Over the past few weeks, monolith displays urging residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19 have popped up across Santa Cruz County.
The installations were organized by Crush Covid, a local group of volunteers made up of retired women (many with backgrounds in health care), and young people from UCSC and local nonprofits. The group aims to help the county reach herd immunity, which will occur when 80-85% of county residents are fully vaccinated.
Each display includes a thermometer-like chart, showing the county’s progress. They will be updated as new data is released.
Caroline Bliss-Isberg of Crush Covid said the monoliths are just the latest in a long line of projects they have been working on during the pandemic. Since January, they have mailed close to 2,000 postcards to national and state elected officials urging increased production and distribution of vaccines; displayed large banners on overpasses above Highway 1 urging residents to get vaccinated; and, with help from the Artists Respond and Resist Together organization, placed hundreds of painted rocks with “Crush Covid” slogans around the county.
In addition, Crush Covid has volunteered at events and clinics aimed at getting at-risk people vaccinated. Along with Dignity Health, they recently helped organize a clandestine vaccine clinic for undocumented farmworker families from Oaxaca, Mexico.
“South County has had the highest rates of Covid cases and deaths,” said Crush Covid member Dr. Susan Hughmanick. “We were concerned to get farmworkers and families that live in multi-generational households vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Santa Cruz County is doing relatively well in the vaccination effort, Bliss-Isberg said. As of May 10, the county had reached 49.1% of fully vaccinated residents.
“That’s over halfway to 80%, which is great,” said Bliss-Isberg. “And we’re up in the mid-60s of people who have been partially vaccinated. Despite the doom and gloom nationally to get to herd immunity, I have great faith that Santa Cruz County will make it.”
To create the monolith displays, Crush Covid was assisted by Community Printers, who had been involved in a recent Mask Up campaign and had leftover posters. The business agreed to help, and to match any donations that Crush Covid came up with for the printing job.
Within 24 hours of putting the word out, Bliss-Isberg said they had enough donation pledges to cover it, and checks came in just days later. After the displays were created, they began installing them at various locations, including inside businesses, on street corners, at post offices, libraries and more.
Hughmanick hopes they will encourage young people to get the vaccine. Since mid-April, people age 16 years and older have been eligible. However, some remain hesitant. Crush Covid is looking into new ways to incentivize them, including possible pop-up clinics and discounts at local businesses.
“We want to reach the young people,” Hughmanick said. “New variants … like the UK variant is affecting them more and more.”
Added Bliss-Isberg: “A lot of people who are hesitant … they’re not the ardent anti-vax crowd. They’re just curious and want more information. But it’s clear that any kind of fear that you have of the vaccine is minimal compared to what kind of fear you should have of getting Covid, or having your loved ones get Covid.”
Both Bliss-Isberg and Hughmanick praised their fellow Crush Covid members and the Santa Cruz County community at large for their ongoing efforts in vaccine distribution.
“When you think about the problems that our health department has dealt with about vaccines …. That’s such a small segment of our population,” Bliss-Isberg said. “For the most part, our community is really generous and civic-minded.”