San Diego County Remains In Purple Tier Despite COVID-19 Improvements
Speaker 1: 00:00 Despite falling rates of new COVID cases and hospitalizations San Diego did not make it into the less restrictive red tier when County status was updated. Tuesday, our case rate was still too high. The number of tests too low to allow lifting restrictions on indoor dining and other purple tier safety measures. But health officials are now hinting that the guidelines for the state's COVID tier system could soon change because of increasing vaccinations County officials say about 10% of San Diego ones have already been fully vaccinated, even though the problem of low vaccine availability remains. Johnnie Mae is Paul Sisson health reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. And Paul, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. How far off were we from getting from purple, Speaker 2: 00:50 As you may recall, this is this arcane measure of cases per a hundred thousand residents. Uh, we've we're at 10.8 cases per a hundred thousand and we need to be at no more than seven. So we're just a 3.8 cases to find what Speaker 1: 01:05 Other counties did make it into the red. Speaker 2: 01:08 Uh, we saw many of our neighbors to the far North and including, uh, Napa and San Francisco, uh, as well as San Louis Obispo. What's interesting in San Luis Obispo is they actually had more cases per a hundred thousand and then we did, but they got a bigger bonus, uh, and saw their, their raw rate reduced because they'd been doing more testing per a hundred thousand residents than we have. Speaker 1: 01:32 We have a chance of getting into that less restrictive red tier next week. Speaker 2: 01:36 Uh, no, we don't actually, and I did verify this by email with the California department of public health yesterday, just to refresh my memory from the fall. Uh, you need to have a case rate at seven or under for two consecutive weeks before they will move you to here. Uh, so we need to do a two weeks in a row. So even if we do it next week, we'll need to still do it for one more. Speaker 1: 01:58 Is the tier system going to change because people, more people are getting vaccinated. Speaker 2: 02:03 There have been a lot of hints recently from folks who should be in the know, uh, locally. Uh, Nathan Fletcher chair of our local board of supervisors has hinted that the governor is up to something that they are going to be tweaking this system, as I recall. And, uh, I'm not sure if that was paraphrasing here, but I think his sense was, you know, as we see larger and larger percentages of our overall population getting vaccinated, that does influence the transmissibility of this virus in the community. And, and so, you know, this entire tier apparatus was designed before we had a vaccine. So it would stand to reason. It would seem logical that now that you have a growingly significant percentage of the population vaccinated, perhaps the tier system on to take that into account, somehow nobody's really sure exactly how Speaker 1: 02:52 One of the complaints that we hear from County officials is that they don't have enough vaccine. They're not getting the supply and shield now has a new role in vaccine supply. So how does that Speaker 2: 03:04 It's early days, uh, they seem to be kind of easing into this and the month of March and say that they're going to take full responsibility for vaccine distribution by the end of the month. Right now it seems like they're kind of feeling their way in terms of, uh, deciding how much vaccine should go to each County and each health provider I've, I've read their contract with the state. It says they have some sort of algorithm to make these decisions, but that algorithm is not included in the contract. So I'm not quite clear, I'm not sure who is quite clear at this point exactly how they're going to dice this up, but it's, it seems like it may be somewhat different from what we've experienced, uh, up to this point. Uh, for example, we know that the university of California system has received its own separate allocations as what's called a multi-state entity. Uh, and it's unclear whether or not that type of special allocation will continue that special allocation. From what I understand has helped you CSD do so many vaccinations at Petco park Superstation over the last couple months, Speaker 1: 04:09 There seems to be some real optimism surrounding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. And I'm wondering why that is. And I'm also wondering when will San Diego beginning its first Johnson and Johnson shipment? Speaker 2: 04:21 We're all wondering that we, uh, we all asked, uh, the County yet their, a weekly press conference last Wednesday. Uh, and Dr. Wooten said, she just wasn't sure at that point, uh, it was, it was up for approval by the FDA over the weekend. It got that approval. Uh, we haven't really seen any, any firm estimates on when those doses should be flooding in, but yes, everybody's very excited. Uh, you know, the, the big, the key with this vaccine is that it only requires one dose. So, you know, it should, uh, create less of a logistical problem. Uh, you know, like we're seeing with the, the two existing axions from, from Pfizer and Moderna, which require you to come back either 21 or 28 days later. And now we're seeing situations where people's second doses are getting delayed due to this, uh, drop in supply. Uh, so, so a single dose vaccine, I think, uh, all of the public health departments are, um, just licking their chops for that one. Cause it's just a less of a logistical [inaudible]. Speaker 1: 05:19 And if indeed the supply chain does improve, does that automatically mean it's going to be easier to get an appointment for a vaccination? Speaker 2: 05:27 Yeah, I think it should. Uh, you know, what they've been doing is they've been, uh, deciding how many appointments to make based on the amount of vaccine they have on hand or, or can assume that it will be, uh, arriving soon. One really big hope with, uh, with the blue shield situation is that you will have some forecasting, uh, that goes beyond just a few days. Uh, you know, last week that the County folks said, geez, we don't know more than just a few days in advance, how doses we're going to get, uh, you know, they're on the blue shield contract. It seems like they're committing to letting letting folks know at least a week ahead of time, how many vaccines they can expect to receive, and that should, should help them be a little more forward-looking about the number of appointments that they can actually put into the system and make available. Speaker 3: 06:16 Okay. That sounds good. I I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Paul citizen, Paul. Thank you. Thank you.