25% Hispanic, and among the county’s vaccinated population, 24% are Hispanic. These data don’t suggest a hesitancy among that population for Sonoma County, Lee explained.

Yet another variable: the availability of vaccines. Vaccination sites located in the city of Sonoma or in Santa Rosa may be difficult to access for Glen Ellen residents who are unable to take time off work, or may not be able to drive to a vaccination clinic. The overall age of the community residents may also play a role. Oakmont residents are over 55, and vaccination rates in age groups 55 and over range from 83.5% (55–64) to 96.5% (75 and over). Age demographics for Glen Ellen and Kenwood cannot be broken down so definitively, but according to Sonoma County, vaccination rates for younger groups range from 71.6% (16–24) to 82.7% (45–54).

Vaccination news from Sonoma Valley Fire and Sonoma schools

At the Aug. 18 meeting of the North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council, Chief Steve Akre of the Sonoma Valley Fire District informed members that 90% of the department’s personnel are fully vaccinated, and department officials are strongly encouraging those who aren’t to get the vaccine. The fire department, along with the rest of Sonoma County’s employees, are subject to the mandate approved by the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 17, requiring all county workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. The policy will go into effect on Sept. 7. In the Aug. 26 county coronavirus briefing, Steve Herrington, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools, estimated that 85% of the county’s teachers and school workforce had been vaccinated. All school workers, including volunteers, are required to be vaccinated by Sept. 14 or undergo weekly testing. The county also reported that, since January 2021, 292 COVID cases among students, educators, and staff had been reported countywide (excluding sports). Since school started in mid-August, 83 cases have been reported countywide, including 68 among students and 15 among staff.

Responding to a question about the number of cases reported within the first two weeks of school, Dr. Mase said an increase in the number of reported infections was expected, and reiterated that mask-wearing, especially for unvaccinated children, in both indoor and outdoor settings, is a proven defense against contagion.

In the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, which oversees Dunbar Elementary School, employees were notified on Aug. 25 that, per guidance from the state, they must supply proof of vaccination by Sept. 15 or undergo weekly testing. Masks are mandated for students and staff indoors, and strongly advised outdoors. The school district has contracted to provide testing for employees and students, and the Sonoma County Office of Education is working to provide rapid-response testing kits to school sites.

For more information on Sonoma County’s coronavirus response, including infection rates and vaccine news, visit novel-coronavirus/vaccine-information/vaccine-data.