State expects vaccine distribution soon; county responds to court ruling


While state officials expect a vaccine to be distributed soon, the Southern California region intensive care unit capacity continued to drop, state officials announced Saturday.

Food and Drug Administration officials granted emergency authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Friday evening, after receiving a vote of confidence from a U.S. government advisory panel Thursday. The move could prompt distribution to California as early as Sunday, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“We learned the FDA just approved the emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine, which means there’s 327,600 doses of the vaccine on their way to the state of California,” said Newsom in a video posted to his official Twitter account. “We’re expecting distribution as early as (Sunday).”

As of Saturday, officials also considered the likelihood the state’s regional stay-at-home order could extend past Dec. 28, if the region’s intensive care unit availability remains under 15%. As of Saturday, the capacity dropped to 5.3%.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials outlined how the vaccine would be distributed during a meeting Thursday, saying the county is expected to receive 83,000 doses of the vaccine when approved. 

The initial vaccine supplies are expected to be limited, so a phased roll-out is planned, with initial priority expected to be given to health care workers, followed by residents of long-term care facilities.

Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital was approved to administer the vaccine, according to Dr. Larry Kidd, the hospital’s senior vice president and chief clinical officer, and more information will be made available within the coming days.

Public Health officials also released a statement Saturday, following a court ruling against the county’s ban on outdoor dining.

“The ruling incorrectly analyzed Public Health’s decision-making process that went into its Nov. 25 order, which included a temporary suspension of outdoor dining at restaurants and a return to takeout and delivery only,” officials said in a prepared statement. “Public Health professionals always, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have the obligation to create effective interventions that prevent and control the spread of communicable disease. When making its order, Public Health knew that new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within the county were beginning to surge.”

The California Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit against Public Health after the Nov. 25 health officer order closed outdoor dining and required restaurants to only offer delivery or takeout options.

“Restaurants and their employees have faced tremendous hardships because of the county’s ban on outdoor dining, which followed a period of months during which public health officials encouraged outdoor activities, and restaurants invested in expanding and establishing outdoor spaces in order to serve their guests safely,” said a previous statement from the California Restaurant Association.

Public Health officials added in their response that although the court ruled the ban on outdoor dining will end Dec. 16, the county is still under the state’s regional stay-at-home order, which will keep outdoor dining at restaurants suspended until at least Dec. 28.

Public Health also released the following updated COVID-19 statistics for the county Saturday:

Southern California intensive care unit available capacity: 5.3%

COVID-19 cases reported in L.A. County: 11,476

Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 512, 872, with 239 cases reported earlier that were not L.A. County residents.

New deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the past 24 hours: 70

Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 8,269

Hospitalizations countywide: 3,850; 22% of whom are in the ICU.

Hospitalizations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital as of Dec. 11: 71, with 473 discharged since the onset of the pandemic.

COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 168, of which 127 came from the city of Santa Clarita.

Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 11,901

Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV: 89

The numbers of SCV cases, including all area health care providers’ daily figures and those at Pitchess Detention Center, broken down into region, are as follows:

City of Santa Clarita: 7,965

Unincorporated – Acton: 173

Unincorporated – Agua Dulce: 80

Unincorporated – Bouquet Canyon: 16

Unincorporated – Canyon Country: 340

Unincorporated – Castaic: 2,563 (majority of Castaic cases come from Pitchess Detention Center, exact number unavailable)

Unincorporated – Lake Hughes: 16

Unincorporated – Newhall: 40

Unincorporated – Placerita Canyon: 0

Unincorporated – San Francisquito Canyon/Bouquet Canyon: 4

Unincorporated – Sand Canyon: 7

Unincorporated – Saugus: 57

Unincorporated – Saugus/Canyon Country: 18

Unincorporated – Stevenson Ranch: 408

Unincorporated – Val Verde: 136

Unincorporated – Valencia: 78

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