Gov. Newsom visits Cal State LA to mark opening of mass COVID-19 vaccination center

February 16, 2021

By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service

California Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Cal State LA on Tuesday to mark the opening of a mass COVID-19 vaccination center at the university.

The Cal State LA site is one of the first community vaccination centers, launched through a partnership between the federal government and the state of California, as part of the Biden administration’s effort to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the country. The center will provide vaccinations to communities that have experienced a disproportionate number of cases and deaths.

“This is a framework of focus not just on efficiency, not just speed, but on the issue of equity—that’s what brings us here today,” Newsom said during a Feb. 16 news conference next to a huge parking lot where people in cars received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. “This is what this site is all about. It is proximate to a community that has been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. The effort here is to address that issue forthrightly.”

Several thousand people were expected to receive vaccinations during the opening day of the new center through drive-thru and walk-up appointments at two separate sites on campus. Members of the public can check their eligibility and sign up for vaccination appointments seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through the state’s MyTurn scheduling system or by calling (833) 422-4255.

The center, which has the capacity to vaccinate 6,000 people per day, is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, with support from the U.S. Department of Defense and the California Conservation Corps.

“Starting today, communities that are among those hardest hit by the pandemic will come here to Cal State LA for vaccinations,” said Cal State LA President William A. Covino, who welcomed guests to the event. “This is precisely the role the university should play during this challenging time, standing with those at the center of the battle against COVID-19, directing our university’s resources, our innovation, and our energy for the collective good.”

Covino thanked and welcomed Gov. Newsom and the other elected officials and government leaders who spoke during the news conference, including Gen. Glen Vanherk, commander of the United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command; acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton; Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León; Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo; and U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez.

“This is a big deal to open up this site on the Eastside of Los Angeles, in a community that has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 when it comes to infection rates, when it comes to death rates, when it comes to just access to healthcare,” said Rep. Gomez, whose 34th Congressional District includes Cal State LA.

Cal State LA serves communities that have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic, including Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, much of South Los Angeles and communities in Southeast Los Angeles County.

“Today the state of California … [is] saying that we will put our feet on the ground in a community that has seen this burn like a fire,” Mayor Garcetti said. 

The vaccinations at the Cal State LA site are in addition to the state’s regular vaccine allotment from the federal government that are distributed at other sites throughout Los Angeles County and the state. Eligibility for appointments at the center is determined by the tiered priority distribution system mandated by the state of California.

“Everyone who is skeptical or afraid needs to know that the vaccine is safe and effective,” said Assemblymember Carrillo, a Cal State LA alumna, whose 51st District includes the university. “Everyone who is confused and unsure if they can get the vaccine without insurance, without internet access, a smartphone, a car, documentation, legal status or the ability to read or write in English needs to know that vaccination centers like Cal State LA are safe and they are accessible.”

Cal State LA’s support for the COVID-19 vaccination effort is part of the university’s We Are Healthy LA initiative, a collaboration with community partners to provide basic needs and help ensure health and safety during the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, Cal State LA has worked with federal, state and local governments and organizations including the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, QueensCare Health Centers, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative to provide influenza vaccinations and distribute more than 120 tons of food to approximately 5,000 families in the Los Angeles area.

“Cal State LA and the team that composes it are trusted partners and represent the fabric of the Eastside of Los Angeles,” said Supervisor Solis, whose First Supervisorial District includes the university. “From the beginning of the pandemic, I have partnered with them on COVID-19 testing, various food distributions, and flu vaccine events and now they will help close out that dark chapter by vaccinating people in our communities.”

Throughout the day people arrived at Cal State LA’s campus to receive vaccinations. Cars wound around the university’s perimeter as they were guided into the drive-thru appointment area in Lot 5. People with walk-up appointments lined up at Structure A. Free shuttles to the structure are available at Cal State LA’s Transit Center, which serves as a hub for Metro and Foothill Transit buses as well as a Metrolink station.

Cal State LA’s vaccination center will also soon be paired with mobile vaccination clinics that can travel to multiple locations to increase distribution to underserved or hard-to-reach areas of the surrounding communities.

“Today’s opening is an important step to ensure equity in administering vaccinations,” said Cal State LA Provost and Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez. “We look forward to collaborating with our local, state and federal partners to protect our community and help bring an end to the pandemic.”

Aerial view of Cal State LA vaccination site

Photos: Top, Gov. Gavin Newsom marks the opening of the new community vaccination center at Cal State LA during a news conference on Feb. 16. (Credit: Robert Huskey/Cal State LA) Bottom, Aerial view of the drive-thru appointment site of the community vaccination center at Cal State LA as vehicles begin to pull up. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit