As vaccine rollout continues, Belmont’s Chinese American community hopes to return to normal

Photo by Steven Cornfield via Unsplash

By Jintao Zhai
Boston University News Service

Some members of Belmont’s Chinese American community are optimistic about the state’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program. Residents hope to send their children back to school in the next month as vaccinations for educators continue.

Inoculating teachers was made a national priority by President Joe Biden earlier this year. Educators are likely to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 as students continue to return to school after being separated from their classmates for almost a year.

Xinxin Guo, a Belmont resident who has lived in the U.S. since 2000, said the town’s Asian community is united when it comes to reducing COVID-19 risks in public; the community is following health advice from experts while also remaining vigilant against the rise in anti-Asian attacks that are being reported across the country.

Guo’s children, 9 and 13, will go back to school around April 20, joining most students in Belmont and abiding by reinstated safety protocols, including a three-foot social distancing rule in classrooms.

“Vaccines are necessary for safety at school,” Guo said. “At the same time, my children and their peers have responsibly followed health rules. My third-grade son, who plays hockey, has to wear a mask in games. He got sick one time and I didn’t let him go outside before getting tested.”

Evelyn Gomez, a member of the Belmont School Committee, said effective vaccination efforts would make kids feel safe at school and potentially reduce anti-Asian, anti-Chinese hate emanating from the viral spread.

“One year from now, we will still be under some variations of safety protocol,” Gomez said at a meeting with the Belmont Chinese American Association earlier in March. “But a lot of positive changes will happen: coming with vaccines, school reopening and prevention of racist attacks.”

Gomez mentioned that growing up in an immigrant household committed her to increase diversity and reducing discrimination in Belmont schools.

“Our goal is to get every student back to Belmont schools by this school year,” Gomez said. “We must ensure that kids can learn safely in person, and we have to have proactive conversations about protecting Chinese American students from recent anti-Asian attacks.”

The state has prioritized vaccination programs for K-12 teachers and child care workers, allowing them to register for doses this month and book appointments at 170 centers across the state, according to Kate Reilly, the communications director for the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center.

Reilly noted there are about 400,000 teachers and child care workers in the state, so it might take some time for all of them to register for a first dose. By prioritizing state educators, officials hope the move will help meet Gov. Charlie Baker’s goal of reopening public schools as early as April 5.

People 55 or older will be eligible for a vaccine in early April, with vaccination sites throughout the state opening to the general public by April 19.

A version of this article was originally published in the Belmont Citizen-Herald

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