Nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced Thursday that California will lead vaccine equity and safety protocols in order to reopen the economy and end the pandemic.
The state has allocated 40% of vaccine doses for the “hardest-hit communities,” according to a press release from Newsom’s office. In doing so, a vaccine equity metric was established to increase vaccinations in those communities, seeking to provide 2 million vaccine doses to move counties through tiers to reopen safely.
According to the press release, this serves as a prelude to the adjustment of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which is intended to reduce COVID-19 cases in the state through revised criteria of tight and loose restrictions on activities. The blueprint also helps govern conditions in which the state’s economy is able to safely operate.
“With more vaccines online and administered, California is now in a position to take steps toward ending this pandemic by keeping our guard up and by vaccinating those Californians most at risk and most exposed,” Newsom said in the press release. “Vaccinating our most impacted communities, across our state, is the right thing to do and the fastest way to end this pandemic.”
In addition to the announcement, California also updated its recommendations on when to consider double-masking and how to most effectively use masks, as some situations may require a higher level of protection. According to the press release, the state will continue to focus on masking, effective use of testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation.
The press release noted that there are now three vaccines available and about 10 million vaccine doses have been administered statewide, with the state seeing an improvement in disease trends in the last six weeks.
“Case rates, test positivity, transmission rate, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are all on a steady decline since the winter surge,” the press release states.
The press released added that 40% of COVID-19 cases and deaths occurred in the lowest quartile of the California Healthy Places Index, or HPI, showing how the pandemic unequally affected California communities. The HPI provides overall scores and data that predict life expectancy and compare conditions in communities to depict health statewide.
Households that make less than $40,000 per year face double the infection rate compared to households with an income of $120,000 or more, the press release added.
“At the same time, California’s wealthiest populations are being vaccinated at nearly twice the rate of our most vulnerable populations. The state is committed to doing better,” the press release reads.
With the modification of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, activities will open once vaccines have been provided to the most impacted communities, and tier thresholds will shift “to allow slightly higher case rates per 100,000 population once more inoculations have occurred in the communities suffering the most, allowing counties to move to less restrictive tiers,” according to the press release.
As of press time, California has delivered 1.6 million vaccine doses to parts of the state in the vaccine equity quartile, and in the next two weeks, it is estimated that 2 million doses will be delivered.
Counties will be allowed to loosen health restrictions in a “somewhat accelerated, but still responsible, pace” as thresholds are reached, according to the press release.
“Increasing vaccinations in our hardest-hit communities is both morally right, and good for public health, because it will slow the spread of disease,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, in the press release. “Even with these changes, California will retain some of the most robust public health protections in the nation.”