How soon will LA County reach herd immunity?

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County is now eligible to advance into a less-restrictive tier on the state's color-coded reopening system, but it will wait until Monday to make the move and some rules will be stricter than state guidelines.

As the county prepares for further reopenings, vaccine shortages remains a problem. But county health leaders say if it can average roughly 500,000 doses a week, it will take just 12 weeks to get 80% of people 16 and older vaccinated - a threshold Dr. Anthony Fauci says is required for herd immunity to the virus.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Wednesday expressed confidence that vaccine supplies will continue to improve, with the county projecting that a total of 700,000 doses per week will be dispatched to the county by the end of April.

"If L.A. County receives on average 576,000 doses a week, starting in April, we can expect to reach 80% vaccine coverage for people 16 and older in just 12 more weeks," Ferrer said. "Reaching such a milestone is possible with increased allocations, and it will dramatically change the trajectory of the pandemic here in L.A. County."

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This week, however, Ferrer discussed that demand exceeded supply.

"While the number of doses we received increased, the lack of supply does remain our biggest obstacle, as the county could have easily booked almost 300,000 additional appointments this week, but we didn't because we didn't have enough vaccine," Ferrer said.

Ferrer said even though L.A. County residents 50 or older will be eligible for vaccines starting Thursday, there won't be enough shots for everyone.

Meanwhile, with the county gradually easing its COVID-19 safety protocols, the doors to the Natural History Museum open to the public Thursday with limited capacity, and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum reopens next Thursday.

The move to the orange tier means more capacity at retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants and other attractions, along with an array of other adjustments, including the reopening -- outdoors only -- of bars that don't serve food.

Ferrer said a revised Health Officer Order will be posted on Friday so business owners will be aware of all the new guidelines and have the weekend to adjust their operations accordingly. While the county is largely aligning with state guidelines for the orange tier, it will have some stricter requirements.

Most notably, bars will be limited to outdoor table service only, operating only from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a required 8-foot distance between outdoor tables. Although state guidelines allow a lifting of all capacity restrictions on retail establishments in the orange tier, Los Angeles County will impose a 75% limit for grocery stores and other retail operations, while "strongly" recommending they remain at 50% capacity until April 15 to allow time for more workers to get vaccinated.

In accordance with state guidelines, the county will raise the capacity limit from 25% to 50% for movie theaters, churches, museums, zoos, aquariums and restaurants. Fitness center capacity will be increased from 10% to 25%. Card rooms and family entertainment centers can resume indoor operations at 25% capacity.

Breweries and wineries will be able to offer indoor service at 25% capacity. Breweries, wineries and bars will all be allowed to turn on their television sets outdoors, but live entertainment remains prohibited.

It was unclear if the county will continue to ban restaurants from turning on their television sets -- a requirement imposed to prevent gatherings of sports fans.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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