Governor Gavin Newsom announced from an AltaMed clinic in Santa Ana on March 25 that, based on greater volumes of vaccines expected in the coming weeks, by the middle of April all California residents will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. Beginning April 1, individuals aged 50 and over will be able to receive vaccinations, while those between the ages of 16 and 49 will need to wait until April 15, which will effectively end all qualifications for adults to get vaccinated. Previously, only those aged 65 and over, those working in specific industries, or those with pre-existing medical conditions that put them at greater risk, along with their caregivers, were allowed to be vaccinated.
Newsom had not previously visited Orange County during the pandemic. During the Santa Ana press-conference, he noted that the rules change will make him eligible for the vaccine as well, saying that he looked forward to it. “The best vaccine is the next one available, whatever that vaccine is,” he said, encouraging others to take whichever shot is available to them.
“Our small businesses have been impacted, terribly so, particularly in the hospitality and tourism industries,” Newsom said. Despite the pandemic’s effect on businesses, the State currently has “record reserves” and “one of the highest operating surpluses” in its history. Newsom touted the $2.6 billion in grants made available to businesses and cultural institutions, with more funding possible in May as the State updates its budget.
Gauging the State’s success in combatting the spread of the coronavirus, Newsom said there was not only light at the end of the tunnel, but “bright light.” California has administered nearly 16 million doses of vaccines, more than most countries, he said. “Our only constraint is manufactured supply.” He credited the State’s distribution system for the ability to administer as many as 3 million doses per week (expected to rise to 4 million per week by the end of April). The estimate is based on increased supplies of all three approved vaccines, including the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Prior to speaking about the changes in vaccine schedules, the Governor acknowledged as appropriate, previous criticism by Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento that the State was not doing enough to vaccinate people in Santa Ana while a disproportionate number of vaccinations were being given to residents in the more affluent south OC. A ZIP code area in Santa Ana and two in Anaheim have had the highest rates of COIVD-19, which prompted the Orange County Healthcare Agency to begin the use of “mobile” one-day vaccination sites and community clinics to reach people in areas hardest hit by the virus, and who are sometimes least likely to know how to make a vaccine appointment or have reliable transportation to that appointment.
Newsom thanked Sarmiento for “raising the bar of expectations” and credited him for pushing the State harder to achieve its equity goals. Newsom said the State needed “to do more for the Latino community that has been disproportionately impacted in terms of total number of cases and deaths related to this pandemic. “We needed to do more. We needed to do better,” he said. He spoke about having seen a family of over a dozen members arrive in the same vehicle at the clinic that day; all of them had tested positive for the potentially deadly disease. Newsom’s administration responded to complaints that testing, and later, vaccines, were not reaching poorer residents and people of color in the State, by adding equity requirements to its Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
The Blueprint tracks the progress of counties across the State, governing progress or regress in which businesses may re-open and what activities are allowed.
Although currently in the Red, or “Substantial” Tier of the Blueprint, Orange County’s metrics are now below the threshold for that designation, but the County must remain steadily below that threshold for a period of 3 weeks before progressing up to the next one. Barring an upswing in Adjusted Daily Cases, Test Positivity Rates, or Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rates, OC may move into the Orange, or “Moderate” Tier soon.
Moving into the Orange Tier would allow businesses to open to greater numbers of people, with modifications, and others to begin operating indoor instead of outdoor only.
To find out what sectors of the economy may operate under each tier, readers may visit: covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.
All of Southern California is now in the Red Tier. Only the Yellow, or “Minimal” Tier remains after Orange, but an optimistic Newsom predicted that, “We’re well on our way to a Green Tier in the foreseeable future.” However, he cautioned Californians against assuming that the danger is over, citing the spread of several variants of the virus that are more communicable, some found in California already, including the “home grown” West Coast Variant. “This is not the time to take down your guard or, literally, take off your mask,” he said.
To make appointments, OC residents may continue to use the Othena app or website. Othena was expected to be phased out in favor of California’s MyTurn app, but the Voice of OC reports that, according to OC Healthcare Director Dr. Clayton Chau, the County has worked out a way for the two apps to communicate with one another.
Fullerton has now lost 284 residents to COVID-19, 91 of them in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs). Cumulatively, there have been 11,190 known cases, with 454 of them occurring in SNFs. Fullerton case rate per 1,000 residents is 78.25, 11th highest of Orange County’s 34 cities. Countywide, 172 COVID-19 positive patients are currently hospitalized, 31 of them in Intensive Care Units. 262 ICU beds are now available across OC.
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