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Back in fall 2019, when I launched my campaign for mayor, if you would have told me that my first year in the mayoral role would be one revolving around a global pandemic, I would have thought you were crazy. Well, how wrong I would have been.

We all know this unprecedented year has affected our community in many ways. But, I want to share with you something that is not frequently spoken about: the sense of hope and optimism on the horizon.

In Riverside, there truly is a new sense of optimism as we begin the final push to crush the virus in our city and beyond. This optimism comes from the increase in vaccinations across our city. Fifty-five percent of our residents, including more than 90 percent of those over 65 years old, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Approximately 40 percent of all those doses have gone to the hardest-hit communities. This number of vaccinations means thousands of Riversiders have a significantly lower risk of contracting COVID-19, needing hospitalization or dying from the virus. It also places our local economic recovery and timeline for return to normalcy on a fast track.

Our state is on its way to fully reopen on June 15, which is just one month away. But, to make that reopening a long-lasting one, we must continue to press on and further these promising vaccination numbers. If you are over the age of 16, that “vaccination” part means now. The Curative mass vaccination site at the old Sears in Ward 3 is simple and easy— from making the appointment all the way to completing both vaccination doses.

If you already have been vaccinated, encourage a friend or family member to get vaccinated, too. Share with them the relief you felt after getting your first or second shot. Be a source of reassurance if they have concerns. We have already seen what we can do with the vaccine; we can visit our friends and family again, walk outdoors without a mask and patronize our favorite restaurants and shops again.

California has the lowest COVID-19 positivity rates in the country, and Riverside is open for business. As our businesses begin to welcome back in-person customers, the City of Riverside is launching a new “Open for Business” campaign. Banners lining our main streets and avenues are encouraging Riversiders to shop local as we reopen after a year of various rounds of closures. I will also continue my weekly spotlights on Facebook and Instagram of businesses that need and deserve our local support. And my team and I will continue to find ways that we can partner with local business sectors to further the hope for our economic future. This is an effort that benefits all Riversiders.

So, here are the two takeaways that I wish for you after reading this editorial:

  1. Get vaccinated or help others get vaccinated,
  2. Support our local economy by shopping locally.

Every time you go to spend money, please make a conscious effort to spend it in our city. I look forward to the days when COVID-19 will be in our rearview mirror, but, until then, let’s all keep doing our part. For our city and for its future.