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COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts Advancing In L.A. County, Equity Issues Remain

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More than 1.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Los Angeles County, but equity in the distribution of the shots continues to vex health officials, with vaccination rates among eligible Black residents lagging far behind other ethnic groups, according to data released Friday. 

According to figures released by the county Department of Public Health, Black residents represented just 5.2% of all people who had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of mid-February, while 33.5% were white, 23.1% Latino and 19.1% Asian. 

Only 24% of Black residents aged 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 42.8% of white residents 65 and up. During a virtual briefing Friday, Dr. Paul Simon, the county health department’s chief science officer, presented a countywide map highlighting vaccination rates in individual communities. 

“There are marked inequities in vaccination coverage across the county, with the lowest coverage rates in South L.A., East L.A., several regions of the San Gabriel Valley, the east San Fernando Valley and the Antelope Valley, as well as several pockets near the ports and below West Hollywood,” Simon said. 

He acknowledged that the coverage rates were calculated based on each area’s overall population, not the number of people actually eligible to receive the shots. But he said despite that limitation, “the findings are deeply concerning and provide further illustration of the deeply rooted health inequities that exist in our society.” 

Simon said the county is planning a number of steps to address the inequities, such as prioritizing the establishment of more vaccination sites in areas with the lowest rates, expanding mobile vaccination services to serve older residents and people with limited ability to travel to vaccine sites. 

The county is also reserving doses so they can be administered in under-served communities, with 6,000 to 7,000 doses expected to be reserved next week for South Los Angeles and 1,000 to 2,000 in the Antelope Valley, he said. `

`These inequities are unjust and unacceptable and demand renewed efforts to address them,” Simon said. 

The county also plans to reserve appointment slots at its various vaccination sites for residents of under-served communities, and it will be increasing efforts to help residents schedule appointments.

 Efforts have previously been made to ensure easy access to vaccinations for residents of traditionally underserved areas, notably through the placement of mass-vaccination sites in locations such as the Forum in Inglewood, the county Office of Education in Downey and the Pomona Fairplex. 

But Simon noted that while he had no specific numbers, it was clear that sites like the Forum — despite being targeted for residents of that area – – were administering shots to people from more affluent neighborhoods who traveled to the location. `

`I don’t have to look at the numbers to be aware. I’ve worked at several of the Mega PODs (points of distribution) and it really was quite striking,” Simon said. “… It’s an observation that many have made that many people receiving vaccinations at these large Mega PODs were not from the neighborhood.”

He said it is difficult to immediately address the issue, but when the state’s “My Turn” appointment system becomes the universal standard for reserving a vaccination slot, it may be possible to ensure times are being reserved solely for local or underserved communities. 

Simon said the county is also trying to increase its work with community leaders to help counter what he called continuing misinformation about the safety of the vaccines that is likely contributing to low vaccination rates. 

According to figures provided by Simon, the county has administered a total of 1,205,738 first doses of the vaccine, along with 471,162.

 That means 15.5% of the county’s population aged 16 and over have received at least one dose, and 6% are fully vaccinated. 

Simon said there are still issues with vaccine supply, although the county’s sites were largely spared from the weather-related delivery problems that forced the Los Angeles city vaccination sites to close this week. 

Health officials have been warning of a difficult month ahead in terms of access to vaccines, with the already jammed appointment system expected to get even more crowded March 1 when essential workers such as teachers, food service workers and law enforcement become eligible for shots.

In mid-March, everyone aged 16 and over with a serious underlying health condition will become eligible. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said the state in March will begin reserving 10% of the overall supply of vaccines to be administered to teachers, as part of an effort to speed a return to in-person classes. 

Simon said he did not envision that restriction causing major issues in the county, since health officials planned to allocate “a significant percentage” to teachers and the other categories of essential workers.

 Meanwhile, COVID case numbers have continued to trend downward in the county, although still well above the levels seen prior to the winter surge that began in November. 

On Thursday, the county reported another 153 deaths, while Long Beach announced 10 fatalities and Pasadena added 1, raising the overall death toll to 19,525. Another 2,873 cases were confirmed by the county Thursday, while Long Beach reported 83 and Pasadena 22, lifting the cumulative number from throughout the pandemic to 1,174,445. 

The county had not yet released its updated figures for Friday. Hospital patient numbers continued to decline, with state figures showing a total of 2,498 people hospitalized in Los Angeles County as of Friday, with 760 people in intensive care. 

That compares to 2,640 overall patients and 808 ICU patients on Thursday. In early January, there were more than 8,000 people hospitalized in the county.

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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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