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COVID-19 vaccine rollout “not as fast” as people would like

COVID Super Bowl graphic
Santa Barbara County is gearing up for Super Bowl Sunday with a message of caution for those planning big gatherings. (SBC Health graphic)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The conversation on COVID-19 is shifting from analytics on cases to the number of vaccine doses received and administered.

Santa Barbara Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso updated the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.

While the overall numbers from the most recent data is getting better, she said, Isla Vista is still showing an increase.

There were 67 deaths in the last two-week period in the county.

The number of hospitalizations and the Intensive Care Unit beds in use is still at a "very unacceptable high level," said Do-Reynoso. "We are still besieged by COVID-19... We are ninth in the state with the highest adjusted case rate."

Do-Reynoso said local ICU capacity is still low and reason for concern.

The county need to get to 7 cases per 100,000 to be in the Red Tier, of COVID-19 reopening guidelines from the Purple Tier where it is now.

More information on tier levels can be found here.

The county is urging the public to stay vigilant on their prevention efforts and to double down at this critical point with cases starting to fall and the vaccine starting to hit arms by the thousands.

Health officials saw spikes in cases after holidays such as Memorial Day weekend 2020 and most recently the winter holidays.

The county is concerned that Super Bowl Sunday this weekend does not become a "Super Spreader." A special message is going out on social media that says, "Don't let COVID-19 touchdown in your home."

"We are pleading, we are asking to keep it outdoors. Keep it short, less than two hours," said Do-Reynoso. At a football gathering, if you go, she also said to prevent the virus spread you should be "masking and social distancing."

The vaccine distribution continues to be distributed countywide. 51,375 have come in. Of those, 38,334 (86%) of the doses have been administered with Santa Barbara receiving the highest at 22,915, followed by Santa Maria with 12,600. Marian Regional Medical Center has received 8,500 doses as part of a multi-county program. The figures include first and second doses that have been administered.

Supervisor Das Williams asked when the age group 65 and older can expect to be vaccinated. The county says it is still concentrating on the older, most vulnerable population. Right now there are 11,000 residents 75 and older on a waiting list at Cottage Hospital for their vaccinations. Sansum Medical has a waiting list of 8,000.

The timeline between the first shot and the second shot is suggested by the California Department of Health to be within 21 to 28 day time frame as much as possible.

The Centers for Disease Control says the timeline, according to its research, can be up to six weeks between the two shots.

The health department says the vaccine distribution to California counties is based on population and demographics.

To speed up the distribution, the state is working with a third party administrator. Blue Shield of California will oversee the state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution in an agreement recently reached with Gov. Gavin Newsom. That should begin later this month and all California counties will be in the process with Blue Shield.

"All counties are feeling the scarcity of the vaccines," Do-Reynoso said.

Supervisor Gregg Hart says, "If there were more vaccines produced we would be getting a greater share. The supply is nowhere near the demand."

He pointed out, there have been tremendous communication errors at the national level.

Other counties have "bungled" the process, according to Hart, by allowing people 65 and older to get the vaccine.

"We are not going to be able to go as fast as everyone would like," said Hart.

He says the county is trying to get the doses it receives into people's arms within a week.

He worries that Blue Shield will not be able to get into underserved communities when it takes a key role in the distribution.

As of February 2, Cottage Hospital says it has 11,699 total vaccines administered with this breakdown:

4,558 (Dose 1) – Cottage Community Vaccination Drive-Up Clinic at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital campus

7,141;  3,948 (Dose 1); 3,193 (Dose 2) -  Cottage Health Staff/Physicians

The county is also working with many school districts and their K-6 students to get them back in the classroom with approved protocols through both the health department and the The Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California California, Cal/OSHA.

School sports schedules are also starting to change.

"We have our first Cross Country match this Saturday between Pioneer and Righetti since March 11, 2020," said Supervisor Bob Nelson.

Carpinteria School District Trustee Jaime Diamond, speaking in public comment, urged the county to allow teachers to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

"We have to get these teachers vaccinated," she said. Diamond cited the City of Long Beach as an area where it has already started. She said, "We need, rely and respect our educators."

For those who have had COVID-19, the county says they can delay their vaccinations and allow the doses to go to those in urgent need.

"I don't think that message has been getting out," said Lavagnino.

He was encouraged about efficiencies ahead and believes the public will be vaccinated at a "critical mass" level by mid-year.

Williams said only Israel and Great Britain have been vaccinating their population better than the U.S.

Andy Caldwell with the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business says a week ago he asked for a plan on the vaccine distribution for both the first and second doses. At a recent town hall meeting with federal, state and regional leaders last week, there were questions raised for the complete roll out of doses and he urged the supervisors to address them with a timeline.


Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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John Palminteri

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