Spanish and Vietnamese translations are expected to land sometime this week for Orange County’s coronavirus vaccination program, opening up doors for some people who aren’t able to use the current website or application. 

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“I’m happy to report we are working on a Spanish and Vietnamese version of Othena and we’ll release it some time this week,” said county health officer Dr. Clayton Chau at Tuesday’s public county supervisors meeting. 

The website and app, called Othena, has been plagued by language barriers, outages and glitches since it was rolled out a couple weeks ago. 

Supervisor Don Wagner, who said Othena “sucks,” on Tuesday at their regular public meeting asked Chau why Othena didn’t have translation options from the beginning. 

“Because we need to improve the content, the process, of the app before you translate it. If you translate it ahead of time and you make changes, then you have to translate it again,” Chau responded. 

Wagner responded, “Boy, that’s causing a lot of frustration and confusion and looks to be inept even if there’s an explanation for it.” 

The $1.2 million contract with Othena developer Composite Apps, Inc. calls for Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean translations. 

Click here to read the contract.

Scores of residents who qualify for the first rounds of vaccines — seniors and health care workers — have told Voice of OC they can’t get registered for a vaccination appointment because the website and app keeps glitching on them. 

In a Wednesday email, one elderly resident said they’re still waiting for an appointment, despite registering “weeks ago on Othena.” 

“Why are we left out?” the person asked. 

The software was supposed to be tested, according to the contract.  

“Acceptance testing may be required as specified for all Contractor-supplied software as specified and listed in the Contract or order,” reads the contract. “The purpose of the acceptance test is to ensure that the software operates in substantial accord with Contractor’s technical specifications and meets County’s performance specifications.” 

The Composite App contract also a three-tiered support system, including help on password resets, email support and general questions.

There’s also a hotline people can call if they have questions.  

But scores of residents said the hotline isn’t helpful.

Supervisor Chairman Andrew Do also said he’s been hearing the same thing from people. 

“The lack of ethnic languages … the hotline — I have gotten constituent comments. On the English line the phone just rang and rang and rang. And on the ethnic side, they either have people that don’t speak the language and it gets right back to the English line, and then it doesn’t get picked up. So the frustration is kind of multifold,” Do said. 

According to the contract, the developer is supposed to partner with the county Health Care Agency “to accept questions and problems beyond technical access and route it appropriately. Composite Apps will provide all support for user management (i.e. Account creation, password setup) via both automated process and email support.” 

It’s also unclear if how many other fixes are included in the $1.2 million price tag, listed in the third support tier. 

“Technical problems, bugs in the workflow that requires developers and technical team to work on this. Gaps and enhancements are not included,”

Questions also linger over a potential public relations contract intended to promote the vaccine. 

Earlier this month, a majority of Supervisors voted to move forward on a public relations contract with Idea Hall to push the vaccine, despite not having a budget or actual contract. 

The board voted 3-1 to begin the contracting process, authorizing county CEO Frank Kim to sign the contract without coming back to supervisors for approval. 

Wagner, the dissenting vote, took aim at the contract during Tuesday’s meeting. 

“They said to me they can get into my community in ways maybe better than I can do,” Wagner said of the PR firm, adding they asked him for contacts at nursing homes and the local chamber of commerce.

“Oh my, who thought of that? That’s digging a lot,” Wagner said to Chau. “Have you seen a plan from them? Do you know the timing for their plan? Do you know how much we’re going to be spending on their plan?”

Chau said he hasn’t seen any more details yet. 

“I know this morning walking to the Board of Supervisors meeting, I realized I’ve not worked with Idea Hall this past week to get a plan from them … just because I’ve been crazy busy,” Chau replied, adding he would work with staff to “make sure that’s ready for you all to review.” 

The $2 million PR proposal from Idea Hall, obtained by Voice of OC, aims to target Latino and Asian communities — as well as reach the rest of the county’s 3.2 million people. 

According to the proposal, the deliverables are “Develop a holistic, 360-degree marcomm program, including a paid (digital, advertising, social buys), earned (traditional public relations), shared (influencer, social media strategy) and owned strategy (website, e-newsletter and any other owned channels, as appropriate).”

Meanwhile, virus hospitalizations have been declining for the past couple weeks. 

As of Wednesday, 1,639 people were hospitalized, including 448 in intensive care units. 

But deaths have been increasing. 

Since January began, the county Health Care Agency has reported 966 people killed by the virus. 

Newly reported deaths could stretch back weeks due to reporting lags. 

The virus has now killed 2,839 people out of roughly a quarter million confirmed cases. 

It’s already killed five times as many people as the flu does on a yearly average.

For context, Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 

543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.

According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.

Orange County has already surpassed its yearly average 20,000 deaths, with 21,110 people dead as of November, according to the latest available state data.

It’s a difficult virus for the medical community to tackle because some people don’t show any symptoms, yet can still spread it. Others feel slight symptoms, like fatigue and a mild fever.

Others end up in ICUs for days and weeks before making it out, while other people eventually die from the virus.

For more details on the COVID-19 vaccine in Orange County view our Voice of OC information page:

Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:

Infections | Hospitalizations & Deaths | City-by-City Data | Demographics

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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