The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in California has continued to be a source of confusion, even as thousands of Californians join the ranks of those vaccinated. (As of Sunday, about 38.3 million people in the United States had received at least one shot.)
In recent days, state officials have unveiled a wave of new efforts to better track immunization efforts and school reopens, announced a change in eligibility requirements, and – after weeks of pledges – have detailed a deal with Blue Shield of California to be what the state describes as a “third-party administrator” of its vaccination campaign.
Here’s what you need to know today:
Who is eligible for the vaccine now?
Over the past two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials have repeatedly stressed that the biggest barrier to immunization at the moment is a limited and unpredictable supply. (Los Angeles was forced to temporarily close five vaccination sites over the weekend because it faced a dose shortage.)
[Track the vaccine rollout in California compared to other states.]
In order to speed up distribution, the state essentially moved from a strict tiered system prioritizing certain essential workers to a system based more on broad age groups.
Last month, the state opened up eligibility to anyone 65 and over, in addition to those in certain essential jobs.
But on Friday, in response to widespread concern and outcry from activists, state officials announced that from March 15, people aged 16 to 64 with disabilities or sub-conditions serious conditions that put them at high risk in the event of contracting Covid-19 will be eligible for vaccination.
“I want the disability community to know, we’ve heard you, and we’re going to do more and more to provide access, even with the scarcity,” of vaccines, Mr Newsom said on Friday, visiting a vaccination site in mass at Moscone Center in San Francisco.
[Read more about the eligibility change.]
Depending on vaccine availability, the following groups may be vaccinated: healthcare workers, residents and nursing home staff, food and agriculture workers, educators and caregivers children, emergency service workers and Californians 65 and over.
How will Blue Shield of California change vaccine rollout?
State officials finally revealed details of a deal with Blue Shield of California to speed up the rollout of the vaccine on Monday that experts say was hampered by its reliance on public health services premises already overwhelmed.
Heads of state have also said for months that fairness – ensuring that members of disproportionately affected communities are on the front lines – will be a primary consideration.
But recently released demographics suggest these efforts have not yielded results; While Latin American communities in California have been devastated by the virus, accounting for 61% of cases statewide, only 16% of people who were vaccinated and whose ethnicity was reported were Latino, according to the State.
[Read more about unanswered questions in California’s pandemic response.]
The Blue Shield partnership also aims to address this issue.
Blue Shield will come up with an algorithm for assigning vaccine doses directly to healthcare providers and an algorithm for prioritizing appointments to vaccination sites, both of which should consider fairness. The company – which is not allowed to make a profit from the transaction, only covers costs – will also offer a system of financial incentives for suppliers who act quickly and meet their equity goals.
When the effort is operational, 95 percent of people are expected to be within 30 minutes of a vaccine in urban areas and within 60 minutes in rural areas.
The goal is to deliver three million doses per week by March 1, more than double the state’s current rate, and four million doses per week by April 30.
How are the school reopening going?
They still suffer from imbalances between rural and urban areas, and between private and public schools, as reported by CalMatters. But you can find a lot more information about open schools on the state’s new site, schools.covid19.ca.gov.
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Los Angeles County officials have allowed elementary schools to reopen for the first time in nearly a year, as rates of new cases of the virus decline and efforts to prioritize school staff for vaccinations progress. [The Los Angeles Times]
Palo Alto Unified School District Middle and high school students could return to class on March 1, making the district one of the first in the Bay Area to plan to reopen. [The Mercury News]
Some school districts are hoping to test children for coronavirus before they arrive on campus could allow them to return safely. [KQED]
As the pandemic has spread and the country’s unemployment agencies accumulate huge arrears, Reddit has become an unofficial hotline. [The New York Times]
The new Jalisco bar in downtown Los Angeles had been for decades a hotbed for the marginalized of the marginalized: queer Latinos. Like so many gay bars, it is struggling to survive the pandemic. And then there is gentrification. [The Los Angeles Times]
National Republicans backed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall effort, paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars. Supporters of the recall say they have secured enough signatures to move forward. [Politico]
If you missed it, here’s why there will likely be a recall election, but the governor is less likely to be actually recalled. [The New York Times]
As Californians go looking for cheaper homes, they’re bringing the state’s infamous housing crisis with them to places like Idaho and Texas. [The New York Times]
If you missed it, find out how Texas officials tried to woo people (like Elon Musk) and businesses vowing to leave California. [The New York Times]
For the first time, Modernism Week will include a discussion on affordable housing. [The Desert Sun]
San Francisco has clung to a paper-based building permit system, requiring in-person meetings even during the pandemic. Critics say it allowed corruption and cronyism to flourish unchecked in the Building Inspection Department. [Mission Local]
Fresno, a low-wage city that goes to a minimum wage of $ 15, could be the laboratory of an intensifying debate at the national level. [The New York Times]
Learn more about why warehouses are heading to Fresno. [The New York Times]
We are entering a year of pandemic life here in California. For many women who used to put on makeup before leaving home, the decision was easy to use that time for a skincare routine that could double as a meditative self-care time.
It was only a matter of time before the beauty and wellness industry realized that hyper-gendered marketing meant men were not encouraged to do the same.
But as my colleague Sandra Garcia reported, more and more men are starting to see the benefits of wellness, and brands are evolving to respond to them. (See: Pharrell Williams’ new skin care line, developed with his dermatologist, Humanrace.)
Read the full story here.
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow us here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.