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San Diego County opened its third Vaccination Super Station on Sunday, Jan. 31, at CSUSM’s Sports Center in San Marcos. Courtesy photo/CSUSM Athletics
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COVID-19 Roundup: Vaccination Super Station opens in San Marcos

REGION — North County residents are now able to get COVID-19 vaccines closer to home, as San Diego County opened its third Vaccination Super Station on Jan. 31 at Cal State San Marcos Sports Center.

“The vaccine offers our pathway out of this, the road to recovery, to restoring, to renewing,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said before the first patients with appointments started getting a dose of the vaccine at 9:30 a.m.

Fletcher said the initial goal set in early January was to give 200,000 vaccinations by the end of the month.

“We’re now well over 300,000,” he said.

“This is driven by a couple of things,” he continued. “Number one, the demand for the vaccine is exceedingly high. We have a far greater demand to get the vaccine than we have vaccines. We are grateful to so many San Diegans who are so committed to getting the vaccine because, again, this is our pathway out of what we face.

“Number two, we have incredible county staff and we have tremendous partners in the health system.”

Supervisor Jim Desmond joined Fletcher, calling the San Marcos site “a very positive game-changer for all of us in North County.”

A COVID-19 vaccination is administered at the Grossmont Center Vaccination Super Station. Photo courtesy of San Diego County

“It’s truly a remarkable collaborative effort,” Desmond said. “I’m glad to be part of it.”

The site will be open to the public weekly from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. Initially, the site is expected to vaccinate 250 to 1,000 people per day, depending on the number of vaccines available, eventually building up to 5,000 or more vaccines daily.

The site is being hosted at CSUSM, with partnership from Palomar Health, UC San Diego Health and Tri-City Medical Center.

The county has received more than 485,900 vaccines. Fletcher said there is a normal lag in reporting the numbers, but 1.6% of the county’s population over the age of 16 has been fully vaccinated.

Fletcher said an East County Super Station is in the works for this week, but he hasn’t named the date or location.

Appointments for this site can be made online at www.VaccinationSuperStationSD.com. Those who arrive for appointments can park at 103 Campus View Drive. There will be free parking on floors two and three of the parking structure.

COVID-19 hospitalizations drop, but vaccine supply an issue

REGION — While COVID-19 hospitalizations in San Diego County continue to decline, health officials say the number of vaccines continues to be insufficient for demand.

The news came Wednesday as the county reported 968 new coronavirus infections and 54 new virus-related deaths.

It was the second straight day the county reported fewer than 1,000 new cases. Prior to Tuesday, the county had logged at least that many every day since Nov. 30.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher praised the work county staff has done in getting vaccine infrastructure running, but admitted the number of actual vaccines available is behind what he would like.

“Efforts have far outpaced the supply of vaccines,’’ he said.

The county has the capacity to administer more than 20,000 vaccines daily and expects to raise that to 30,000 next week, Fletcher said, but only has the supplies to administer around 10,000 vaccines a day. He asked for patience as the county was working to get more doses.

“Because of this, we only make appointments available for vaccines we have or are confident are coming,’’ he said. “We don’t want to cancel an appointment.’’

Of the county’s 1,347 long term nursing care facilities, 911 have already received at least the first dose of the vaccine, Fletcher said.

Fletcher said San Diego was behind only Contra Costa County in California’s largest counties in terms of how many vaccines have been administered. According to the county Health and Human Services Agency, San Diego County has received 586,325 doses of vaccine and has administered 357,507 doses.

Around 2% of the population over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated, but Fletcher said numbers of doses administered are likely “significantly delayed.’’

Wednesday marked the second consecutive day with fewer than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. Tuesday was the first day since Nov. 30 to fail to cross that number.

Wednesday’s data raised the county’s cumulative caseload to 241,018 and the death toll to 2,683 amid signs that the post-holiday surge is waning.

The HHSA reported 1,265 people hospitalized with the virus on Wednesday — down 32 from Tuesday. Of those hospitalized, 369 are in intensive care units, down 15 from Tuesday.

The county’s peak for COVID-19 hospitalizations — 1,804 — was set Jan. 12 and has declined since. The record for ICU hospitalizations of coronavirus patients — 438 — was set on Jan. 20, and has also declined slowly since with the exception of a 12-patient bump on Monday.

There are 40 available staffed ICU beds in the county, but Fletcher said that number isn’t likely to increase any time soon. Due to filling hospital beds over the last several months, many non-emergency surgeries and procedures were postponed. Hospitals are rushing to make those up now while COVID-19 beds become available.

Of the 19,794 tests reported Wednesday, 5% returned positive, bringing the 14-day average percentage of positive cases below 8%. As recently as Jan. 13, that average was above 13%.

The county’s adjusted case rate as of Tuesday is 42.5 new cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days. That’s a drop of 7.1 per 100,000 over the past week. To be dropped into the more permissive red tier of the state’s four-level reopening plan, cases have to be fewer than seven per 100,000.

San Diego became authorized to administer vaccines Tuesday, and city paramedics began providing doses in Balboa Park Municipal Gym to area government workers eligible according to state and county guidelines, including those 65 and older.

Another 100 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered Wednesday to eligible homeless residents sheltering at the San Diego Convention Center as part of the Operation Shelter to Home program.

The city received an initial shipment of 1,200 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines this week. Mayor Todd Gloria is exploring additional city- owned locations as potential vaccination sites when more doses become available. The number of doses delivered directly to the city will depend on vaccine availability statewide.

San Diego County’s fourth vaccination super station opened Tuesday at the Grossmont Center shopping mall in La Mesa, while a smaller distribution site opened in San Ysidro on the Southwestern College campus.

UC San Diego Health announced Tuesday that it will open another vaccination super station on its campus for qualifying UCSD Health patients, faculty and staff. The vaccination site will begin operating next Monday inside the UCSD’s Recreation, Intramural and Athletic Complex.

Vaccination appointments can be made at www.vaccinationsuperstationsd.com. The site also includes a map of where vaccines are being distributed.

Father Joe’s prepares to administer vaccines to unsheltered San Diegans

REGION — Homeless services provider Father Joe’s Villages is preparing for a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination effort for its clients once they become eligible under the state’s vaccination rollout, its’ leaders announced Feb. 1.

Father Joe’s Villages will adopt a multi-level approach to ensure people in need have access to vaccinations, including vaccination events offered in congregate living shelters, in collaboration with San Diego County.

The organization’s plan also includes residential, case management, day center and outreach teams providing education on vaccination to people living in its housing programs and to those on the street to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.

“Father Joe’s Villages is dedicated to supporting the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination to the people we serve,” said Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO at Father Joe’s. “By prioritizing the health of our neighbors experiencing homelessness, we are creating a San Diego where the lives of all residents are valued and worth protecting, regardless of race, creed or socio-economic background. Father Joe’s Villages will continue to advocate for a process that increases access to the vaccine with compassion and dignity.”

The organization’s clients fall under the state’s Phase 1B Tier Two as part of congregate settings with outbreak risk along with incarcerated people. Also in that tier are people at risk of exposure in the transportation and logistics, industrial, commercial, residential, and sheltering facilities and services and critical manufacturing industries.

It is the next tier to become eligible under the state’s plan.

According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, people experiencing homelessness are at high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus and are more likely to experience negative health outcomes.

“Disproportionate levels of chronic illness and disability, as well as the conditions of living on the streets, means our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness are more at-risk of serious health consequences due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Jeffrey Norris, chief medical officer at Father Joe’s Villages. “It’s critical that our community prioritizes vaccine distribution for these citizens and those who have been working on the frontlines to protect our community’s health and safety.”

The organization has launched a special COVID-19 Vaccination Fund to cover the increased costs of their critical vaccination, including increased staffing hours across its programs, equipment to store vaccines such as dry ice, personal protective equipment, increased uncovered medical expenses and incentives to encourage clients to get vaccinated.

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