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County health officials on Thursday reported more than 510,000 people have been fully vaccinated. File photo
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Newsom to expand vaccine eligibility statewide

REGION — COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to everyone in the state age 50 and older beginning April 1, then to everyone age 16 and up on April 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced, as San Diego County public health officials reported 210 new infections and 11 deaths.

The state has been receiving roughly 1.8 million doses a week but anticipates receiving 2.5 million weekly doses by early April, then more than 3 million per week by the end of that month.

Newsom on Thursday said the state will have the capacity to administer 4 million shots per week by the end of April.

San Diego County continues to have significantly more capacity to administer vaccines than supplies available. According to Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, even with the closure of the Petco Park vaccine site, the county has the ability to administer 35,000 vaccines every day. Limited doses mean the actual number being injected is around 12,000 per day.

Health officials on Thursday reported more than 839,000 people — or 31.2% of San Diego County residents over the age of 16 — have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccines, and more than 510,000 people — or 19% — have been fully vaccinated.

More than 1.59 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and more than 1.5 million have been logged as administered. That number includes both county residents and those who work in San Diego County.

Thursday’s data from the Health and Human Service Agency increased the county’s cumulative totals to 268,627 cases and 3,520 deaths.

Of 17,596 tests reported Thursday, 1% returned positive. The 14-day rolling average of positive tests is 2.5%.

The number of coronavirus hospitalizations in the county decreased Thursday to 217, from the previous day’s 227. Of those, 75 were in intensive care units, down from Wednesday’s 82.

While San Diego County remains in the red tier of the state’s four-tiered reopening blueprint, Fletcher explained three possible ways the county could move into the orange tier, which would allow for additional business openings and increased attendance limits.

The first method is the county having a case rate below 4 new cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks. The county posted 5.5 per 100,000 on Tuesday.

The second method is what Fletcher describes as most likely — the state administers 4 million vaccines to vulnerable communities in the healthy places index quartile, allowing for a loosening of the orange tier’s guidelines to 5.9 daily cases per 100,000. California has administered more than 2.9 million vaccines to these groups as of Wednesday.

Lastly, if San Diego County’s health equity metric  — which looks at the testing positivity for areas with the lowest healthy conditions — and testing positivity percentage both fall into the state’s yellow tier for two consecutive weeks, the county will be promoted to the orange tier regardless of whether case rates remain high enough to qualify. The testing positivity is currently 2.4% and the county’s health equity metric is 3.4%, both in the orange tier.

Also beginning in early April, residents in San Diego County and nationwide will be able to apply for financial help for funeral expenses through FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.

To be eligible for the assistance, all the following FEMA-established conditions must be met:
— the death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia;
— the death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19; and
— the applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or a qualified non-citizen who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020.

Two cases of a variant of the virus first documented in Brazil were reported in San Diego County on Wednesday. The new strain may be more effective in resisting vaccines, said Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the county Health and Human Services Agency’s Epidemiology and Immunization Services Branch. He added that it’s not clear if the variant makes symptoms of COVID-19 more severe or makes the virus more easily transmissible.

One case was reported in a resident with no travel history and one in a non-resident who had traveled overseas. Neither was vaccinated and neither has been hospitalized.

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