Fullerton residents are grappling with the repercussions of COVID-19, including fear of job destruction, economic turmoil and the educational impact.
On Thursday, California Rep. Gil Cisneros heard these concerns at a town hall that was aimed specifically at Fullerton residents as part of a 12-part series called “Cisneros in Your City.”
Cisneros addressed the pandemic’s effect on education, which has shut down schools and moved learning online. The fate of the fall semester remains undecided for the majority of K-12 schools and higher education institutions.
If schools were to open their physical doors next semester, Cisneros said they will not look the same.
“Students are going to be spread out, there’s going to be a few students in a classroom. So they’re going to need more classrooms, they’re going to need more teachers, they’re going to need more desks, they’re going to need the resources to make this happen,” Cisneros said.
Virtual learning has been a hurdle for many students, especially those with slow or no internet access and are without computers. Though many schools have provided support, several still struggle.
Cisneros said $13.5 billion has been provided to education in past packages, but more will need to be done.
One resident expressed concern about the lack of available COVID-19 testing in Orange County. The county has administered over 46,000 tests as of Friday, whereas Los Angeles County has administered over 140,000 tests.
Cisneros said he was scheduled to speak with the Orange County Public Health Agency to discuss testing. He said that San Diego, which is roughly the same size, has done a much better job of testing.
“We need to keep putting pressure on the county,” Cisneros said. “We’re focusing more on whether people should be going to the beach or not, and we’re talking about how we need to open up when we haven’t even gotten close to our testing capacity here in Orange County.”
He said he wants to ensure that everyone who needs a test will have access to one, free of charge.
Another resident shared that she lost both of her jobs and was struggling to pay rent, a situation that thousands across the country share, and asked about the possibility of future stimulus packages. Currently, there is only one stimulus package which is in the process of being issued across the country.
Cisneros said that the initial stimulus package was difficult to get through the Senate, but there are other ideas that are being discussed.
“We are working on other things, like we said, the next package, we’re talking about long term relief,” Cisneros said.
There is also expanded unemployment insurance, which over 3 million Californians had already applied for, Cisneros said.
While one resident praised the national legislature’s support, he expressed concern over the amount of debt that is resulting.
Cisneros said that though they would have to look at it at some point, the focus was currently on human life.
There have been 115 COVID-19 cases in Fullerton and 3,240 in Orange County as of Friday, according to the OC Health Care Agency.
“The only way we’re going to be able to get through this crisis first is to focus on health and safety and then once we do that, then we can really start focusing on growing the economy again and doing what we need to do to get out of this and get out of this debt,” Cisneros said.
Millions have lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the Great Depression. The stay-at-home order has been the subject of heated protests, with many who claim infringement on human rights.
“I don’t agree with people that are out there protesting saying that we need to sacrifice individuals. I think we need to do everything we can to make sure that we find a vaccine, we find a treatment and we do everything we can do to be responsible to make sure that we save as many lives and as we can,” Cisneros said.