With public health officials expressing concern about a considerable drop in Los Angeles County’s vaccination rate, all residents in the city of L.A. were expected to get a mobile alert Monday afternoon reminding them shots are available.
The message was sent shortly after 4 p.m. as a citywide emergency alert. It’s meant to spread information on how to get a coronavirus vaccine, which is always free, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a tweet.
An email was also sent out, with information reminding people that the city is distributing the shots to all L.A. County residents age 16 and up, regardless of their immigration status, with no health insurance needed.
For the week ending April 30, 24% fewer vaccine doses were distributed in L.A. County than the week before, “and this is not because we didn’t have supply,” county public health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news briefing Monday.
“Our efforts now need to remain focused on making it as easy as possible for everyone 16 and older to get their vaccine,” she said.
There are more than 700 sites distributing vaccines for free countywide, and many locations are offering shots without an appointment, including eight of the county-run sites. Visit vaccinatelacounty.com to find a location near you.
Currently about 37% of L.A. County residents are fully vaccinated, and 65% of those 65 and older are fully vaccinated.
Addressing those who remain hesitant to get a shot, Ferrer said the vaccines have provided powerful protection while the threat of more contagious variants remains.
“Our ability to maintain low numbers of cases and correspondingly low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths can be attributed in large part to the increased numbers of people vaccinated,” she said, adding that “almost no one” who is fully vaccinated has become infected or been hospitalized with coronavirus.
Higher vaccination rates have also helped prevent outbreaks at nursing homes and schools, officials say.
“We’re hopeful that as more teens playing sports are vaccinated, we’ll see fewer outbreaks in schools and youth sports, and that will translate to fewer cases within our school community and our families,” Ferrer said.
But in the meantime, while those under 16 are ineligible for any vaccine in the U.S., masking and social distancing must be maintained at schools to prevent virus spread.
“When children are indoors or near other people outdoors, children should still be wearing masks,” Ferrer said. “There will be a time in the not-distant future when many of our children will be eligible for the vaccine. And at that time they will be able to safely be unmasked in spaces outdoors and indoors.”
Ferrer also suggested fully vaccinated adults should still wear a mask around their kids, even if they don’t need to, to model good behavior.
“Protecting children from infection and complications, especially those not eligible for vaccinations yet, remains a high priority as we enter the months ahead,” she said.
Five children in L.A. County have died as a result of COVID-19 infection. One was younger than 5 years old, and four were between the ages of 12 and 17. Two of the children died from complications of MIS-C, a rare inflammatory syndrome that can appear after coronavirus infection.
The decreasing vaccination rate comes as L.A. County hopes to advance this week into the yellow tier of the state’s reopening plan, allowing bars without food to reopen indoors and higher capacity at other venues.
Last week, the public health department said L.A. County was on track to move into the yellow tier — the least restrictive under the state system — as early as Wednesday, provided the metrics hold.
On Monday, Ferrer said the county won’t receive an update from the state on its progress until around noon Tuesday — but she is hopeful the county remains on track to advance Wednesday.
If that happens, L.A. County will issue a new health officer order Wednesday with local rules for further reopening under the yellow tier rules, which will take effect Thursday.
On Monday the county reported zero additional deaths for the second day in a row, but those figures are a reflection of reporting delays over the weekend. Still, the average number of deaths reported each day is down 80% since last month, Ferrer said.
“We’re hopeful that deaths will continue to remain very low in the weeks ahead,” she said.
The average number of new cases reported each day is around 306, down 27% since last month. On Monday, 255 new virus cases were reported.
In addition to L.A. County, also on track to advance into the yellow tier next week are San Francisco, Marin and Trinity counties in Northern California. They’re set to join Alpine, Lassen, Mendocino and Sierra counties, which as of Monday were the only four in the least-restrictive tier.
Under the state plan, gyms, movie theaters, amusement parks, sports games and other live events, museums, zoos and aquariums can all increase their capacity.
Bars that don’t serve food can also reopen indoors, as can saunas and steam rooms, with capacity limits.
And while the state initially said theme parks and live venues could only allow in-state visitors, the guidance now says out-of-state visitors may attend if they’re fully vaccinated.
Some venues can also increase capacity further if all attendees are fully vaccinated or test negative for coronavirus. Venues are additionally allowed to create vaccinated-only sections, but face coverings will still be required.
But L.A. County health officials say people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks outside, unless they’re in a crowded setting, mirroring guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.