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Everyone over 16 years old can get the Coronavirus vaccine in Orange County starting next month, said Gov. Gavin Newsom at a Thursday news conference in Santa Ana. 

“So next Thursday anyone 50 and over will be provided an opportunity to get a vaccine. On April 15 everybody 16 and over can get a vaccine. So in a few weeks, there will be no rules, no limitations to get a vaccine administered,” Newsom said at the city’s local health clinic, AltaMed.

The updated guidelines also include targeting vaccinations to more of OC’s poorest neighborhoods. 

Before, it was just four zip codes scattered throughout Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove. 

Now, much of Anaheim, nearly all of Santa Ana, parts of Westminster, Garden Grove and other heavily impacted areas throughout OC will be prioritized for the vaccine. 

“Orange County’s always had the label of being a wealthy, homogenous community and it isn’t,” Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said at the news conference. “We have some of the highest indexes not just of COVID, but also people who live below the poverty line.” 

Thursday’s news conference was Newsom’s first visit to Orange County during the pandemic and one of the first live, publicly streamed briefings since last month. 

There was limited local media presence there, with the press corps largely made up of Los Angeles-based TV news stations.

The announcement also comes after Sarmiento heavily criticized the vaccine rollout from the top down for failing to target the hardest-hit areas. 

Read: Santa Ana Mayor Lambasts Federal, State and County Leaders; Says City Abandoned on Virus Response and Vaccinations

“The mayor’s been very pointed and appropriately so in terms of his desire and demand that we do more for those more acutely impacted,” Newsom said. “To do more for the Latino community that has been disproportionately impacted.” 

The Latino community was largely left behind when the vaccine rollout first hit. 

Latinos have received nearly 14% of vaccines, make up roughly 35% of OC’s residents, have 46% of cases and 38% of deaths, according to vaccine and case data from the county Health Care Agency. 

Last month, the Latino community was at about 9% of shots received. 

In comparison, white people received 44% of the vaccines, make up over 38% of the county’s residents, have roughly 25% of cases and 37% of deaths.

Orange County’s local health clinics have stepped in and targeted their efforts to close the vaccine gap. 

Read: Community Efforts to Bring COVID Vaccines to OC’s Hardest Hit Neighborhoods Are Paying Off

Newsom’s announcement comes as many Orange County residents are still trying to figure out if they qualify for the coronavirus vaccine.

Until the distribution changes hit next month, people from the ages of 16 and up can get vaccinated if they have certain medical conditions.

According to state guidelines, people who have cancer, severe chronic kidney disease, down syndrome, compromised immune systems, sickle cell disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes can get the shot. 

People who are severely obese can also get vaccinated if they’re body mass index is 40 and over. 

Newsom’s visit also comes as a recall campaign against him heats up, with organizers collecting enough signatures to likely put the question before voters across the state. 

The Governor largely attributed the recall campaign to militias and white supremecist groups.

“I find their views completely antithetical to what this state is about,” Newsom said. “I think people should learn more about that when they consider what this effort was about.” 

Yet a lot of people in the business community, especially nail salons, are supporting the recall efforts.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to drop in Orange County. 

As of Thursday, 167 people were hospitalized, including 35 in intensive care units, according to the county Health Care Agency. 

Deaths continue increasing because of delays in reporting from the county to the state, then the certified deaths are sent back to the OC health officials before they can report them.

That means some of the newly reported deaths can stretch back for weeks, even months.

The virus has now killed 4,665 people, including 19 new deaths reported today. 

That’s more than eight times the flu kills on a yearly average. 

Virus deaths have now surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC. 

It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively. 

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.

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

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

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