Winter storms on the East Coast, which have delayed delivery of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide, forced the closure of Orange County’s Disneyland Super POD site Thursday until at least Monday.
The weather-caused supply shortage also may delay next Wedneday’s scheduled opening of another new distribution point at the Anaheim Convention Center.
A Moderna vaccine shipment that had been expected Tuesday was delayed due to severe weather conditions in Michigan and Massachusetts, where the medicine is shipped from, said Orange County CEO Frank Kim.
“It’s affecting other counties, too,” Kim said. “We’re just at the front end of it.”
The Disney site has been primarily using the Moderna vaccine. After Feb. 24, only the Pfizer vaccine will be administered at Disneyland for the first and second shots, and the Anaheim Convention Center will be where Moderna shots, including boosters, will be administered.
So far, the vaccine shortfall has not affected the sites at Santa Ana College, which opened Wednesday, and Soka University in Aliso Viejo, because Pfizer vaccines are being used there and a shipment of 14,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines arrived Thursday, Kim said.
“We’ve got just enough Pfizer to last through this weekend, hopefully,” Kim said.
County officials can keep the Santa Ana College open through Saturday, but it’s regularly scheduled to be closed Sundays and Mondays. Soka University will be closed Sunday.
“We’re told (another shipment of Moderna) may arrive sometime next week, but it’s hard to predict the weather,” Kim said.
Even minus big storms, the vaccine arrivals have often been unpredictable, Kim said.
“We don’t know typically until the night before when you get a tracking number for a shipment,” he said. “Until you get that tracking number, then you don’t know if you’re going to get it.”
The county will prioritize booster shots at this time, Kim said, noting that county officials are hoping to get a “double dose” of vaccines next week. But there is some concern the poor weather back east could affect the delivery of Pfizer vaccines, as well, Kim said.
“When we didn’t get the (Moderna) vaccine Tuesday, we were hoping to borrow vaccine,” but could not find anyone with doses to lend, Kim said. “When it wasn’t available to borrow, we had to make the decision to close.”
Kim said the state requires counties to dispense the vaccines as quickly as possible, so any interruption in the delivery will affect supply.
“We’re operating under thin margins in terms of vaccine inventory,” Kim said.
County officials do have enough for Moderna booster shots that will be dispensed through mobile PODS, Kim said.
Anyone due a booster shot should not worry about being a little late, he said. The manufacturers say a booster shot can be dispensed up to six weeks late and still be effective, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Meanwhile, the county continues to receive good news about case and positivity rates, reporting just 336 newly diagnosed COVID-19 infections on Thursday. It appears that the county dodged a feared bump in cases from Super Bowl gatherings, Kim said.
The HCA also logged 41 more fatalities, hiking the death toll to 3,685. The death reports are staggered because they come from a variety of sources and are not always logged immediately.
Most of the fatalities occurred in January, raising the death toll in the pandemic’s deadliest month to 1,094. December’s death toll stands at 860, and the rest were this month, bringing the number of February deaths to 27 so far.
Of the deaths logged Thursday, 10 were skilled nursing facility residents, raising the total to 914 since the pandemic began, and two were assisted living facility residents, hiking that total to 408.
The deadliest day of the pandemic in Orange County was Jan. 5, when 64 people died. The second-highest was Jan. 3, when 62 people died.
Hospitalizations, meanwhile, continued a downward trend, with 663 patients being treated for the virus at area medical centers, down from 719 on Wednesday, with the number in intensive care dropping from 235 to 230.
The county has 14.9% of its ICU beds available, as well as 58% of its ventilators, according to the HCA,
The county’s adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 people dropped from 29.7 last week to 20.7 on Tuesday, and the test positivity rate on a seven-day average, with a seven-day lag, fell from 9.4% to 7.8%, which meets the criteria for the red tier of the state’s four-tiered business reopening plan.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, declined from 12.4% last week to 10.7%.
The numbers for the state’s color-coded tier framework are updated on Tuesdays.
To move to the less-restrictive red tier from the purple tier, the county has to improve to 4 to 7 new daily cases per 100,000 and a 5% to 8% positivity rate with a health equity quartile at 5.3% to 8%. And the county would be required to maintain the metrics for two consecutive weeks.
The new vaccine distribution site at Santa Ana College aims to dispense about 1,000 vaccines daily, and up to 1,500 ultimately, with a focus on residents from “ZIP codes hardest hit by COVID-19 and primarily in the cities of Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim,” Kim said.
The number of infected inmates in the county’s jails remained at 13 with one hospitalized and officials waiting on results from 27 tests.
County attorneys at a court hearing on Tuesday said 186 inmates 65 and older or who have underlying health conditions, making them especially vulnerable to COVID-19, have been vaccinated. Another 110 declined shots.