SAN DIEGO (CNS) - As COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expanded to millions of Californians age 50 and older, San Diego County public health officials reported 252 new coronavirus cases.
Thursday's data increased the cumulative number of infections to 270,539. No new deaths were reported, and the death toll remains at 3,555.
Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 increased to 196 from Wednesday's reported 172. The number of patients in intensive care units remained 63.
Of the 16,441 tests reported Thursday, 2% returned positive. The 14- day running average as tallied by the county is 2.3%. The county's data as reported by the state on Tuesday is 2.1%.
Vaccines were made available to everyone in the state age 50 and older beginning Thursday, then will be available to everyone 16 and up on April 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last Thursday.
"We know some San Diegans are anxious to get vaccinated, but we're asking people to be patient," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. "As we get more vaccines, it will be easier to make an appointment and get vaccinated."
More than 1.88 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to San Diego County, according to the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency, and more than 956,216 San Diegans -- or 35.6% -- have received at least one dose of the two doses Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. A total of 576,336 people in the county -- or 21.4% -- are fully vaccinated.
These numbers include both county residents and those who work in San Diego County. The state's goal is to vaccinate 75% of people 16 and older to achieve herd immunity -- around 2.02 million San Diegans.
According to San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, the county saw an increase of around 25% in vaccine doses this past week, and he predicted numbers would continue to climb as the state prepares to make everyone over the age of 16 eligible to receive a vaccine.
Fletcher said the county has a total capacity of 35,000 shots delivered each day, but was only administering around 12,000. He said local clinics' surge capacity could exceed 50,000 shots each day.
Because overall cases remain low -- 4.9 per 100,000 San Diegans as of Tuesday -- Fletcher believes the county could enter the state's orange tier by as early as next week. Such a move to the orange, or moderate, tier in California's four-tiered reopening blueprint depends on the state getting 4 million vaccines to its most vulnerable quartile of residents and subsequently changing how the metric is measured. Fletcher said 3.4 million have been administered to that quartile as of Thursday.
Churches across San Diego that serve predominantly Black congregations are expanding COVID-19 testing ahead of Easter celebrations this weekend, according to an announcement Wednesday by the African American Community Empowerment Council.
Testing at participating San Diego churches, supported by the county health department, Tabernacle Community Development Corp. and the empowerment council, will start Thursday and be free through June 30 and available regardless of insurance status.
More information about the testing effort is available at www.aacec-cal.org.