California's equity focus causing some vaccine delays, health secretary says

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly was peppered with questions about the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout Tuesday, as many wondered why the state has only administered about a quarter of available doses.

One thing slowing down the process, Ghaly acknowledged: the state's focus on equity.

"I think part of the process that we have set up here in California (is) really thoughtful, trying to focus on risk and exposure and equity," Ghaly said.

That focus has "led to some delays in getting vaccine out into our communities."

"I don't want to speak for South Dakota, North Dakota or West Virginia," he said, naming three states who have been working quickly to distribute vaccine doses as they arrive. "But I will say that certain states that have put a great deal of effort into coming up with their priority groups, watching how we keep a keen eye on equity, have been in the same place where California is."

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Ghaly said he understood the public's anxiety about the slow and steady vaccine rollout.

"We know that every Californian is wondering, 'We get your tiers, we get your phases, but where do I fit in?' So more news on that soon," he previewed.

The state has a goal of vaccinating 1 million people by this weekend. See California's progress and what vaccine tier you might fit into here.

California also crossed a sad milestone Tuesday: more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths reported in the state. Ghaly called it a "sad and important milestone."

Northern California's remaining ICU capacity notably dropped from 35% to about 17% on Tuesday, putting it at risk of joining the stay-at-home order. It's the only region of California not currently affected.

The latest ICU capacity numbers from around the state are:
  • Northern California: 17.6%
  • Bay Area: 4.7%
  • Greater Sacramento: 9.7%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 0%
  • Southern California: 0%

Ghaly was also expected to give four-week projections for regional ICU capacities, but didn't reveal them during the virtual press conference. That figure is what determines if a region must stay under modified lockdown. Ghaly said those projections would be announced by Wednesday.

California recorded an additional 36,487 cases and an additional 548 deaths over the past 24 hours.
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