Teachers should be among those first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, said newly-elected state Sen. Josh Becker to an organization of local high school students concerned over when campuses will reopen.
Becker, D-San Mateo, shared his perspective during an online forum Thursday, Dec. 10, organized by Multiplying Good, a nonprofit initiative designed to inspire leadership and community engagement among teenagers.
Becker, who defeated Republican challenger Alex Glew in the fall election to fill the void left by the departure of Jerry Hill, made his comment in response to a question from Menlo-Atherton High School senior Ava Peyton.
Referring to new legislation from Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which aims to mandate school reopening amid the pandemic, Peyton asked Becker his perspective on bringing students back to campuses.
Acknowledging the social and emotional toll that being away from school has taken on his own children, Becker said he supported reopening schools as soon as possible. But before that can happen, Becker said it is imperative teachers get vaccinated.
“We have to get them vaccinated in a February or March timeframe if we are going to have spring school,” said Becker.
As it stands, nurses and senior citizens are the most likely to be the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Following those most in need and at risk, Becker said he would push to get teachers in the second tier of eligibility, with hopes of bringing students and teachers back to campus this school year.
“We started this in spring last year, and if we continue on and miss another whole spring semester I think that would be really, really unfortunate,” he said.
For her part, Peyton raised the question due to concerns over the mental health issues which have been amplified by sustained isolation for many students during the pandemic.
To further combat the problem, Becker said he would favor ramping up the support resources like nurses and counselors at schools to assist students. But he also encouraged students to keep their head up, expressing optimism that the soon-to-arrive vaccine would help bring back normalcy in the coming months.
“Help is on the way,” he said. “If we can just hold on, get through the holidays and survive a couple months, we will get back to normal — or close to normal. I would just tell people to hang in there.”
Regarding other priorities during his first term, Becker also said he would focus on legislation aiming to improve the environment. His first bill aims to speed the state’s adoption of clean energy by mandating that electricity generation comes from renewable sources or those with no carbon footprint.
Answering a question from Mills High School junior Will Handoko, Becker said he believes that building consensus among his fellow lawmakers is key in fighting climate change in Sacramento.
“We can do these things, it’s just a matter of political will,” he said.
Becker added he believes it is imperative California take a leadership position on environmental issues, since the matter is so divisive among federal lawmakers.
He also urged local action on the issue of homelessness. Nodding to hotels in Half Moon Bay and Redwood City recently purchased to convert into homeless and transitional housing, Becker said it is critical communities unify to help those in need.
Support from lawmakers is essential as well, he said, expressing his support for extending the eviction moratorium to assure more families due not lose their homes amid the pandemic.
“We have to do that because otherwise we will face a rash of evictions coming very quickly,” he said.