People with appointments line up at the Sharp Covid-19 vaccination supersite at Grossmont Center in La Mesa. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego County’s COVID-19 numbers are headed in the right direction, even as the county reported 539 new infections of the virus and 57 deaths, according to the county’s most recent reports.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Wednesday that a supply-chain issue with vaccines last weekend shows how thin the margins are for delays and mistakes in the system. The winter storm impacting much of the country has also put a damper on some vaccine appointments.

Due to delays in vaccine shipments to San Diego, the county is rescheduling approximately 1,000 first-dose appointments at its sites on Thursday and Friday. Those affected are being notified they will be rescheduled for next week.

Of 765,500 vaccine doses the county has received, 663,194 have been administered, more than 3,000 are awaiting processing and 98,000 are accounted for by appointments.

“You can see we are running very, very lean,” Fletcher said.

The county is reserving a portion of available COVID-19 vaccination appointments each day for a pilot project that aims to equitably distribute the novel coronavirus vaccine.

Scheduling Assistance for Vaccine Equity sets aside appointments for people who are in the currently eligible groups and at high risk for complications from COVID-19.

“We need to make sure that communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 have easier access to the vaccine,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “This project is making it easier for people who qualify to make appointments and get vaccinated.”

The county now has five vaccine super stations and 15 smaller neighborhood distribution sites according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. Despite the supply-chain problems, Fletcher said the county has allocated its vaccines efficiently enough that he believes teachers, food and agriculture workers and law enforcement officers will be able to begin receiving vaccines by as soon as the first week of March.

Additionally, the HHSA anticipates it will complete vaccinations in the county’s skilled nursing facilities this week, freeing up mobile teams to provide more shots around the county. In total, around 17.6% of the county’s population over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 5% are fully inoculated.

Wednesday’s data increased the number of COVID-19 infections to 254,180 since the pandemic began, while the death toll increased to 3,099.

The 57 deaths — one of the highest daily death tolls locally — are a reminder of the deadly seriousness of the pandemic, Fletcher said, but are likely a result of lagging effects from a significant case spike in December and January.

The number of hospitalizations decreased by just four patients to 804, while intensive care patients decreased by 10 to 256 from Tuesday’s numbers. There are 57 available, staffed ICU beds in the county.

Of 13,771 tests reported Wednesday, 4% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 5.5%.

On Tuesday, the county’s rate of new cases dropped enough to allow elementary schools to resume in-person instruction for students in pre- kindergarten through sixth grade.

According to the state’s weekly COVID-19 update, San Diego County’s adjusted case rate is 22.2 cases per 100,000 residents. The state permits elementary schools to reopen as soon as counties reach an adjusted average new daily case rate of 25 per 100,000 residents.

In-person classes cannot resume for seventh though 12th grades until the county’s rate of new COVID-19 cases falls to seven per 100,000 residents.

San Diego County’s seven-day testing positivity percentage is 6.4%, placing the county in the red tier of the four-tiered state re-opening plan for that metric. The state uses each county’s worst metric — in this case the adjusted case rate — and assigns counties to that tier.

The county’s health equity metric, which looks at the testing positivity for areas with the lowest healthy conditions, is 9.7% and is in the purple tier. This metric does not move counties to more restrictive tiers, but is required to advance to a less restrictive tier.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 18, 2021

–City News Service

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