OC Still Waiting for Vaccines to Reopen Distribution Sites 

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County officials received continued good news regarding declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but were still waiting for word on restocking vaccines as winter storms in the East have blocked delivery of doses.  

The county reported 324 cases of COVID-19 Friday, raising the cumulative to 243,989. The county also logged 41 more fatalities, raising the death toll to 3,726.  

The positivity rate as of Friday had shrunk to 6.3% and the case rate per 100,000 was down to 15.4. The positivity rate among the county's hot spots in minority communities is at 8.4%, according to Orange County CEO Frank Kim. That puts the county closer to the red tier and if trends continue the county could move up from the most-restrictive purple tier up to the red tier sometime next month.  

Hospitalizations also continued a downward trend with 636 hospitalized Friday, down from 663 on Thursday, and 215 in intensive care, down from 230 on Thursday.  

The county has 14% of its ICU beds available and 59% of its ventilators.  

“We got through the Super Bowl and got through it fairly cleanly,'' Kim said of the expected bump from gatherings around the annual game that did not materialize locally. “Orange County residents are to be congratulated. They showed a level of restraint.''  

In some parts of the county, coronavirus cases are down, but officials say it might be because testing is down as well. But in Orange County the testing rate is still high, Kim said.  

Winter storms in the east, which have delayed delivery of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide, have forced the closure of Orange County's Disneyland Super POD site until at least Monday.  

The weather-caused supply shortage also may delay next Wednesday's scheduled opening of another new distribution point at the Anaheim Convention Center.  

“We didn't get any (more) vaccine yet, so we're on a holding pattern with the temporary closures of at least the Disney POD,'' Kim said. “And there's no change to the current timeline for Santa Ana College and Soka University.''  

The vaccine distribution at Soka will be closed Sunday and at Santa Ana College. But the Santa Ana College site was planned to be closed on Sundays and Mondays anyway.  

State officials said more vaccines may be delivered sometime next week, Kim said.  

County officials on Friday used what little vaccines they had left to provide booster shots for seniors through mobile clinics that were set up to reach seniors who had to get help enrolling in the county's Othena app and website, Kim said. It would be easier to reschedule shots for residents who were able to navigate the technology to make their own appointments, Kim explained.  

Anyone due a booster shot should not worry about being a little late, he said. The manufacturers say a booster shot can be dispensed up to six weeks late and still be effective, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency.  

Starting next week, the county will allocate 70% of its vaccines for residents 65 and older and the rest for new categories of workers now made eligible for shots by the state. They include teachers, child care providers and food industry workers.  

“This change to eligibility guidelines will mean a slower vaccine rollout for individuals who are currently eligible under Phase 1a and people age 65 and older,'' Chau said in a memo to county officials on Friday.  

From about Tuesday through March 2, only booster shots will be available at Disneyland, Soka and the Anaheim Convention Center, Chau said. The teachers, child care providers and food workers can get shots at Santa Ana College or on school campuses in a program to be coordinated by the Orange County Department of Education.  

If the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is authorized as expected on Feb. 26 then that will help county officials ramp up vaccine distribution, Chau said.  

Of the 41 fatalities logged Friday, six were skilled nursing facility residents and two were assisted living facility residents, hiking the death tolls among those populations to 921 and 410 respectively.  

The death reports are staggered because they come from a variety of sources and are not always logged immediately.  

Most of the fatalities occurred in January, raising the death toll in the pandemic's deadliest month to 1,124. December's death toll stands at 871, and the rest were this month, bringing the number of February deaths to 29 so far.  

The deadliest day of the pandemic in Orange County was Jan. 5, when 65 people died. The second-highest was Jan. 3, when 64 people died.  

The Orange County fatalities in December and January comprise 53% of the total death toll since the pandemic began.  

The county's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 people dropped from 29.7 last week to 20.7 on Tuesday, and the test positivity rate on a seven-day average, with a seven-day lag, fell from 9.4% to 7.8%, which meets the criteria for the red tier of the state's four-tiered business reopening plan.  

The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, declined from 12.4% last week to 10.7%.  

The numbers for the state's color-coded tier framework are updated on Tuesdays.  

To move to the less-restrictive red tier from the purple tier, the county has to improve to 4 to 7 new daily cases per 100,000 and a 5% to 8% positivity rate with a health equity quartile at 5.3% to 8%. And the county would be required to maintain the metrics for two consecutive weeks.  

The number of infected inmates in the county's jails dropped from 13 on Thursday to nine on Friday with one hospitalized and officials waiting on results from 25 tests.  

County attorneys at a court hearing on Tuesday said 186 inmates 65 and older or who have underlying health conditions, making them especially vulnerable to COVID-19, have been vaccinated. Another 110 declined shots.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

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