Winter storms on the East Coast, which have delayed delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, forced the closure of Orange County’s Disneyland Super POD site Thursday until at least Monday.
It has also delayed the opening of another new distribution point at the Anaheim Convention Center, which was scheduled to open on Wednesday.
The Moderna vaccines were supposed to arrive but didn’t show due to the winter storms 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 primarily uses the Moderna vaccine, and the Anaheim Convention Center is going to be used as a location to provide the Moderna booster shots.
So far, the vaccine shortfall has not affected the sites at Santa Ana College and Soka University, because the Pfizer vaccines are being used there and a shipment of Pfizer vaccines arrived Thursday, Kim said.
“We’ve got just enough Pfizer to last through this weekend, hopefully,” Kim said.
“We’re told (another shipment of Moderna) may arrive sometime next week, but it’s hard to predict the weather,” Kim said.
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, Kim said.
“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, Kim said. The manufacturers say a booster shot can be dispensed up to six weeks late and still be effective, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, told supervisors in a memo.
Meanwhile, the county continues to receive good news about case and positivity rates.
The county on Wednesday reported just 166 new cases of COVID-19, raising the cumulative total to 243,329, but also logged 27 more fatalities, hiking the death toll to 3,644.
“It feels like an anomaly, so I don’t know,” Kim said of the low number of cases reported Wednesday.
He also said that Wednesday was the day officials would have expected to see any bump in cases from Super Bowl gatherings, but they appear to have dodged that bullet.
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 1,060. One death was in December, hiking the death toll that month to 860, and the rest were this month, which now has a death toll of 21.
Of the deaths logged Wednesday, two were skilled nursing facility residents, raising the total to 904 since the pandemic began, and one was an assisted living facility resident, hiking that total to 406.
Hospitalizations, meanwhile, continued a downward trend, with 719 patients being treated for the virus at area medical centers, down from 748 on Tuesday, with the number in intensive care remaining at 235.
The county has 15.4% of its ICU beds available, as well as 57% of its ventilators, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The deadliest day of the pandemic in Orange County was Jan. 5, when 63 people died. The second-highest was Jan. 3, when 61 people died.
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.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do said if the trends continue, the “best-case scenario” is another three to four weeks before the county makes the red tier.
By that time in mid-to-late March, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — which requires only one shot instead of the two-shot regimen for the vaccines currently in use — could be available, Do said.
“At that point, we could really make headway into reopening our economy,” he said.
Kim said the county has “one foot in the red tier and another firmly planted in purple, still.”
The county opened a new vaccine distribution site at Santa Ana College on Wednesday. The site aims to dispense about 1,000 vaccines daily, and up to 1,500 ultimately, Do said.
The county had 1,000 appointments scheduled Wednesday through the county’s website and app, Othena, Kim said.
“It was running really smooth,” Kim said when he visited the campus Wednesday. “Generally, it was taking 15 minutes to get to the vaccine station.”
The site features a “drive-thru” for residents who are disabled, Kim said.
The new vaccination site at the college is focusing mostly on residents from “ZIP codes hardest hit by COVID-19 and primarily in the cities of Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim,” Kim said.
County officials on Wednesday also announced they would open another vaccine distribution point at the Anaheim Convention Center to dole out booster shots for those inoculated with the Moderna vaccine. The new site will be opened Feb. 24 for those inoculated with Moderna to get their booster shot.
After Feb. 24, only the Pfizer vaccine will be administered at Disneyland for the first and booster shots, and the convention center will be where Moderna shots, including boosters, will be administered.
The county has been receiving 35,000 to 40,000 vaccines a week, but if it received more it could open new sites for inoculations, Kim said.
“If I had 100,000 doses a week I would open three additional super PODS within 30 days,” he said.
There is some concern about not knowing what changes will be made in allocations when Blue Shield takes over distributing vaccines to county governments and healthcare providers, Kim said.
“Once Blue Shield takes over, what is their formula?” for allocating vaccines, Kim asked. “We’d like to know.”
Orange County has met the state’s threshold to reopen schools for kindergarten through sixth grade, but most of the schools in the county have already been open for some sort combination of virtual and direct learning.
Anaheim Elementary School District has plans to resume in-person learning March 15. Buena Park School District is phasing in in-person instruction to start on Monday.
The number of infected inmates in the county’s jails was down to 13 with one hospitalized and officials waiting on results from 282 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.