“There is some hope,” said California’s Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly during his Tuesday Covid-19 briefing. “There is some reduction in numbers.”
Ghaly’s statement was accurate with respect to daily infections. He reported 36,487 new cases on Tuesday. that’s down from nearly 40,000 the day before and 49,000 the day before that.
The number of Covid-infected patients hospitalized in the state over the past 24 hours was slightly down from last week’s record to 21,747. The number of available Covid-ready ICU beds shrank slightly to 1,229. That’s for a population of 40 million.
Most critically, however, there were 548 new pandemic-related deaths reported in the state on Tuesday. That’s among the highest daily totals of the pandemic. The number means California accounted for more than 30% of the entire nation’s 1,731 daily deaths — as reported by Johns Hopkins University — on Tuesday. It also brings the state’s total confirmed deaths due to the virus to 30,513.
Last Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom drew a line in the sand, committing to vaccinating 1 million Californians in the next 10 days. Asked about California’s slow vaccine rollout compared to less populated states such as South Dakota and West Virginia Ghaly said, “It’s a good and fair question.” He then revealed that only 99,000 of the state’s 40 million residents had been vaccinated with both doses to date. Newsom said Monday the state has only administered about one-third of the nearly 2.5 million vaccine doses it has received so far.
“Part of the process that we have set up here in California — really thoughtful trying to focus on risk and exposure and equity — has led to some delays in getting the vaccine out into our communities,” said Ghaly. “We look forward with additional vaccine to really doing more in this space than we’ve done already.”
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday it would likely take until the end of January to finish vaccinating all health care workers listed in Phase 1A of the priority list.
Ferrer said the county hopes to begin the top priority tier of Phase 1B — people aged 75 and over and select essential workers, such as those in education, child care, emergency services and food and agriculture — in early February. People aged 65 and older wouldn’t be eligible until the second tier of that phase, likely not until late February or early March.
Younger residents with serious underlying health conditions would not be eligible until Phase 1C, which Ferrer said would likely not begin until late March.
Federal officials urging states on Monday to more widely distribute vaccine doses. Ghaly said the change could be implemented within 24 hours. He said California’s vaccine advisory committee and a prioritization guidelines workgroup are already reviewing the suggested guidelines.
“Those communications have already begun and will go throughout the day so we can evaluate the new federal guidance, determine how it’s going to impact what we do here in California and — with haste without delay — getting that updated guidance out,” said Ghaly. “[I] expect that will come in the next 24 hours or so, so we can let all Californians benefit.”
Acting under recommendations initially developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states have given top priority to frontline health care workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Most states are still working to get the shots to health care workers, but the slow pace of administering the shots has led to calls to authorize more people to receive doses.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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