LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County officials anticipate receiving their highest weekly allotment to date of COVID-19 vaccine this week, an increase they hope will continue in coming weeks as more people become eligible for shots and as more businesses and activities reopen, leading to more mingling of residents.
Dr. Paul Simon, the county Department of Public Health's chief science officer, said Friday the county will receive 312,000 doses of vaccine this 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. The county in recent weeks has been receiving between 200,000 and 250,000 doses.
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.
The increase in doses is welcome news in a county with increasingly large numbers of residents eligible to receive shots. Roughly 1.7 million essential workers, including teachers, became eligible last 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.
The state guidance says vaccinations will be offered to people between ages 16 and 64 who suffer from:
-- chronic kidney disease;
-- chronic pulmonary disease;
-- Down syndrome;
-- weakened immune system from solid organ transplant;
-- sickle cell disease;
-- heart conditions;
-- severe obesity; and
-- Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Also becoming available for vaccines will be anyone 16 or over who suffers from a “developmental or other severe high-risk disability'' that leaves the person susceptible to serious illness or death from COVID; if acquiring COVID will limit the person's ability to receiving necessary ongoing care or services; or if the disability would hamper the person's ability to be treated for COVID.
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.''
The city of Long Beach began offering vaccines to those aged 16 to 64 with physical or developmental disabilities beginning Monday – under permission granted by the state to start the program a week early.
The county could find itself advancing out of the most restrictive “purple'' tier of the state's economic-reopening blueprint in the next two weeks. If it does, it will allow more businesses to reopen at greater capacity, including indoor dining and fitness centers, meaning there will be more interaction among members of the public and increased need for more vaccinations.
On Sunday, the county reported 1,313 new cases of COVID-19 and 22 additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 1,203,152 cases and 22,029 fatalities since the pandemic began.
Data released Sunday show the number of coronavirus patients in L.A. County hospitals continued to fall, dropping to 1,132, according to state health officials. That's a huge drop from the peak of the winter surge in early January, when the number was more than 8,000.
Testing results were available for nearly 5.9 million people, with 19% testing positive, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
On Saturday, officials also reported 16 additional cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, bringing the total cases of MIS-C in L.A. County to 116 children, including one child death.
All 116 children with MIS-C were hospitalized, and 41% were treated in the ICU. Of the children with MIS-C, 29% were under the age of 5, 43% were between 5 and 11, and 28% were between 12 and 20. Latino/Latinx children account for 75% of the reported cases.
MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19; symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Those who believe their child is displaying MIS-C symptoms were advised to contact their primary care or an urgent care provider. Those without a primary care provider can dial 2-1-1 and L.A. County will help connect them to one.
Health officials on Thursday issued another warning against leisure travel, in light of the upcoming spring break, stressing that anyone who travels out of the area is still required to quarantine for 10 days when they return to Los Angeles County.
“We may just be weeks away from reducing transmission in L.A. County enough so that additional reopenings are permitted,'' L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Thursday.
“However, with increased case numbers in other states, and more circulating variants of concern, spring travel can lead to another surge that frankly would be almost impossible to tolerate. Travel increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. To avoid this, please postpone travel and continue doing your part to slow the spread so that our recovery journey isn't sidelined.''
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