As the vaccine rollout continues across California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced this afternoon that all Californians ages 65 and over are now “fully into the tier” for vaccine eligibility. While this is great news for many especially vulnerable older residents, the reason for the eligibility expansion is a bit more worrisome – according to the LA Times, in a story following the announcement, the reason the state now has more vaccine doses than anticipated, which is why it has been able to expand eligibility earlier than originally planned, is that about 40% of health care and nursing home workers, who were the first people offered the vaccine, have refused it.
In fact, said the Times, “California officials have struggled thus far to distribute its allotment of vaccine doses. As of Monday, California had received more than 2.4 million doses of vaccine, but less than one-third had been administered. There has been lower than expected demand from the healthcare and nursing home workers who have highest priority to receive the vaccines, with up to 40% declining the initial opportunity to be vaccinated.”
But the news should still spark plenty of activity at the massive new vaccination “super sites” now being set up at places like Dodger Stadium and Disneyland (along with other stadiums across the country), which will be dedicated exclusively to vaccinations while new testing sites are created elsewhere. According to the LA Times, the Dodger Stadium site may be able to vaccinate up to 12,000 people per day.
That said, however, it’s also worth noting that at the time we put this story together, the LA County Department of Health had not yet updated its vaccine information page with the new eligibility information or instructions for scheduling appointments locally.
UPDATE AT 6:23 P.M. – After this story was initially published, the LA County Department of Health released a statement saying that despite Newsom’s announcement earlier today, LA County will not be ready to start vaccinating everyone over 65 until probably early February, after more health care workers are vaccinated. According to the statement:
“Public Health is ramping up capacity to complete vaccinations for the approximately 500,000 frontline healthcare workers. This currently includes adding dozens more pharmacies and healthcare clinics, as well as the addition of five new large-capacity vaccination sites that the county is opening next Tuesday. These vaccination sites are only open to healthcare workers in Phase 1A. Healthcare workers can register for an appointment and must show job verification when showing up for their vaccine. The registration system for these five large-capacity vaccination centers for healthcare workers opened today. Please visit the healthcare worker signup website.
The current goal is to complete vaccinations of frontline healthcare workers and staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities by the end of January. As the County completes Phase 1A, we can look to starting vaccinations for groups within next phase – 1B, starting with those who are 65 and older as noted by the Governor today. We are working with the State to identify additional vaccine doses so that we can start to schedule appointments once the doses arrive.
For information about the safety of vaccines and when your turn is coming up and to sign up for a vaccination newsletter, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com“
In his weekly address to the community on Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner spoke at length about vaccinations that will be provided to all LAUSD staff, students and families…which some news reports (or at least headlines) seemed to indicate would be required before students can return to campus when schools finally re-open, whenever that might be. This would be difficult, we heard many people say, because the current COVID-19 vaccines, currently being rolled out around the world, have not yet been approved in the U.S. for children under 16.
As it turns out, however, this is not quite what Beutner actually said…or meant. Instead, Beutner addressed several issues related to providing vaccines to LAUSD staff, students and others in the school community, and called for the state to provide funding separately from LAUSD’s current budget, “when vaccines are shown to be safe for children.” “The best place to provide the vaccine is at the place families trust and where students, staff and their families are most days – their local public school,” Beutner said.
This message was reiterated and clarified by LAUSD’s Chief of Special Education, Equity and Access, Anthony Aguilar, who wrote a letter to the editor of the LA Times yesterday, confirming that “We fully anticipate having students back on campus before vaccines for children are available.” Aguilar also noted, however, that LAUSD already requires students, staff and others to be tested for turberculosis and vaccinated for measles and mumps, and that in keeping with these protective health standards, the requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations will be added to that list when the vaccines become available. “Our goal remains opening classrooms in schools as soon as possible in the safest way possible,” Aguilar wrote. “That includes participating in a program to make sure all in the school community have access to a vaccine for COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, in addition to calling for state public health funding for LAUSD’s massive vaccination efforts (for adult faculty and staff as soon as possible, and for students when vaccines are approved for children), Beutner also noted that the current surge in COVID-19 cases and test positivity (which is still hovering around 20%, or one in five people tested), means that Los Angeles is still nowhere near meeting the state guidelines for re-opening classrooms for in-person instruction.
“This tragically high level of the virus is having a direct impact on Los Angeles Unified’s ability to reopen classrooms,” Beutner said. “It’s not safe and appropriate when COVID levels are so much higher than the current state guidelines to even consider reopening school classrooms.”
In the meantime, remote instruction will continue, and “To help those in our communities stay safe, we’ll continue to provide free COVID tests for families, our students and employees…it’s free, quick and painless.” Beutner said families can schedule a testing appointment at lausd.net , and testing centers are open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with many also providing services on evenings and Saturdays.
Finally, Beutner’s message on Monday also addressed what he sees as weaknesses in California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Safe Schools for All” plan to support the reopening of schools. Beutner said he believes the plan “falls well short of what’s needed to help our schools.” The plan, Beutner said, too vaguely defines a “safe school environment” and “the standard for reopening classrooms” (leaving that last definition up to invididual districts, which will result in huge inconsistencies across the state), and that it “does not address the disproportionate impact the virus is having on low-income communities of color,” which “reverses a statewide commitment to equity-based funding of schools.”
Beutner said that for the statewide plan to be effective, it must also provide:
• An immediate, all-hands-on-deck, public health effort to reduce the spread of the virus in low-income communities.
• A clear state standard for COVID-related health issues in schools, with a requirement for in-classroom instruction to begin when the standard is met.
• Public health funds, not K-12 educational funds from Prop. 98, should be used for COVID testing and vaccinations.
• School-based health services should be integrated with COVID testing and vaccination plans.
• Learning-loss recovery plans, including funding for summer school, need to be established now.
• Reopening plans need to include specific funding for special education students.
• A timetable and plan for vaccinations of school staff should be made public by February 1st.
• The state also needs to begin to publish detailed information on school and district status in meeting COVID health standards, providing in-person instructions and school-based occurrences of the virus by February 1st.
Meanwhile, as Beunter said, the virus continues to rage in Los Angeles, with hospitals and other parts of the health care system currently overwhelmed. Death rates have also begun to rise, with LA County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer noting on Monday that someone now dies of COVID-19 every 8 minutes in LA County (and increase from every 10 minutes on December 31).
New cases reported yesterday, as shown below, were just under 12,000 for the day, which is below the 18-20,000 per day peaks of just a few days ago, but still extremely high. In fact, according to an LA County Department of Public Health social media post yesterday, 10 people test positive for COVID-19 every minute in LA County, and 10-12% of those end up hospitalized.
Finally, while new cases, testing positivity rates, and hospitalizations may have leveled off a tiny bit, at least for the moment, death rates (which tend to lag behind the other trends) are still climbing sharply, as shown in these LA County charts:
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
- More Posts