In another sign of reduced demand for COVID-19 vaccinations, Los Angeles County announced Thursday it will close its four large-scale vaccine sites in coming weeks and transition them to smaller, community sites.
“We remain committed on getting vaccine into neighborhoods where we can continue to reach people who may have limited ability or time to get to large vaccination sites,” according to a statement from the county Department of Public Health.
The closures will begin Monday, when the county-run site at Cal State Northridge will shut down, with operations shifting to a smaller location at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino. According to the county, people who received their first dose at CSUN will get their second dose at the Balboa site. Residents in need of transportation to the site can call 833-540-0473 to arrange a free ride.
The other large-scale sites run by the county — at the Forum in Inglewood, the Pomona Fairplex and the county Office of Education in Downey — will close at the end of the day June 13. Beginning June 15, smaller sites will be opened at:
— Ted Watkins Memorial Park, 1335 E. 103rd St., Los Angeles;
— Commerce Senior Citizens Center, 2555 Commerce Way; and
— Norwalk Arts & Sports Complex, 13000 Clarkdale Ave.
Those three sites will operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
“It is clear that we need to double-down on efforts to make it as easy as possible to get a vaccine and build trust in COVID-19 vaccines,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Many residents have important questions that need to be answered and their concerns are valid. Our job is to continue to be transparent and honest as we share information on vaccine safety and efficacy.”
Ferrer said Wednesday that the slowed pace of vaccinations means it will take the county until late August to reach the target of getting 80% of the population at least partially vaccinated.
“We’re currently administering about 100,000 vaccinations to L.A. County residents each week, and have about 1.1 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one vaccine,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a virtual media briefing on Wednesday.
“If we keep vaccinating at the same rate we’ve been going for the past two weeks, it will take us until late August to reach this goal. And obviously we would like for this to happen sooner, so we’re hoping with easier access and more opportunities to get questions answered about vaccine safety, we can increase the number of doses we’re administering each week.”
At the peak of the vaccination effort, about 500,000 doses of vaccine were being administered weekly in the county.
According to figures released by Ferrer, roughly 64% of county residents age 16 and older have received at least one dose so far, while roughly 53% of residents in that age bracket are fully vaccinated.
The Black and Latino/a communities continue to lag behind the rest of the population in vaccinations, particularly among younger age groups. Most recent figures showed that just 21% of Black residents and 32% of Latino/a residents age 16-17 have received at least one dose so far. That compares to 51% of white residents and 67% of Asian residents aged 16-17.
Among 18- to 29-year-olds, just 24% of Black residents have received at least one dose and 37% of Latino/a residents. Among white residents in that group, the rate is 54%, and among Asians, it’s 70%.
The low vaccination rates have translated to higher rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths among Black and Latino/a residents in recent weeks, Ferrer said.
Beginning Friday and continuing until next Thursday, people aged 18 and older who get vaccinated at any county- or city-run vaccination site, or at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center sites, will be entered for a chance to win season tickets to the Dodgers or the Los Angeles Football Club. The contest is open to anyone receiving a first dose, or people receiving a second dose who bring another person with them to be vaccinated.
The state of California, meanwhile, is offering financial motivation to encourage people to get vaccinated. On Friday, the state will hold the first of two planned drawings, awarding $50,000 in cash to 15 people who have been vaccinated. A second drawing will be held June 11 to pick another 15 winners. On June 15, the date the state is scheduled to lift the majority of its COVID-19 restrictions, the state will draw the names of 10 vaccinated residents, each of whom will receive $1.5 million.
Regardless of the slowed pace of vaccinations, Los Angeles County still fully intends to align with the state when it lifts the vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions on business activity and public gatherings on June 15.
Ferrer said the county does plan to issue some industry-specific guidance for private companies that may want to maintain safety precautions for workers and customers.
The board of the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or Cal-OSHA, was meeting Thursday to consider enacting continued workplace regulations that will remain in effect regardless of the June 15 lifting of other COVID rules.
The proposed Cal-OSHA rules would continue to require face coverings at all indoor work sites, unless everyone in the room is fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms of COVID-19. Similar rules would apply to outdoor worksites.
As of late Thursday afternoon, the board had not yet acted on the measure. The board heard more than seven hours of public comment.
The county on Thursday reported nine more COVID-19 deaths, lifting the overall death toll to 24,364.
Another 228 infections were announced by the county, pushing the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,244,459.
According to state figures, there were 253 244 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID, up from 244 on Wednesday, with 43 people in intensive care, up from 42 a day ago.