COVID Update – March 9

The latest roundup of COVID related news.

Santa Clara County Opts Out of State Vaccine Program
Santa Clara County has rejected the state’s new centralized vaccine distribution program administered by Blue Shield, which is slated to complete its transition period later this month. 

“A statewide third-party administrator clearly cannot adequately address the needs of our local community,” County Executive Jeff Smith told news outlets Monday. “We don’t need more bureaucracy limiting access to vaccine, we just need more vaccine,” Smith said.

The main goals of the enhanced network are to increase the State’s capacity for the delivery of vaccines, from approximately 1 million doses per week in January to 4 million doses per week by the end of March, to ensure they are equitably administered, and fully vaccinating 25 million people by this summer.

“As the federal government prepares to ramp up the availability of vaccines, we are aiming to build a provider network here in California that is only constrained by the number of vaccines we receive,” said Paul Markovich, president & CEO of Blue Shield of California in a February statement announcing the program. “Our goal is to overcome this pandemic and save lives, and by working together with healthcare providers, local health jurisdictions, state public health officials and others, we can accomplish that daunting task.”

The state’s My Turn online system will serve as the central site for all Californians to sign up to get vaccinations through the state’s vaccination providers, who will in turn use the MyTurn portal to schedule appointments and reporting data back to the state.

About 40 federally qualified health centers, 28 hospitals, four large medical groups, three pharmacies and three tribal clinics have signed on, according to reports.

Santa Clara County has said it has been distributing the COVID-19 vaccine from the start, ensuring equitable outreach to socially disadvantaged communities.

So far, more than 338,500 Santa Clara County residents over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, about 10 percent of the population age 16 and over, according to the County’s website. The County reports that these numbers are underrepresented due to issues with the California Immunization Registry data system.

State’s Vaccine-for-Volunteering Program Launches
The State has launched a volunteer program for individuals to assist with vaccination efforts in their communities.  Through My Turn Volunteer, people can register as a volunteer at a local vaccine distribution site. California is offering vaccine eligibility as a community health worker in return for four hours of volunteer service.  The program website also has links to toolkits with materials, videos, posters and graphics to help spread the word.

More Local Counties Join Red Tier
Neighboring counties of Santa Cruz and Alameda joined Santa Clara County in the state’s Red Tier effective Tuesday, while counties to the southeast including Monterey and San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced remain in the purple tier.

CDC: It’s OK to hug the grandkids
The Center for Disease Control announced Monday that fully vaccinated individuals can now safely visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors, without wearing a mask. They can also gather with one other non-vaccinated household, provided there are no increased risk factors, but caution is still advised to protect the unvaccinated.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second shot in a two-dose vaccine, like Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or two weeks after their shot in a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Even fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions in public places, including wearing a mask, staying socially distant, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.

Full CDC guidance is available here.