Supplies of coronavirus vaccines will be increasing in Riverside County thanks to changes to the state’s dispensation program, and the means of distribution will be improving as a private insurance provider steps in to manage the process, according to officials.

“Blue Shield will be taking over the vaccination program and building a provider network,” county Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

She said the insurer had reached an agreement with the California Department of Public Health to coordinate distribution efforts throughout the state, including Riverside County. A schedule for the switch wasn’t specified.

Saruwatari and Riverside University Health System spokesman Dr. Geoffrey Leung both said CDPH decisions regarding shipments of Pfizer and Moderna SARS-Cov-2 doses have created difficulties. The size of shipments has been based on health care worker population, as opposed to actual eligible population, Saruwatari said.

“Our supplies have been limited and unpredictable,” Leung told the board. “We are operating on a week-to-week basis. Sometimes we get more Pfizer, sometimes more Moderna.”

According to Leung, just over 200,000 residents have received the first round of doses. But there are ongoing concerns about completing the two-dose immunization process, and that has created anxiety among recipients, many of whom don’t have a set timeline for when they can obtain their second dose, which is supposed to be within three to six weeks of the first one.

“We are trying our best to continue making improvements,” he said.

The Palm Springs Convention Center will be available as a vaccination clinic at the end of this week, and Leung said there are plans for mobile vaccination clinics to reach remote locations.

As immunizations ramp up, COVID-positive hospitalizations continue to fall, with 755 patients now under care for virus-related complications countywide, compared to 768 Monday, according to RUHS. That figure includes 193 intensive care unit patients, a one-day drop of 16.

Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton said ICU capacity countywide remains at 0%, along with the 11-county Southern California region.

The aggregate number of COVID-19 cases recorded since the pandemic began in early March was 283,525, up 789 from Monday.

According to RUHS, a total of 3,414 virus deaths have been recorded, an increase of 37 from Monday. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates and cover three- to four-week periods.

The number of known active virus cases countywide is 41,975, down 185. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 283,525 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 238,136.

The county is making vaccination of seniors a priority, but others who qualify under the CDPH Phase 1 guidelines include hospital workers, first responders, teachers and some agricultural workers.

The portal to make an appointment for vaccination can be accessed via www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. Anyone who needs assistance may also call the county’s 211 help line.

The overall countywide COVID-19 testing positivity rate is 14.4%, down from 16.6% last week, based on state-adjusted figures.

The county remains in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework, impacting bars, theaters, museums, indoor recreational facilities and wineries — all of which are supposed to remain closed. However wineries, like restaurants, can provide outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.

Most retail outlets are limited to 25% capacity, while hair salons, nail salons and barbershops can operate with safeguards in place.

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