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Waves, Algorithms, Equity. How State's Blue Shield Contract Will Impact Local COVID Fight
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 3 years ago on
February 17, 2021

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Blue Shield of California’s contract with the state calls for a statewide vaccine distribution network and just went into effect Monday. The state set a goal of being able to administer 3 million doses a week, according to newly released contract details.

Part of the contract states, “It is anticipated that the State Vaccine Network will be established in three geographical waves and will be state-wide by the final wave.”

Sources provided the Los Angeles Times with a tentative timeline confirmed by the California Department of Public Health in which Central Valley counties such as Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin and Stanislaus are in the first wave that will begin Sunday, Feb. 21.

Official portrait of Buddy Mendes

“The county has to have direct access to a big percentage of these vaccines or they’ll never get out to the right people.”Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes

Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes was not aware of Fresno County being in Blue Shield’s first wave. However, he says Fresno County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau had a Friday phone meeting with them that went really well.

“They told the county they (Blue Shield) would help some of the partners get online and get information to them,” Mendes said.

Blue Shield says they’ll ensure that vaccinations can be obtained at locations within reasonable travel distances for 95% of Californians. The company also says they do not stand to profit in any way from this new deal with the state.

Armed with a what Blue Shield refers to as an ‘allocation algorithm’, the company will distribute doses of the vaccine across the state with a focus on equity. Part of the contract says the algorithm, “will be updated as needed based on changing conditions, such as vaccine availability, COVID-19 incidence, and feedback from relevant stakeholders.”

Blue Shield tells GV Wire℠ the state is responsible for determining eligibility and priority for vaccinations.

“At Blue Shield of California, our goal is to work closely with each county, their public health leaders, and state officials to build a vaccine network that is only constrained by the number of vaccines we receive,” the company’s CEO Paul Markovich said in a statement.

Mendes says he believes the county will still be in the driver’s seat when it comes to helping determine where the vaccine needs to go but he welcomes the support.

“The county has to have direct access to a big percentage of these vaccines or they’ll never get out to the right people,” says Mendes. “The state did such a bad job of administrating this that they needed to bring big business in to do it for them.”

Fresno County Infections and Hospitalizations Falling

portrait of Nathan Magsig

“That is good news.”Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig referring to the increase in ICU bed capacity in the county.

The number of available ICU beds in Fresno County continues to trend in a good direction.

At the beginning of February, there were only 8 open ICU beds in the entire county. As of Tuesday, that number stands at 17.

“That is good news,” said Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig during a midday Facebook live video.

The State’s ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy‘ dashboard was updated Tuesday to show Fresno County now meets one of the benchmarks required for it to move into a less restrictive tier.

For the last seven days, the county has registered a 7.9% case positivity rate, which meets the standard of below 8.0% to move into the red tier. However, the county’s daily new case rate of 22.8 infections per 100,000 population is still considerably higher than the 7.0 threshold to move tiers.

Still Governor Gavin Newsom, speaking at a newly opened mass vaccination site in Los Angeles, says he expects a “substantial” number of counties to move out of the most restrictive purple tier next week as cases decline.

The California Department of Public Health says only one county, Plumas, dropped to a less restrictive tier Tuesday, moving from purple (widespread) to red (substantial).

Governor Gavin Newsom tours a new mass vaccination site at Cal State Los Angeles Tuesday morning (Twitter/Office of Governor Newsom)

Community Medical Centers Workforce

Community Medical Centers’ COVID-19 dashboard shows as of Tuesday, 36 members of its workforce is not able to work due to COVID-19 exposure (23 are COVID-19 positive).

That’s the lowest number of reported worker absences since CMC started tracking the metric.

On July 17 of last year, CMC’s first report showed 172 members of the workforce were unable to work (63 of them COVID-19 positive).

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