Riverside County expects to start the next stage of its coronavirus vaccination plan — which will include people over 74, teachers and law enforcement — “as soon as next week,” Riverside County Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said Tuesday, Jan. 12.
So far, at least 28,708 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Riverside County, Saruwatari told the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.
Under the state’s distribution plan, which Riverside and San Bernardino counties are using, the next phase — Phase 1b — starts with a tier that includes persons aged 75 and older and frontline essential workers in education, law enforcement, grocery stores, farms and emergency services.
Next in line — Tier 2 of Phase 1b — includes persons 65-74 and frontline essential workers in manufacturing, transportation, facilities and services, as well as incarcerated and homeless people.
San Bernardino County is starting to vaccinate people in Tier 3 of Phase 1A, which includes specialty clinics and dental health clinics, before reaching Phase 1B, spokesman David Wert said Tuesday.
The county has received 75,900 first doses received and administered 38,770 administered, and is on track to vaccinate an additional 26,940 people by the end of this week, Wert said. It has received another 43,625 doses for second doses.
“Moving further will depend on incoming supplies, which are unpredictable,” Wert said.
Riverside County’s number is likely several thousand higher than what can be reported, because health providers have 72 hours to record that they’ve vaccinated someone, Saruwatari said.
So far, the limiting factor in vaccinating more people has been the availability of the vaccine, she said. The county gets Pfizer and Moderna vaccines from the state based on its population, and has received enough to vaccinate the same portion of its residents as other California counties, she said.
“Once we have enough vaccine in hand to cover those that are in Phase 1a, we will be moving to Phase 1b even if everyone in Phase 1a hasn’t been vaccinated,” Saruwatari said. “They will still be eligible to be vaccinated.”
The county has had a problem with people showing up to vaccination appointments when they aren’t yet eligible to receive a vaccine, she said. Those people then have to be sent away without a shot, she said.
“That leads to frustration by them but also frustration by people who cannot get the appointment that should be able to,” Saruwatari said. “… We just ask for the public to register when they are actually eligible according to the phase breakdowns on the website.”
However, the time slots aren’t wasted if someone ineligible comes to an appointment, she said.
“We do have a waiting list, so we vaccinate many more than we have slots for at our vaccination clinics,” Saruwatari said.
During the same update, Bruce Barton, the county’s emergency management director, said an “unprecedented hospital surge” continued, with county hospitals at 91% of their licensed capacity and six hospitals in the county at or above 100% of licensed capacity.
Intensive care units are at 133% of capacity, or 161% when looking just at use of adult ICUs, he said.
“Going through the numbers just doesn’t capture the current environment our healthcare providers are going through,” he said. “It is absolutely remarkable that in the midst of this unprecedented surge, they are continuing to be resolute in taking care of our residents and visitors and finding new ways to expand capacities and sometimes make decisions that none of us as medical providers or people in the ‘taking care of people’ business thought we’d have to do.”