OC panel tackles ‘2020 in the Rearview’

Taking 2020 in segments, a panel of educators, experts and citizens participated in a Coffee and Community Conversation called "2020 in the Rearview."
Moderator Jonathan Fuentes, Odessa College executive dean of academic partnerships and a political scientist by training, used a Los Angeles Times timeline published in December 2020 for reference.
Along with Fuentes, participants were Kristine Flickinger, program director for the surgical technology program and associate professor of surgical technology, Naomi Chapman, social studies instructor, Eden Simmons, licensed professional counselor, Blair Roberts, senior research economist, Nikki Brown, OC Law Enforcement Academy coordinator.
Fuentes said COVID-19 has killed nearly 400,000 people so far. He noted that the flu has killed 12,000 to 61,000 American citizens a year in the last 10 years.
Flickinger said the vaccine will help us get to "herd immunity," but 80 to 90 percent of the population would have to take it.
"It’s going to take us a long time to roll that out and when we’re talking about getting people out back into society, back shopping it still is going to require social distancing and mask wearing because it’s not about the people who have had the vaccine; it’s going to be about the people who have not had the vaccine. There are still going to be people out there that can spread the virus. And washing your hands; it’s still going to be there in the forefront to get us back into society," Flickinger said.
Before the pandemic, Roberts said there was a movement toward more people working online and working at home.
"This virus has just accelerated that. When we get over the virus, not everybody’s going to stay home and work," Roberts said. "There’s going to be many more people who are. Restaurants and stores and colleges going through this are going to have plans in place and be much more able to deal with something like this in the future."
Simmons said people are experiencing a looming sense of uncertainty and students have been impacted by that.
"If they were working a part-time job, which a lot of our students are, and as we know part time workers are usually the first to have hours cut or to be laid off; I’ve seen a lot of that in our students and also just kind of this looming feeling of uncertainty and that they’re going to school and investing time and money into these degrees and they want to be able to graduate and enter the workforce and have jobs available. So I think it’s really been difficult for them to tolerate that uncertainty and anxiety and continue to move forward in purposeful action toward their goals," Simmons said.
Social sciences instructor Naomi Chapman said some of her students are struggling and some are thriving online.
"We’re just seeing more (people) reaching out for extra help or time or saying going through this or that with my family with illness, job loss or being unsure in that situation. I think they feel more open to tell me about that because they know that other people have that going on, too. It’s caused me to also learn new ways of working with people through that situation."
Fuentes noted that there has been an infusion of federal money that has helped students stay in college. He said his message to students is to take advantage of those funds.
"We get that the economy is impacting you and your ability to be here, but the federal government is helping to make it possible. Odessa College is also making it possible through additional scholarship funds, so we are leveraging all our resources to help you be successful and stay in school," Fuentes said.
Fuentes said the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minn., was one of the incidents in 2020 that led to civil unrest.
"You couldn’t watch that video and not be impacted. It hit hard and it … hit a humanitarian tone within us where something is clearly wrong," Fuentes said. "When you hear somebody calling out for their mother, as a parent how can I not react to that? It hit a cord in America and I saw many respond to it through social media. People wanted to talk about it and it’s a conversation that needs to be had in the United States."
He added that in government class they talk about civil rights and people think it was back in the 50s and 60s, but it continues on.
"… We’re not exactly where we need to be," Fuentes said. "America is still a work in progress and … we still have work to do."
Simmons said from a mental health perspective thinking about the images people viewed.
"You think you have to first have a firsthand experience with something to be traumatized, or to experience symptoms of PTSD, but there is something known as second-hand trauma, so I think for a lot of people seeing those images and just everything going on was traumatic. We saw a lot of the symptoms that you would see in somebody that’s a first responder and has seen things first hand and then also kind of re-traumatization so individuals who may have experienced those types of things first hand, seeing those images kind of re-ignites that trauma that maybe they had healed from previously, so I think trauma’s a big component in that conversation," Simmons said.
Brown noted that civil unrest normally doesn’t stem from just one issue.
"There are normally other social-economic issues that take place in the same time frame, or same span, that now it’s come to a head …," Brown said.
There have been conversations and commissions on criminal justice reform and law enforcement and understanding law enforcement corruption.
From a law enforcement perspective, Brown said some departments started changing their use of force policies with chokeholds; reevaluating what that looks like; looking at the force continuum; how was that evaluated where it may be changed; the accountability piece; looking at implicit bias; de-escalation. If an officer sees another officer using excessive force, is it their duty to stop it or report it?