Orange County Officials Prepare for Expansion of Vaccine Eligibility

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County officials were ramping up for today's first day of full access to COVID-19 vaccines for anyone age 16 and older.

For now, county officials will not have to boost staffing at county vaccination sites, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said.

“We don't have to go too much higher because our dose allocation doesn't change and we're still scheduling the same 15,000 or so a day,'' Kim said. “So, I don't think from a staffing level it's any more significant.''

But when there is a significant increase in vaccine allocations, there will be a boost in staffing, Kim said.

So far, the county has dispensed nearly 2 million doses of vaccine, Kim said.

County-run vaccination sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. as usual, but on Thursdays, the OC Fair and Event Center site will be open from noon to 8 p.m., Kim said. The Santa Ana College vaccination site also offers noon to 8 p.m. hours on Mondays, he added.

“I would encourage people to look for the option of same-day appointments,'' he said. “We are offering them where available tomorrow, so tomorrow could be your lucky day and you can get in there and knock out that appointment quickly.''

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said, “Hopefully, they'll go on Othena and get registered, and a lot of people will go to CVS or Rite-Aid.''

Bartlett said the county-run sites are offering same-day appointments.

A pause that was imposed this week on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine likely won't lead to a substantial impact on vaccinations, Kim said.

“It has an impact to the extent we have less vaccine doses overall,'' Kim said. “But it wasn't the bulk of the vaccines we distributed, so in that way I don't think it has a long-term impact.''

County officials have not seen any favoritism among residents toward any of the vaccines, Kim said.

“We thought there might be some hesitancy among some Orange County residents,'' Kim said. “But when you make an appointment you know which vaccine platform you're getting ... and we had a very even response that Orange County residents did not have any particular preference. They were all equally popular.''

Kim also noted that vaccine hesitancy appears to be declining, judging from surveys experts have been conducting.

As of Wednesday, the county's case rate per 100,000 residents was at 2.9 and the overall positivity rate was at 1.5%. The positivity rate among the disadvantaged communities in the health equity category was down to 1.6%, Kim said.

According to the weekly update from the state, issued on Tuesdays, the county's test positivity rate remained at 1.6%, while the adjusted case rate per 100,000 people on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag remained at 3.

The county's Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hotspots in disadvantaged communities, improved from 2.1% to 1.8%. The county's positivity rates qualify for the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state's four-tier system for reopening the economy, but the case counts are still in the orange tier.

A graduation into the yellow tier requires that the case rate must get below 2 per 100,000 population.

The county also reported just 89 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 13 additional deaths. The cumulative case count now stands at 252,627 and the death toll increased to 4,862.

With Wednesday's fatalities, the death toll for March rose to 158. On Wednesday, for the first time a fatality was reported for April, which occurred on April 1, but COVID-19 fatalities are often staggered or delayed in reporting for a variety of reasons.

The death toll for February increased to 562. The death toll for January, the deadliest month in the pandemic, remained at 1,493.

Coronavirus hospitalizations increased from 115 on Tuesday to 122 on Wednesday with the number of intensive care unit patients decreasing from 31 to 30. The county has 35.8% of its ICU beds available, and 70% of its ventilators.

Another 13,143 tests were reported Wednesday, upping the cumulative total to 3,494,789. The county is conducting 297.6 tests per 100,000 people on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.

The county has announced it will close its large testing sites at the OC Fair & Event Center and Anaheim Convention Center on April 30. Kim said demand at the testing sites has dropped off in favor of the at-home mail kits.

Photo: Getty Images

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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