It’s Christmas and it needs to look a little different if we’re going to stop the latest surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials have pleaded with the public not to repeat the holiday travels many engaged in during Thanksgiving. Hospitals have reported ICUs with zero capacity and mobile morgue trucks outside medical facilities are grim reminders in the midst of holiday fanfare. The arrival of the Pfizer vaccine and the recent authorization of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are much needed lights at the end of a 2020 tunnel. Director of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer still stresses that overcoming this surge means staying consistent with health guidelines.
“While we are so encouraged that vaccines have arrived and our frontline healthcare workers are beginning to receive vaccinations, it will take many months to immunize the entire population of L.A. County. Your actions this week and beyond will determine whether we get through the next two months without continuing to experience horrifying increases in hospitalizations and deaths,” said Ferrer.
“When you must go out for work, to exercise or for essential services, put on a face covering before you open the door and walk outside. Please always keep your mask on. Please avoid crowded spaces and stay at least 6 feet away from people you do not live with at all times. And keep using hand sanitizer and washing your hands.”
She continued, “The only path forward right now that has a chance at stopping the surge is to stay home as much as possible and to enjoy the holidays with just our immediate household. This means no extended in-person family gatherings. The risks of doing so are just too dangerous. Another spike in cases from the winter holidays will be disastrous for our hospital system and, ultimately, will mean many more people simply won’t be with us in 2021.”
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine recently received emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent COVID-19 and shipped out on Sunday. In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, this is the second COVID-19 vaccine being distributed throughout the country.
Last week, L.A. County received the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine with 82,873 doses distributed to 83 acute care hospitals through the county. A second shipment of 48,750 Pfizer vaccine is anticipated to arrive this week going to healthcare workers at acute care hospitals. Public Health anticipate 116,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine in this first shipment later this week. These vaccines will be used to protect workers and residents at 338 skilled nursing facilities in L.A. County.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health describes the vaccination process in phases and tiers. These are phases adopted by the CDC to assist prioritization while there is a limited supply of vaccine. Phase 1A, Tier 1 are frontline healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities. When vaccinations in all of group Tier 1 are completed, they will move to Tier 2 and Tier 3.
Phase 1A, Tier 2 includes healthcare workers in immediate care facilities and home healthcare service, community health workers, public health field staff, and healthcare workers in primary care clinics, correctional facility clinics and urgent care clinics. Phase 1A, Tier 3 includes healthcare workers in specialty clinics, laboratory workers, dental and other oral health clinics, and pharmacy staff who are not within in the higher-tier settings.
After Phase 1A is completed, the vaccinations process will go to Phase 1B and 1C. Tier 1B are persons 75 years and older and frontline essential workers which includes firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s deputies, teachers and school staff, manufacturing workers, corrections workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, public transit and grocery store workers. Tier 1C are persons who are 65 years or older and individuals 16 years and older with significant underlying health conditions that could create a serious health risk. This also includes additional essential workers not included in Tier 1B.
As of Monday, December 21, the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health confirmed 56 new deaths and 11,271 new cases of COVID-19. There were 5,709 people with COVID-19 hospitalized with 21% of these people in the ICU. Since the beginning of the surge in November, cases have increased 650% with younger people being the largest source of transmission in the county.
Public Health identified 634,849 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 8,931 deaths.
Laboratory confirmed total cases show 634,849 with Los Angeles County showing 604,181 cases, Long Beach with 25,049 cases and Pasadena with 5,619. By race and ethnicity, COVID-19 statistics show: American Indian/Alaska Native with 944; Asian with 21,707; Black with 19,223; Hispanic/Latino with 256,345; Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander with 2,124; White with 56,712; those of other race and ethnicity with 60,392 and 186,734 under investigation.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup completed its review of the federal process and has concluded the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for use in the Western States. The Workgroup provided its confirmation to the Governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington at the beginning of the week.
According to www.ca.gov, the workgroup is made up of nationally acclaimed scientists with expertise in immunization and public health, who agree with the FDA’s actions related to COVID-19 vaccinations. It will continue to evaluate other COVID-19 vaccines as they go through the federal process. This statement was provided from California Governor Gavin Newsom:
“While California is in some of the darkest days of our COVID-19 surge, with too many families grieving lost loved ones, there is light as more vaccines are approved for distribution. With the Moderna vaccine in circulation, we have another tool to fight this deadly disease. I am grateful to the best-in-the-nation scientific experts who lent their time and expertise to ensuring that Californians can have confidence in the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. This major step forward is welcome news to all who have experienced loss and hardship during this pandemic — those we hold in our thoughts this holiday season. Until vaccines are available more widely across the state, it’s critical that all Californians do their part to stop the surge by staying at home and wearing a mask when leaving home for essential work and needs.”
For more information and statistics on COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, please visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/