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Inoculations increase, yet public confusion continues

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The current state of the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles County might be described as being in limbo, as key metrics continue to fall slowly, while the rollout of the vaccine is mired in roadblocks and public confusion.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis held a news conference announcing that people age 65 and older could begin signing up for the coronavirus vaccine that afternoon. This came one day after she signed an executive order directing the county’s department of public health to make COVID-19 vaccination appointments available on January 21. However, that order caused widespread confusion because the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s vaccine portal still indicated that only healthcare workers and residents and employees of skilled nursing facilities could get the inoculation.

Soon after Tuesday’s news conference, the county website was updated but the demand for appointments soon crashed the site. Nonetheless, many seniors were able to get appointments, including some Claremont residents. Complicating the rollout was the fact that the vaccine is still in very short supply in the county.

The county has opened five large inoculation centers including one in the parking lot of the Pomona Fairplex. Additionally, many private firms are providing the vaccine, including the Vons Pharmacy on Base Lone Road in Claremont.

The county receives new shipments of the vaccine each week so residents in this high-priority age group should visit VaccinateLACounty.com to schedule their appointments. Residents who don’t have computer access may call (833) 540-0473 between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. for assistance with reservations.

“While there is great interest in the COVID-19 vaccine, and for good reason, the vaccine supply is still extremely limited, and we want to urge everyone to have patience as we work urgently with our federal and state partners to expand capacity and supply in the weeks ahead,” Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said. “Of the vaccination doses that we received for this upcoming week, 73 percent of our allocation will need to be used for second doses. The little bit that remains, along with any vaccine that wasn’t used the previous week, is what is available for us to use for appointments for those eligible to receive first doses.”

“With almost 1.4 million residents aged 65 and older, and between 700,000-800,000 eligible healthcare workers, the number of vaccines required to complete two doses is over 4 million. Since doses first arrived five weeks ago on December 14, the county has received only 853,650 doses, including doses that arrived today,” health officials said in a statement.

The county reported that 7,253 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus on Wednesday, which is still a very high number, but is substantially lower than the peak of more than 8,000 hospitalizations two weeks ago. The death rate remains quite high with 262 people dying from the illness on Wednesday.

New infections for the past several days were substantially lower than previous weeks, with 6,492 cases reported Wednesday and 7,902 on Tuesday. However, public health official said the numbers are artificially low due to the holiday weekend and the shift at Dodger Stadium from a testing to an inoculation site.

In Claremont the county is now reporting 1,917 cumulative cases and 147 new cases in the last week. Although the number of new cases remains excessive, it is significantly lower than in past weeks when new cases in Claremont were close to 200 per week. Sadly, 40 people have now died here, including four new deaths this week.

Vaccines have been delivered to all 340 skilled nursing facilities in Los Angeles County, and more than 68 percent of all eligible residents and 65 percent of staff received their first dose. This week the county began to administer second doses at facilities where people were inoculated in December.

All skilled nursing facilities in the county conduct weekly testing of residents and staff, and for the week ending January 2, more than 70,000 COVID-19 tests were completed. A total of 2,532 people tested positive for COVID-19—1,423 residents and 1,109 staff—which is a positivity rate of just under four percent, significantly lower than the positivity rate among the general public at 15 percent.

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