Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay at home order, originally scheduled to end December 28 in the San Joaquin Valley region, will likely continue for several more weeks.
“It’s very likely, based on those current trends, that we’ll need to extend that stay at home order,” Newsom said during a midday briefing with reporters.
The state has averaged 233 deaths every day over seven days, Newsom said.
Intensive care bed capacity in the region has wavered between just under 2% to as low as the current 0% capacity being reported on the state’s dashboard. As of Sunday, Fresno County hospitals reported having 18 ICU beds available.
A New York Times analysis published Monday identified the Fresno metropolitan area experiencing the fastest rise of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Newsom said 21 of 31 sites set to receive the Moderna version of the COVID vaccine have received shipments. Moderna’s vaccine was approved by regulators Friday and, like the earlier-approved vaccine produced from Pfizer, requires two shots given several weeks apart to be fully beneficial.
That’s not an ideal situation for mass vaccination efforts, according to Fresno County’s community health manager. Joe Prado said his team is in the early planning stages for wider vaccination efforts across the general population in the coming months.
One-Shot Possibility, Ultra-Cold Storage Not Necessary
Johnson & Johnson last week announced their phase 3 trials are now fully enrolled with 45,000 people. The company believes interim data from the trial is currently anticipated to be available by the end of January 2021. It’s likely they’ll submit an emergency use authorization application with the FDA in February.
“It offers the potential of a single shot vaccine, which is what’s being tried right now,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, the Director of the Center for Virology & Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told NBC Boston.
Dr. Barouch is a lead researcher on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate. He says, unlike Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s could potentially only require a single dose. It also doesn’t need to be stored in ultra-cold storage like the Pfizer vaccine. Both of which could help get it to places faster.
GV Wire℠ asked Prado if he believes the Johnson and Johnson vaccine candidate would be best to vaccine the general public.
“That’s (the) ideal situation right there. Really, it is,” answered Prado. “To do a one shot vaccination. That is where we can do a really large type of mass vaccination in the general population.”
Prado says he’s still not certain how much of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine candidate would even be made available to Fresno County if and when it’s authorized by the FDA.
“At the same time, we’re working with our community based organizations just to help them reach out to the communities that they serve.”–Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra on educating public about COVID-19 vaccine’s safety
For the time being, Prado’s team is putting together the best mass vaccination plan they can with the information they currently have.
“Our plans will include potentially multi-type of vaccine. It can be a Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson &Johnson,” explains Prado. “That’s not the ideal situation, but we have to plan that and then hope for a one shot vaccine when it actually comes in late spring or early summer.”
Fresno County health officials have surveyed the community to see how people feel about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re seeing about 50% saying yes and a split between 25 to 30 percent saying no, and the rest are not sure at this time,” Prado said.
A multi-pronged media campaign is expected to launch soon to get the word out about vaccinations and combat misinformation being shared on social media.
“Honestly, I think as people see how safe and effective the vaccine is in these varied populations, as we progress through the year, I think there will be a lot more people wanting the vaccine,” says Prado.
Fresno County’s interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra said the Fresno and Madera Medical Societies are planning an educational campaign themselves to support everyone getting vaccinated.
“At the same time, we’re working with our community based organizations just to help them reach out to the communities that they serve,” said Vohra. “The science on this is very solid.”
New Covid-19 Strain Being Monitored
Newsom says there’s no evidence right now of a COVID-19 mutation in California like scientists are monitoring in the UK.
“We haven’t seen anything related to a new strain yet,” Newsom said.
Impact of Congressional COVID-19 Relief Bill
Newsom described Congress’ apparent deal to provide a COVID-19 relief package is, “very, very significant.”
Initial estimates show the state will receive $2 billion in rent assistance.