Getting a COVID-19 vaccination at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose has become a more pleasant experience. That’s largely due to a pilot program that provides live music, including Afro-Latin jazz, R&B and mariachi for people in line for their shot or waiting out the observation period after receiving the vaccine.

And while the music is entertaining, it’s serving a bigger purpose, too.

Omar Rodriguez, owner of Kooltura Marketing, said it’s important to find creative ways to “build a bridge of access and trust among hard-working communities that have historically been underserved when it comes to public health services and resources.” And part of that can be as simple as providing music to encourage people to get their vaccination and make it as enjoyable an experience as possible.

And it’s just plain nice to have music coming from the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, which was primarily known as a cultural gathering spot and performing arts space in East San Jose, before it shifted gears when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In the past year, the Plaza has been used for food pick-up services for the needy and later became a testing site and now a vaccine clinic.

Gardner Health Services provides vaccinations on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Plaza, but the music is only happening on Thursdays through May 6. Upcoming performers including the Danny Gerz Quartet, the Ralph Trujillo Trio, the Oscar Pangilinan Quartet and the Monique Valenzuela Mariachi Trio.

Santa Clara County protocols are being followed, and funding is being provided by the School of Arts and Culture, San Jose Jazz, Republic Service and San Jose Jazz board member Bob Escobar and Latinas Contra Cancer CEO Darcie Green.

NO FOOLIN’: Two more signs of things returning to pre-pandemic ways are happening April 1, but these aren’t April Fools’ Day jokes. First, VTA will again start collecting fares on buses and light-rail. You might remember that last year the transit agency went fare-free and used rear-door boarding to protect drivers. With transit workers now eligible for vaccination and COVID-19 cases declining, VTA announced it’ll start collecting fares and boarding up front again. People going to vaccination appointments can still use those sites for free by showing their vaccination cards or appointment slips.

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