LOS ANGELES, CA — Teachers, law enforcement, and other essential workers will become eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine on March 1 in Los Angeles County, health officials announced Tuesday. The county plans to open up “closed” vaccination sites serving specific sectors of essential workers.
However, the vaccine shortage remains the primary stumbling block on the path to herd immunity. After weeks of eligibility for older residents, only about 38 percent of L.A. County residents 65 and older have received their first shot, leaving almost a million residents yet to begin the process.
And for the second week in a row, Los Angeles County and city officials are reserving the bulk of vaccines to use as second doses for residents who already received their first shot. County health officials anticipate working through the queue of residents requiring their second dose by late February.
According to county health officials, there are nearly 1.5 million additional residents working in education, law enforcement, childcare, and grocery stores who will become eligible for the vaccine in March.
Though a majority of the county’s allotment of vaccines will be used for second doses this week, health care centers, pharmacies serving areas hardest-hit by the pandemic will continue to offer first doses, said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county. Both Los Angeles County and city mass vaccination sites will mainly be used for second doses this week.
While the vaccine shortage remains a frustration for residents and health officials alike, a sense of optimism is spreading as the rate of new coronavirus cases drops dramatically across Los Angeles County.
“We’re in the home stretch. We just have to see it through together,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve now seen that when we come together as a community to protect one another, we can have a significant impact on the spread of this pandemic and can begin safely reopening our schools and our local economy. But there’s still more work to be done. Although our numbers are significantly lower than our winter peak, they still remain concerningly high.”
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 1,260 cases were confirmed Tuesday along with 120 120 COVID-19 deaths.
The numbers are believed to be artificially low due to reporting lags from testing centers due to the long holiday weekend. At the current death rate, the county will have lost a total of 20,000 residents to the coronavirus by the end of the month.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, and Los Angeles County health officials Tuesday urged residents to maintain infection-control measures such as face masks and social distancing, saying the region is in the “home stretch” but needs to reach the finish line.
The urging came on a day the county celebrated its rate of new cases dropping enough to allow elementary schools to resume in-person instruction for students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
“As we wait for more vaccinations, please follow the rules and use all the tools we have to keep ourselves and others as safe as possible from becoming infected,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Any time you’re out of your home and around others, we ask that you keep physical distance and wear a mask at all times. Wash your hands frequently. Please don’t gather with people you don’t live with.
“… Let’s commit to getting to the finish line of this pandemic the strongest way possible, by consistently doing the actions that prevent serious illness and save lives,” she said.
According to state figures, there were 2,855 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with 876 people in intensive care. That number is significantly down from the more than 8,000 patients reported in early January.