Many of the 400 ZIP codes across the state being prioritized by California officials for additional COVID vaccination efforts are in the Central Valley and could allow Fresno County to widen businesses reopenings in the weeks ahead.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said Thursday it will direct 40 percent of the state’s allotted vaccine doses to its hardest-hit communities and has established a equity metric to encourage vaccinations in those communities.
“Some of the focus on our vaccine equity plan will be to double the vaccine allotment to the hardest hit communities.”–Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Dr. Ghaly
Forty percent of COVID cases and deaths have occurred in neighborhoods rated in the lowest quartile of California’s Healthy Places Index, a public/private data site that measures health and well-being conditions for every census tract in the state.
(CalMatters has an online tool for determining neighborhoods, by ZIP code, included in the new vaccine priority plan. See below.)
“Some of the focus on our vaccine equity plan will be to double the vaccine allotment to the hardest hit communities,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary.
The initial goal of the vaccine equity metric is to deliver a minimum of 2 million doses to the hardest-hit areas of the state, based on the HPI, over the next two weeks. The state has currently delivered 1.6 million doses to these neighborhoods.
United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley is one of the community partners working with the state and federal government to get direct shipments of the vaccines. Right now, they say they just advocate for getting any of the available COVID-19 vaccines so they can get them into arms immediately.
“75 percent of our patients are from farmworker families across the valley,” said David Phillips, the health care provider’s community development officer. “So we’ve got 25 health centers and most of them are in rural and in underserved areas.”
Modifying Tiers for Reopening
Along with the vaccine distribution effort, the state is modifying its Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan to allow for wider business reopenings once more doses have been administered in harder-hit neighborhoods.
This modification will loosen the Blueprint’s daily case rate metrics that determine when counties move into lower tiers.
“So to move from purple to red, (the tier threshold will change) from a current case rate of seven cases per day per 100,000 population, up to 10,” explained Ghaly.
Fresno County, currently in the most restrictive purple tier, has a reported case rate of 14 cases per 100,000.
Newsom administration officials indicted other changes in allowable activities under the state’s color-coded tier structure would be announced in the future.
“So as we go forward, we’ll be able to allow more activities, particularly outdoors,” said Dee Dee Myers, the governor’s business and economic development advisor. “Although there won’t be huge changes to the blueprint right away, there will be ongoing changes as the situation improves,” she said.
Wider Vaccine Eligibility for Those at ‘High Risk’
“It would be great if you could go get a note from your medical provider that says you are actually within that (March 15) tier.”–Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado
Beginning March 15, the California Department of Public Health says healthcare providers may use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals age 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.
One or more of the following severe health conditions would apply:
- Cancer, current with debilitated or immunocompromised state
- Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
- Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
- Down syndrome
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Sickle cell disease
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (excludes hypertension)
- Severe obesity
- Type 2 diabetes
Ghaly says the new vaccine allocation plan will not affect vaccinations of high risk individuals.
“Making sure that vaccine is available for them is a key priority as well,” said Ghaly.
Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado is engineering the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and says people with underlying health conditions coming in to get vaccinated starting March 15 should prepare ahead of time.
“It would be great if you could go get a note from your medical provider that says you are actually within that tier, because that is going to take a lot of discussion if you don’t have that,” said Prado.