Los Angeles continues to struggle to secure enough vaccine doses for those eligible in the county, but L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says he expects widespread vaccine availability by summer.
Currently concerns about shortages remain, even as officials continue to expand vaccine access. On Wednesday, L.A. County health officials began offering vaccines to janitorial and custodial workers, and people with certain health conditions and disabilities will become eligible March 15.
But in a coronavirus briefing Wednesday evening, Garcetti told Angelenos to “prepare for a moment” when vaccine availability is widespread.
“I think we’ll see many of these tiers quickly fall down,” he said. “In other words, in coming weeks, probably no later than two months from now, everybody who wants a vaccine can get one.”
The county said it received its largest shipment of doses yet this week, but supply is expected to tighten in the coming weeks due to a shortage of Johnson & Johnson shots.
The only groups eligible in the county remain those 65 and older, nursing home residents and certain groups of essential workers. (Click here for more information on who can get a shot and how to schedule an appointment.)
Garcetti’s briefing Wednesday came as the region prepares for broader reopening on the anniversary of the first COVID-19 death in L.A. County.
The county currently remains in the most-restrictive purple tier of reopening, but it has met the metrics required for the red tier and is expected to advance in the state system next Wednesday, provided test positivity and case rates stay below the threshold.
Under the state tier system counties in the red are allowed to open indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms with limited capacity. But L.A. County health officials say they are still drawing up their reopening guidelines, which can differ from the state’s.
The mayor lauded the tentative agreement reached to open L.A. Unified classrooms for in-person learning by mid-April, as well as the House sending an amended pandemic relief package to President Joe Biden’s desk.
The $1.9 trillion bill includes $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans. Garcetti said it would also send $1.9 billion in aid to L.A. County, and $1.35 billion to the city of L.A. “to help pay off those bills.”
“We fought so hard, so long for this landmark legislation, which does much more than just respond to the crisis of COVID,” he said. “It is also the most progressive piece of legislation, one of the boldest things we’ve seen in this country, since the Great Depression and [President Franklin D. Roosevelt].”
Also on Wednesday, COVID-19 was named the leading cause of death in L.A. County, claiming twice as many lives in the past year as heart disease, the previous leading cause of death.
But officials say the county is still on the right track toward better containing the virus. The daily increase in new cases is at its lowest point since last April, with an average of less than 700 cases a day.
Hospitalizations and deaths are also down, although the average number of daily fatalities remains above what it was in early November.
“March still is full of risks,” Garcetti said. “This is a fragile moment still as this virus mutates, and hopefully our vaccinations keep up ahead of how this virus exploits our weaknesses, exploits our changing behavior.”