With statewide distribution of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine doses underway, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that California is getting another 393,900 doses from Pfizer next week.
The state kicked off its vaccination campaign with health workers at Kaiser Permenante Los Angeles Medical Center getting the first shots Monday, the day vaccines arrived at four locations throughout the state.
Delivery trucks fanned out across California, delivering thousands of vaccines to hospitals equipped with ultra-low temperature freezers. The goal is to get the shots from the state’s initial batch of 327,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to 24 hospitals Tuesday, then another five facilities the next day, Newsom said.
With next week’s Pfizer delivery and another 672,000 doses anticipated from Moderna, California inches closer towards the goal of administering a little over 2.1 million shots by the end of December, the governor said.
During the first phase of the vaccine rollout, the state will be prioritizing high-risk health care workers and those in skilled nursing facilities while vaccine supplies are scarce.
This phase will cover roughly 3 million Californians, according to the governor.
In the next stage, the state aims to vaccinate about 8 million residents, Newsom said, adding that teachers, farmworkers and grocery workers have come up in discussions to decide who will be prioritized.
In a state of 40 million, the initial batches will only inoculate a small percentage of residents. And with a long way to go before mass vaccination, health officials have been urging residents to stick to wearing masks and avoiding gatherings.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel. And that means we’re going through perhaps the most intense and urgent moment since the beginning of this pandemic,” Newsom said, pointing to this week’s record-breaking infection numbers.
Most alarming is the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, he said.
There were 14,283 people hospitalized across the state Tuesday — a 68% increase in just two weeks.
Current ICU capacity in the Southern California region plummeted to 1.7% as of Tuesday morning.
And as hospitals fill up, Newsom says “staffing is the biggest issue.”
In the last seven days, an average of 163 Californians have died of COVID-19 daily — a startling number compared to the seven-day average of 41 deaths one month ago.
“Think about, if we continue down the path we’re on, what that January 14th number may look like if we do not do what we need to do,” Newsom said.
With the COVID-19 death rate rising, Newsom painted a grim picture: California has had to order 5,000 additional body bags that are being distributed in Los Angeles, San Diego and Inyo counties.
Statewide, there are refrigerated storage units standing by outside hospitals, Newsom said.
“That should be sobering,” the governor said. “I don’t want people to scare folks. But this is a deadly disease and we need to be mindful of where we are in this current journey together to the vaccine. We are not at the finish line yet.”