LA County officials urge vaccination before COVID-19 variants gain foothold

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The five major counties in the greater Los Angeles area are now all in the state's less-restrictive orange tier, allowing some businesses to reopen and others to expand their capacity.

Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties made the move Wednesday to join Los Angeles and Orange counties.

That means restaurants, houses of worship, and theaters are among the venues that can increase their capacity to 50% indoors.

To fully reopen quicker, health officials are urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

County health officials say it's especially urgent to get vaccinated now before the more-contagious variants of the virus become more prevalent in the county.

On Wednesday, county health officials said for the first they had detected variants that originate in Brazil and South Africa. So far only one case of the South African variant and three of the Brazilian have been found. But they are concerning because both are more easily transmissible and may be more resistant to treatment.

They noted the county lab only tests a small number of samples for variants, so it is likely there are more present in the county's population.

County labs have previously also detected the UK variant and California variant. In fact, among 70 specimens analyzed this past week, 64% were the UK variant and 20% were the California variant - meaning it is likely that more-transmissible variants are present in significant numbers in the county's population.

"The timing of the vaccination clinics here today and what will be another in a week or two couldn't come at a better time," said Dr. Paul Simon, county health's chief science officer.

"We are in a critical race to get as many people as possible vaccinated, before the coronavirus variants gain a deeper foothold in our communities."

Pop-up vaccination sites are opening in places like downtown Los Angeles and Chinatown to help bring easier access to shots to vulnerable populations as well as frontline workers like restaurant staff.

Officials say they now have vaccinated about 3 million people, at least with first doses, throughout Los Angeles County.

They say they need to at least double that number over the next several months.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says they are getting enough vaccines and there is enough capacity.

Very quickly however they might not have enough people making appointments for all the vaccines that will be available. That's why they are urging people to get vaccinated.

"We want you to know you need to get your vaccine and we will help you get it done," Garcetti said. "We're making it easier to get this free shot that will protect you, will protect your families."
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