As pandemic hits new milestones, vaccination efforts expand in SoCal

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The nation and Southern California region continue to hit new grim milestones in the COVID-19 pandemic even as encouraging reports emerge of additional vaccine eligibility and a small dip in hospitalizations.

The nation has now passed 400,000 deaths from coronavirus, nearly a year after the first case was documented in the United States. And the state of California is close to reporting 34,000 deaths.

But at the same time Southern California counties are stepping up vaccination efforts, opening up new vaccination sites and expanding eligibility.

The state has previously said vaccination can now be opened to residents 65 and older.

But some counties, including Los Angeles and Ventura, initially said they weren't ready to expand eligibility because they were still working to vaccinate health-care workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities, who were given top priority.

That is changing this week.

Ventura County on Tuesday announced it will be opening up vaccinations to those 75 and older. The county said it does not yet have the available supply to offer to those between 65 and 75.

"Effective immediately those 75 and older can register to be vaccinated in Ventura County," the county said in a statement released Tuesday. "You must live in Ventura County, show proof of residency and proof of age upon arrival at the appointment."

Registration for Ventura County appointments is available here. A hotline for telephone appointments will be set up later this week.

Los Angeles County is also stepping up vaccination efforts, opening five new super sites on Tuesday and expanding eligibility to those who are 65 and older.

California's health and human services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says nearly 22,000 Californians remain hospitalized from COVID-19 - about 7,500 of them in Los Angeles County. But there is some hopeful news, he said. The number of new hospital admissions has dropped over the last two days - from an average of 3,500 a day to about 2,500 now.

"These are rays of hope shining through, with the hospitals coming down some," Ghaly said. "And that overall curve of our case numbers beginning to flatten."

Still, Southern California has very little available ICU capacity and therefore must remain under the state's stricter stay-at-home orders, as well as the Bay Area, greater Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley.

Los Angeles County on Tuesday opened five new vaccination super sites, in addition to the one opened at Dodger Stadium last week.

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Five vaccination super sites were up and running in Los Angeles County on Tuesday. Health care workers and those who live or work at nursing homes were still the only ones who qualify for the shots. Though senior citizens should be able to make appointments for the vaccine later in the week.

The sites are at the Forum in Inglewood, Cal State Northridge, Magic Mountain, the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey and the Fairplex in Pomona.

Many health-care workers and first responders with appointments showed up to get their second doses.

Los Angeles County is also this week opening up vaccine eligibility to residents 65 and older. The county had initially said it hadn't finished with the top-priority health-care workers yet, but the Board of Supervisors order the county health department to expand the eligibility.

Appointments can be made through the website or for those without computer access by calling (833)540-0473.

Those in that group were urged to be patient as vaccine supplies are still limited.

The county website to make appointments was reporting problems on Tuesday, possibly with an overload of people trying to register. The county said the state website was experiencing similar technical issues.

"Our COVID-19 vaccination hotline and website are fielding thousands of calls and users, and experiencing technical difficulties. We appreciate your patience as we work to fix these technical issues," the county tweeted.
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