A new Coronavirus mass-vaccination site will open as planned on Tuesday at the Anaheim Convention Center, despite initial concerns over vaccine supply due to severe weather delays that prompted the closure of the Disneyland vaccination site last week.
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Vaccine appointments there begin at 8 a.m., according to the county.
It’s the county’s latest vaccination site, following the opening of sites at Disneyland, Soka University and Santa Ana College — the latter of which has been prioritized for residents in zip codes of low socioeconomic status, in an effort to bridge the county’s social vaccination disparities.
A spate of severe weather had at one point prompted the closure of the Disneyland vaccination site, as the weather had delayed a shipment of vaccine supplies. At the time, as a result, county officials expected the Convention Center site’s opening to be impacted as well.
But that uncertainty appears to have passed.
County spokesperson Molly Nichelson said the Convention Center site will administer both the first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine tomorrow.
Public Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau on Monday said the Disney site will administer second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
“We have some Moderna available for (a) second dose at the Convention (Center) tomorrow. We are anticipating a shipment of Moderna tomorrow morning as well,” Chau said in a text message when asked about the county’s confidence in its supply.
Meanwhile Orange County’s Coronavirus hospitalizations and positivity rates appear to be going down, possibly setting the stage for more in-person school reopenings and new rollbacks to public health restrictions on things like youth and adult sports.
Yet areas of concern remain: Namely, around the situation at homeless shelters, where county officials say there are currently seven active outbreaks across such facilities in the region.
Six of those started since the beginning of the month, with 34 shelter residents and 8 staff cases reported through Feb. 19, according to Marc Meulman, chief of operations for the county Health Care Agency’s (HCA) Public Health Services.
Earlier in February, Voice of OC reported as many as 17 outbreaks across the county’s facilities.
There have been 57 total outbreaks at shelters since the beginning of the pandemic, Meulman said.
There are also a host of ongoing homeless encampments across Orange County, where there is no official information about potential outbreaks.
The issue is playing out in Voice of OC’s own front yard, where a large homeless presence has grown in the vacant parking lot outside the community center in the heart of Santa Ana — El Centro Cultural de México — where the newsroom rents office space.
It has put El Centro’s community leaders in a tough spot.
On one hand, they say, the homeless encampment is costing the center. Ben Vazquez, who sits on the center’s board, said fines by the City of Santa Ana over the problem have added up to $1,800.
On the other hand, Vazquez said, the center is weary of letting law enforcement get involved and “criminalizing” the people who have set up outside.
“We’re not inviting them over, and we’re worried about our space, but we’re not willing to criminalize them,” Vazquez said on Monday. He added the center is looking for some type of group specializing in homeless advocacy to possibly connect the people outside with resources and shelter.
But Vazquez also said the people he spoke to living outside El Centro aren’t all too eager to get into shelters.
“One thing people told me was, once you get in you can’t leave. You can’t just walk out,” Vazquez said.
Those concerns were also laid out in a regular Voice of OC op-ed by Father Dennis Kriz, a pastor at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Fullerton, who said he visited the site after El Centro sought his advice on the issue.
“I made it a point to visit the people taking the refuge in Centro’s grounds … The second person I talked to, Peter, declared what should be obvious to all: “I’m not going to go into any shelter because (1) Covid-19 is there […] and (2) they don’t let you leave. They are prisons,” Kriz wrote.
When asked whether the county had observed situations like this — refusals to go to shelters due to Covid-19 fears — Jason Austin, Chief of Operations for the Health Care Agency’s Office of Care Coordination, said the office “is not aware of any refusals to engage the shelter system.”
Across Orange County, the number of people hospitalized with the virus continues to go down, standing at 556 hospitalizations as of Monday.
Meanwhile, deaths continue to rise, standing at 3,848 since the start of the pandemic with 38 new deaths reported Monday.
To date, there have been 244,885 confirmed cases.
For context, Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths from other causes 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 23,883 people dead as of December, according to the latest available state data.
Coronavirus deaths, meanwhile, have now surpassed the flu, heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes as a cause of death in Orange County. Presently, only cancer has killed more residents on an annual basis than the virus.
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data: