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Los Angeles County COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts Could Extend Until 2022

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Los Angeles County public health officials continued to urge patience Friday among residents anxious to get a COVID-19 vaccine, with the effort to vaccinate the population likely to extend “well into 2022.”

Despite leading the country in the number of overall administered vaccine doses, with 1.8 million being administered in the state as of Friday, California has ranked 48th in the country for vaccine doses administered per 100 people, according to Bloomberg’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

Residents of Los Angeles County eligible to receive the vaccine have been stifled by long wait times. Patients lined up to receive the vaccine at Dodger Stadium have reportedly waited up to five hours before receiving their dose.

Residents over the age of 65 are now able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as frontline healthcare workers and those employed by or living in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, urged residents to remain patient with efforts to administer vaccines, pointing to a shortage of doses on-hand and continued uncertainty about future allocations.

Simon noted that the county’s five large-scale vaccination sites that opened this week, including one at Six Flags Magic Mountain — each capable of administering 4,000 shots per day — are expected to be operating at much lower capacity next week. Public health officials estimate the number of vaccines given out is more likely in the 2,000 to 2,500 range.

The county expects to receive about 143,900 more doses of vaccine next week. However, since there are two doses of the medication needed, spaced three to four weeks apart, the bulk of the vaccine coming next week is expected to be used to administer second doses to those who have already received the first shot. Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer estimated earlier that only 37,900 of the doses coming next week will be available for people to receive their first dose.

Meanwhile, county health officials continued to note a leveling-off of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, while warning that the improvements do not mean the region has emerged from the surge that began in November.

The daily number of COVID-19 deaths reported by the county remains elevated, with 256 deaths announced Friday. It was the third straight day the number topped 200, with 262 fatalities reported on Wednesday and Thursday. The new deaths elevated the countywide death toll since the pandemic began to 14,894.

The county also reported another 9,277 cases, lifting the cumulative total to 1,054,802. Health officials noted Thursday that the average daily number of new cases had dropped 30% over the past week. Most recent figures provided from the state showed 7,073 people hospitalized in the county, including 1,687 in intensive care. The current hospitalization number is a significant drop from the 8,000-plus patients that were reported in early January.

“We are also seeing a decline in hospitalizations and several other indicators we track, including test positivity rate, percentage of emergency department visits associated with COVID-19 and percentage of respiratory specimens positive for COVID at sentinel laboratory surveillance sites,” added Simon.

“However, despite these promising trends, I do want to emphasize that the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far too high,” Simon said. “So while there’s reason to be hopeful, we all must remain vigilant and continue to be disciplined, wearing masks, physically distancing when outside the home, avoiding gatherings and washing our hands frequently.”

Simon said Friday that the most recent figures showed that 441,140 doses of vaccine have already been administered in the county, although he said that number is likely much higher due to delays in tallying vaccination totals.

As of this week, the county had received about 853,000 total doses. Simon added that people should not look at those numbers and assume there are 400,000 unused doses in the county, noting again the lag in vaccination reports and the daily administration of doses. He also noted the need for much of the medication to be used as second doses for people who have already received the first shot.

If the county’s weekly allotment doesn’t dramatically improve beyond the current average of about 150,000, “the vaccination effort will likely extend well into 2022,” Simon said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made similar predictions during a briefing at Dodger Stadium Thursday. However, Garcetti also said that he is hopeful vaccine production and shipments to the county will increase.

Simon shared Garcetti’s optimism, saying, “We have a new federal administration that has pledged to make this happen. We are also hopeful that several other vaccine manufacturers will receive federal authorization for emergency use of their vaccines in the coming months, and that should help increase supplies to California and ultimately to Los Angeles County.”

The chief science officer said if the county can get its allocation increased to 500,000 per week, “We would have the potential to reach 75% of the adult population in the county, or 6 million adults, by mid-summer.”

Public health officials report the state is upgrading its vaccine-appointment website, to which the county system is linked, so it should operate more smoothly as early as next week. County residents trying to make appointments should use the county website here.

The county also has a call-in reservation system, which is available from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 833-540-0473. But that line should be used only by people unable to use the website, since call volumes are already exceedingly high, Simon said.

Note: City News Service contributed to this report.

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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