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California To Set Aside 40% Of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses To ‘Hardest-Hit’ Communities

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In efforts to speed up recovery and increase equity to COVID-19 vaccine distribution, California officials announced Thursday the state is setting aside 40% of doses to the “hardest-hit” communities, including parts of the San Fernando Valley. 

The state has established a vaccine equity metric – which seeks to increase vaccinations in those communities – as a prelude to adjusting the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs the conditions under which California’s economy can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With more vaccines online and administered, California is now in a position to take steps toward ending this pandemic by keeping our guard up and by vaccinating those Californians most at risk and most exposed,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement. “Vaccinating our most impacted communities, across our state, is the right thing to do and the fastest way to end this pandemic.”

With three vaccines available and nearly 10 million doses administered statewide, vaccines have made a difference and overall disease trends have improved dramatically over the past six weeks. 

Case rates, test positivity, transmission rate, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are all on a steady decline since the winter surge across the state and in Los Angeles County. 

This approach recognizes that the pandemic did not affect California communities equally, according to the state.

40% of COVID cases and deaths have occurred in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index (HPI), which provides overall scores and data that predict life expectancy and compares community conditions that shape health across the state. 

Areas of the San Fernando Valley included in the “hardest-hit” communities.

The rate of infections for households making less than $40,000 per year (11.3) is more than double that of households with an income of $120,000 or more (5.2). At the same time, California’s wealthiest populations are being vaccinated at nearly twice the rate of our most vulnerable populations, according to the state.

“Increasing vaccinations in our hardest-hit communities is both morally right, and good for public health because it will slow the spread of disease,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency in a statement. “Even with these changes, California will retain some of the most robust public health protections in the nation.” 

Consistent with the disproportionate impact of the virus, the state is modifying the Blueprint for a Safer Economy to lead with opening activities when vaccines have been deployed to the hardest-hit communities. 

This modification will shift Blueprint tier thresholds to allow slightly higher case rates per 100,000 population once more inoculations have occurred in the communities suffering the most, allowing counties to move to less restrictive tiers. 

The initial goal of the vaccine equity metric is to deliver a minimum of 2 million doses to the hardest-hit quarter of the state as measured by the Healthy Places Index. The state has currently delivered 1.6 million doses to this quarter of the state. It is estimated that 2 million doses will be delivered in the vaccine equity quartile sometime in the next two weeks.

Once that threshold is reached, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy will be updated to allow for somewhat higher case rates in each tier, with an overall effect of allowing counties to loosen health restrictions at a somewhat accelerated, but still responsible, pace. 

The Blueprint will be updated again when 4 million doses have been administered in the vaccine equity quartile.

Using data to inform vaccine allocations, California will strategically increase the proportion of vaccines distributed to regions hardest hit by COVID-19 to help lower the rate of community infection, hospitalizations and deaths; reduce potential new variants that might emerge with each additional case; and, perhaps most importantly, ensure equitable distribution of the state’s still limited vaccine supply.

The state is set to accomplish these goals by doubling the allocation for disproportionately-impacted communities as compared to the rest of the state; reserving appointments for members of communities severely impacted by the pandemic; and increasing funding for safety net providers to cover start-up costs and for navigation assistance. 

“By vaccinating more people, and those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, science tells us that the disease should spread more slowly, giving variants fewer opportunities to take hold, and the health care system should be preserved,” Ghaly said. 

 For more information, visit here.

Coronavirus

L.A. County Sees Increase In COVID-19 Cases Among Staff, Residents At Nursing Facilities

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Los Angeles County is now experiencing an increase in cases among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, public health officials said Tuesday.

The rise is in part due to the highly transmissible Delta variant and a small number of post-vaccination infections among those fully vaccinated, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Currently, 86% of residents and 85% of staff at skilled nursing facilities are fully vaccinated. For the week ending July 18, 33 people tested positive for COVID-19: six new cases among residents, and 27 new cases among staff.

 For the previous weeks, an average of 22 new cases were reported among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities.

Masks have consistently been required in all healthcare settings, including skilled nursing facilities, regardless of vaccination status. Routine testing of staff and residents is also required at skilled nursing facilities, and there are stringent infection control directives, according to the department.

On Tuesday, Public Health confirmed 2,293 new cases of COVID-19. To date, the department has identified 1,307,970 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 24,704 deaths.

There are 1,138 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 22% of these people are in the ICU. This is an increase of 313 daily hospitalizations since last Tuesday.

“Residents at skilled nursing facilities are often medically fragile and throughout this pandemic have been at great risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19. Thankfully, because of their high COVID-19 vaccination rates and infection control measures at facilities, we are not seeing dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, nor have we seen significant increases in deaths,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in a statement. “In order to ensure a continued high level of protection during this surge, staff and residents not yet vaccinated should do so. And we ask everyone who plans to visit someone in a skilled nursing facility to mask up and be fully vaccinated to prevent transmission to very vulnerable residents.”

Anyone 12 and older living or working in L.A. County can get vaccinated against COVID-19. For more information, visit here

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California To Require State, Health Care Workers To Show Proof Of Vaccination Or Testing

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All California state employees, as well as workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings, must show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, Governor Newsom announced Monday.

The new policy for state workers will take effect on Aug. 2 and testing will be phased in over the next few weeks. The new policy for health care workers and congregate facilities is set to take effect on Aug. 9, and health care facilities will have until Aug. 23 to come into full compliance. 

Unvaccinated workers will be subject to at least weekly COVID-19 testing and will be required to wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE). This requirement also applies to high-risk congregate settings, including senior residential facilities, homeless shelters and jails. 

“We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant,” said Newsom in a statement. “As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example and requiring all state and health care workers to show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly, and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same.”

Despite California leading the nation in vaccinations, with more than 44 million doses administered and 75% of the eligible population has received at least one dose, the state is seeing increasing numbers of people who refused to get the vaccine being admitted to the ICU and dying.

“The Delta variant is up to 60% more infectious than the Alpha strain but many times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain. If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the time,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly in a statement.

As of last week, California’s statewide case rate more than quadrupled from a low in May of 1.9 cases per 100,000 residents a day to at least 9.5 cases per 100,000.

The vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated, with 600% higher case rates among the unvaccinated than for those who are vaccinated, according to the state. 

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Los Angeles County COVID-19 Cases Increase 80% In One Week

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Los Angeles County continues to see a rapid rise in COVID-19 transmission countywide with cases doubling over the last 10 days as the Delta variant spreads.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 2,767 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday an 80% increase over last week, according to the department. 

On Friday, 3,058 additional cases were reported, marking the third day in a row with more than 2,500 cases reported in a day, according to Public Health.

The County’s daily average case rate, with a 7-day lag, is now 12.9 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from last week’s rate of 7.1 cases per 100,000.

There are 645 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 22% of these people are in the ICU. Last week, there were 406 people hospitalized with COVID-19 illness.

“Public Health has detailed the rise of the Delta variant among strains sequenced in the Los Angeles County area for weeks,” department officials said. “While emerging data affirms that fully vaccinated people are well protected from severe infections with Delta variants, people with only one vaccine are not as well-protected, and there is increasing evidence that a small number of fully vaccinated individuals can become infected and may be able to infect others.”

From July 11 to July 17, the number of sequenced Delta variants was 201, 84% of all sequences collected that week. 

This is consistent with the rise of Delta nationwide: earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that Delta strains accounted for 83% of circulating COVID-19. Given that about 4 million residents in L.A. County are not yet vaccinated, the risk of increased spread of this variant within L.A. County remains high, according to Public Health.

As of July 18, more than 10,845,531 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 6,013,569 were first doses and 4,831,962 were second doses.

88% of L.A. County seniors 65 and over, 70% of residents 16 and over, and 69% of residents 12 and over have received one dose of a vaccine including 39% of L.A. County teens between the ages of 12 and 17. 

Of the nearly 10.3 million L.A. County residents, including those who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, 52% are fully vaccinated and 59% have received at least one dose.

“As more people have gotten vaccinated, the proportion of total cases that are among those vaccinated has also increased,” public health officials said. “This is to be expected because as more people are vaccinated, the number of fully vaccinated people becoming infected will increase.”

 In June, fully vaccinated people represented 20% of all cases diagnosed among L.A. County residents, while unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people accounted for 80% of cases.

Public Health estimates if the 52% of County residents that are fully vaccinated were not vaccinated, the number of new cases would perhaps be double because everyone would instead have the same risk of infection as unvaccinated people do. While County numbers have been going up, they would be much higher if there weren’t as many people fully vaccinated.

In Los Angeles County, everyone 2 years of age and older must wear a mask in all indoor public places, regardless of their vaccination status. 

“While the County does not require masking at private gatherings where unvaccinated or immunocompromised people are present, universal masking in these scenarios, particularly indoors, is the best way to protect everyone,” department officials said.

To find a vaccination site in Los Angeles County, visit here.

Note: This story has been updated with new case data from the Department of Public Health.

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