While state public health officials expect a COVID-19 vaccine distribution to begin soon, the Southern California region intensive care unit capacity continued to drop.
Food and Drug Administration officials granted emergency authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Friday evening, after receiving a vote of confidence from a U.S. government advisory panel Thursday. The move could prompt distribution to California as early as Sunday, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“We learned the FDA just approved the emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine, which means there’s 327,600 doses of the vaccine on their way to the state of California,” said Newsom in a video posted to his official Twitter account on Saturday. “We’re expecting distribution as early as (Sunday).”
As of Saturday, officials also considered the likelihood the state’s regional stay-at-home order could extend past Dec. 28, if the region’s intensive care unit availability remains under 15%. As of Saturday, the capacity dropped to 5.3%.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials outlined a vaccine distribution plan during a meeting Thursday, saying the county is expected to receive 83,000 doses of the vaccine when approved.
The initial vaccine supplies are expected to be limited, so a phased roll-out is planned, with initial priority expected to be given to health care workers, followed by COVID-19 vaccine distribution to residents of long-term care facilities.
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital was approved to administer the vaccine, according to Dr. Larry Kidd, the hospital’s senior vice president and chief clinical officer, and more information will be made available within the coming days.
County Statement on Ruling Against Outdoor Dining Ban
L.A. County Public Health officials also released a statement Saturday, following a court ruling against the county’s ban on outdoor dining.
“The ruling incorrectly analyzed Public Health’s decision-making process that went into its Nov. 25 order, which included a temporary suspension of outdoor dining at restaurants and a return to takeout and delivery only,” officials said in a prepared statement. “Public Health professionals always, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have the obligation to create effective interventions that prevent and control the spread of communicable disease. When making its order, Public Health knew that new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within the county were beginning to surge.”
The California Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit against Public Health after the Nov. 25 health officer order closed outdoor dining and required restaurants to only offer delivery or takeout options.
“Restaurants and their employees have faced tremendous hardships because of the county’s ban on outdoor dining, which followed a period of months during which public health officials encouraged outdoor activities, and restaurants invested in expanding and establishing outdoor spaces in order to serve their guests safely,” said a previous statement from the California Restaurant Association.
Public Health officials added in their response that although the court ruled the ban on outdoor dining will end Dec. 16, the county is still under the state’s regional stay-at-home order, which will keep outdoor dining at restaurants suspended until at least Dec. 28.