Supes discuss COVID-19 vaccination efforts

Los Angeles Public Health care workers prepare doses of Covid-19 vaccine for a car load of people in one of the hundreds of cars in line at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia waiting for vaccinations on Wednesday, 012021. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is working with the Department of Public Health, as well as Health and Human Services, to ensure the county’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue at full speed. 

During Tuesday’s regular meeting, the board unanimously approved a motion aimed at creating a coordination effort with Public Health, along with any other relevant departments or community agencies, to provide a vaccination plan for the implementation of Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination.

Phase 1B, which is split into two tiers, includes education and child care, emergency services and food and agriculture workers in the first tier, as well as transportation and logistics, industrial, commercial, residential and sheltering facilities and services, critical manufacturing, incarcerated settings, and homeless settings in the second tier. 

Following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement Monday that the state would eliminate part of its planned phased vaccination approach, replacing it with an age-based eligibility system, the county’s plan is only going to include those in the first tier, as the new system is set to be implemented following the prioritization of those in that tier. 

These changes were announced amid criticism that the state has not rolled out vaccines fast enough and continues to be constrained by a limited supply, a problem that Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer addressed during the meeting. 

“We average between (receiving) 110,000-160,000 doses every week … (at) 189 sites that are open,” Ferrer said. “We have over 350 registered sites that can be vaccination sites for people to go and get vaccinated. We just don’t have enough vaccines to distribute all of those sites right now, so supply is our biggest problem at the moment.” 

Currently, there are more than 2 million county residents eligible to receive the vaccine, with Ferrer saying patience is key in completing the task. 

Even so, Public Health still expects to begin vaccinating those in Phase 1B by early February and that everyone in this phase should have been offered at least one dose of vaccine by late March.

Another unanimously approved motion is set to send a letter from the board to the acting secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in support of both the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in the UK and has yet to be approved for use in the U.S., and Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is expected to report the results of its clinical trial by early next week, along with any other federal proposals that would expand vaccine supply and distribution.

While vaccination efforts remain a priority for L.A. County and its officials, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, said it’s only one component to controlling the spread of the virus.

“To get the numbers down, harm reduction is going to be what is going to get us through this, and that includes wearing a mask, social distancing, limiting your contact with large crowds,” Barger said. “Until we get the vaccine and get herd immunity, we’re not going to be out of the woods, and this is going to be something that should be first and foremost on everybody’s mind as it relates to controlling the virus out in the community.”

Ferrer echoed those sentiments, noting that while it’s encouraging that both the number of daily COVID-19 cases and rate of people hospitalized have been decreasing in recent weeks, the county and its residents need to move through the next few weeks with a lot of caution as reopenings begin again.

“We have to stay committed to seeing a continued decline in our cases in order for us to feel comfortable that we’re slowing the spread,” she added.

Meanwhile, a motion aimed at requiring restaurants and other food-service providers to furnish disposable foodware only upon the request of customers in an effort to reduce waste was referred back to the author’s office, and is set to be revisited at the Board of Supervisors’ next meeting.

If approved, the motion would also require third-party, app-based delivery companies to include an option to request plates and utensils.

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