Press-Telegram (Long Beach)

312K doses of vaccine due this week

L.A. County reports 22 deaths, 1,313 new coronaviru­s cases as major shipment of shots start rolling in

-

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials reported 22 new deaths and 1,313 new coronaviru­s cases on Sunday. The lower-than-usual numbers may be reflective of scaledback weekend record keeping, but marked significan­t decline from an uptick in mid-week numbers that raised concern for officials after weeks of statistica­l downturns.

The new numbers brought the county’s totals to 1,203,152 cases and 22,029 deaths since the pandemic began. Nearly 5.9 mission county residents have been tests so far, with 19% testing positive.

State officials reported 1,132 L.A. County residents being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, down 44 patients from Saturday, with 356 in intensive-care units. Hospitaliz­ations — which pushed medical teams to the brink and crowded hospitals, morgues and mortuaries during the relentless winter surge — have not been this low since Nov. 14, an encouragin­g sign that the pandemic may be easing in Southern California.

Public Health aims to take giant strides against the outbreak this week. In what officials hope is the beginning of the end of severe vaccine shortages, the county next week will receive its largest vaccine allotment to date, with nearly two-thirds of the supply being used to administer first doses.

Dr. Paul Simon, the county Department of Public Health’s chief science officer, said the county will receive 312,000 doses of vaccine next week, including 53,700 doses of the newly authorized single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Of the allotment, 62% will be used for first doses — reversing a recent trend of most shots being reserved for people in need of their second dose.

As of Friday, 2,415,460 doses of vaccine have been administer­ed in the county, Simon said. That includes 814,593 second doses, meaning that many people have been fully vaccinated.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city of Los Angeles has surpassed a half-million doses, with 511,698 shots administer­ed as of Friday at city-run sites. The city has given out approximat­ely 96% of its received supply, Garcetti said. The total doses represent more than 20% of the total vaccinatio­ns administer­ed in L.A. County.

An L.A. city-run vaccinatio­n site will open at USC starting Tuesday. The University Park campus site is expected to be able to administer thousands of vaccinatio­ns per day once it’s fully operationa­l.

The increase in doses is welcome news in a county with in

creasingly large numbers of residents eligible to receive shots. Roughly 1.7 million essential workers, including teachers, became eligible this week, on top of the health care workers and residents aged 65 and over who were already eligible.

And starting March 15, Simon said the county will adhere to new state guidance that expands eligibilit­y to everyone aged 16 to 64 with an underlying health condition that makes them susceptibl­e to severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Simon said county officials, however, are still awaiting more guidance from the state on how to determine who will fall into that eligibilit­y category.

“We’re a bit concerned because, you know, there are a number of health

conditions on the list, and in addition, at the end of the list is a category of ‘disability’ which would allow someone to have eligibilit­y, if the disability gets in the way, for example, of accessing medical services for COVID. And there are some other criteria, but I think that needs to be defined a little more clearly.”

He said that ideally, people with such disabiliti­es or health conditions would be able to get the vaccine from their own doctors.

“At a large community (vaccine site), where people are presenting and we don’t know anything about their medical history, it’s challengin­g,” Simon said. “I think we might have to rely on a letter from the provider, of course, those letters could be forged.”

Though statistica­l signs are looking up for the county, officials warned against taking unnecessar­y trips during Spring Beach, to prevent

from fueling supersprea­ders — such as the post-holiday surges that have increased the county’s caseloads after July 4, Thanksgivi­ng and Christmas.

Disneyland, Universal Studios and other theme parks across California, along with sports stadiums, can reopen as early as April 1 subject to counties’ rates of COVID-19 spread and with strict capacityco­ntrol mandates and required mask-wearing, state officials announced.

Last week’s announceme­nt marked a major policy shift relating to theme parks, which the state had earlier said would not be permitted to reopen until their home counties reached the least-restrictiv­e tier of the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” a four-level system guiding reopenings of businesses and other attraction­s.

Under the new guidance announced Friday by

the California Department of Public Health, theme parks will now be allowed to reopen when their home county reaches the “red” tier, the second-most-restrictiv­e level of the economic blueprint.

L.A. County — home to Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain — and Orange County — home to the Disneyland Resort and Knott’s Berry Farm — are both still in the most restrictiv­e “purple” tier, but both could advance to the “red” tier by the end of the month.

When the counties reach the “red” tier, theme parks can open at 15% of overall capacity. When they advance to the “orange” tier, capacity will be increased to 25%, and in the least-restrictiv­e “yellow” tier, capacity of 35% will be allowed.

Karen Irwin, president/ COO of Universal Studios Hollywood, called the announceme­nt “exciting

news.”

“We deeply appreciate the partnershi­p with state and local health and government officials, and are thrilled to have finally arrived at this milestone announceme­nt,” Irwin said.

Also, under the guidance announced Friday, outdoor sports and live performanc­e venues can also reopen on April 1, also with capacity limits based on the county’s tier ranking.

For counties in the most restrictiv­e “purple” tier, outdoor venues will be limited to a total of 100 people, with only local residents permitted, advance reservatio­ns or tickets required and no concession­s or concourse sales allowed.

When counties reach the less-restrictiv­e “red” tier, capacity will be increased to 20%, with primarily inseat

concession­s allowed. In the even less-restrictiv­e “orange” tier, 33% capacity will be allowed, and in the top “yellow” tier, capacity will increase to 67%.

Only in-state visitors will be permitted to the venues in counties in the “red,” “orange” and “yellow” tiers.

“We’re optimistic that California will continue to make progress in the fight against COVID-19 and that we can safely host fans to start the season,” said Dodgers President/CEO Stan Kasten.

“Safety is paramount,” he add, “and the Dodgers continue to work with local officials and Major League Baseball to finalize protocols to protect players, fans and staff.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA