California to ease tier guidelines for counties based on vaccine equity

Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 11:14 AM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 21:30:02-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California will start to loosen the requirements for counties to qualify for the next tier of reopening once the state has reached two million vaccinations in vulnerable areas.

Thursday, State Department of Public Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said reopening tier guidelines would be tied to health equity in order to make sure that California's hardest-hit communities receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Once California has delivered a minimum of two million vaccines to the hardest-hit quarter of the state, the threshold for counties to move from the purple to red tier would drop from 7 cases per 100,000 people to 10 cases per 100,000 people.

RELATED: In-Depth: San Diego County's 'vaccine gap' concerns minority leaders

Currently, the state says it has delivered about 1.6 million doses to disproportionately-impacted communities. Ghaly said he believes two million vaccinations will be reached in the next week or two.

Ghaly said the new designation will not impact the next group of eligible recipients, which includes those 16 to 64 with high-risk conditions and disabilities.

"We must make sure the vaccines that arrive in the communities are reserved for those who live in those communities. Because sending it there is one thing but making sure it gets into the arms of the most vulnerable in those communities is a whole other," Ghaly said.

Once vulnerable communities have reached four million vaccinations, the state says more restrictions would ease in order for counties to move to the orange and yellow tiers of reopening.

The state uses the Healthy Places Index (HPI) to identify which communities are most at-risk of infection and spreading the virus. The index provides overall scores and data to predict life expectancy and compares community health conditions.

According to public health officials, 40% of California's COVID-19 cases and deaths have occurred in the lowest quartile of the HPI.

Public health officials say the state will allocate 40% of its vaccines to its hardest-hit communities, reserve appointments for members of these communities, and increase funding to cover start-up costs for safety net providers and navigation assistance in order to ensure an equitable rollout of vaccines.

"With more vaccines online and administered, California is now in a position to take steps toward ending this pandemic by keeping our guard up and by vaccinating those Californians most at risk and most exposed," said Governor Gavin Newsom. "Vaccinating our most impacted communities, across our state, is the right thing to do and the fastest way to end this pandemic."

This new metric would mean San Diego County can move into the red tier sooner, which would reopen some indoor operations. Currently, the county's case rate 10.8 per 100,000.

Some indoor operations that would be able to resume with modifications include:

  • Retail at 50% capacity
  • Shopping malls at 50% capacity, with closed common areas and reduced food court capacity
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums with 25% capacity
  • Gyms and fitness centers at 10% capacity
  • Restaurants at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer

As of Wednesday, San Diego County had vaccinated about 22.1% of its residents and fully vaccinated 10.7% of its residents, totaling about 945,859 total doses administered. When it comes to the county's demographics of vaccine distribution, doses administered included:

  • White: 47.5%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 16.9%
  • Asian: 11.3%
  • Other race: 10.9%
  • Race and Ethnicity unknown: 10.1%
  • Black or African-American: 2.2%
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander: 0.5%
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.5%