California to Shift to Age-Based Vaccine Eligibility System, Eliminating Job Categories

As the state works to speed up delivery of the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that California will change its system for who is given vaccine priority, a shift that will eliminate job categories as a factor in determining the order of when people are eligible for the vaccination.

Currently, some essential workers, including farmworkers, teachers and health care staff can receive the vaccine, as well as people over 65.

But three-quarters of the state’s deaths from COVID-19 have occurred among older Californians, and that’s who the state is planning to focus on for vaccinations.

"You'll hear a lot more about a strategy to transition to an age-based eligibility, which will allow us to scale up much more quickly and get vaccines to impacted communities much more expeditiously," Newsom teased at his Monday briefing, where the big news was that California was lifting its stay-at-home order.

Darrel Ng, a spokesperson for the governor's Vaccine Task Force, confirmed that the state is eliminating the job-based eligibility categories in phases subsequent to 1A, in favor of an age-based system.

Ng wrote in an email that the change is being made "to reduce public confusion, make it easier on providers (who soon won’t have to consider occupation) and speed vaccine administration."

Ng wrote that the change will not eliminate equity-based considerations: "We can achieve that by allocating vaccines to communities that have been hit hardest by covid. One way to do that would be to send more vaccines to FQHCs [Federally Qualified Heath Centers] to ensure access and give them a better chance at availability while our supply remains limited."

State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said last week that given the limits on available doses, just vaccinating Californians over 65 could take until June.

While details of the state’s strategy aren’t out yet, the Service Employees International Union was critical, saying about 150,000 of the workers it represents have been deemed essential to stay on the job during the pandemic. But they may be vaccinated later if the state prioritizes age over job category.

More details about the plan are expected from California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly today at noon.

Molly Peterson

Santa Clara, Alameda, and Fresno County Expand Vaccine Eligibility to 16 and Up

More California counties are opening up vaccines to younger adults, a week ahead of the state broadening eligibility to everyone 16 and up.

Still, California public health officials warned Thursday of decreases in supply because of a national reduction of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in coming weeks.

Santa Clara County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County and Fresno County are the latest to open up vaccinations. Although younger residents in Santa Clara must book an appointment for April 15 or later. Alameda County has also now opened eligibility for people ages 16 and over who live in Alameda County. My Turn shows that people who also work in Alameda are eligible too.

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Contra Costa County residents 16 and older can also get vaccinated at Oakland Coliseum, county health officials said Saturday. Contra Costa County residents can book appointments through My Turn or by calling (833) 422-4255.

People age 16 and up can get the Pfizer vaccine while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for those 18 and older.

On Friday, Facebook announced that it would convert part of its Menlo Park headquarters in the Bay Area into a vaccination site and hoped to vaccinate as many as 10,000 people in coming weeks.

Vaccine supplies could shrink when eligibility expands next week.

Associated Press, Bay City News

San Francisco Expects to Allow Indoor Concerts, Performances Starting April 15

A return to indoor live events may come sooner than previously expected for San Francisco residents. San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax and Mayor London Breed expect to officially issue guidelines next Wednesday, April 14, that will allow indoor live events to return with some limited capacity on Thursday, April 15.

According to Mayor Breed's office, indoor ticketed and seated events will currently be allowed to operate at a maximum capacity of 35%, with attendees required to show proof of a negative COVID test or vaccination for entry. All participants must keep their masks on except when eating and drinking while seated, and social distancing will be required according to state guidelines. Venues operating at up to 35% capacity must also have an approved Health and Safety Plan.

Should a venue choose to operate at only 15% capacity or with less with 200 people, proof of a negative test or vaccination, as well as a Health and Safety Plan, will not be required.

Read the full post.

Samuel Getachew

Community Leaders Urge Latinos to Get Vaccine

Latino leaders, elected officials and health experts are urging the Latino community to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

At a virtual roundtable on Friday, Dr. Sandra Hernández, president and CEO of the California Health Care Foundation, said it’s particularly important for Latinos to get vaccinated because they make up a large portion of the in-person essential workforce and are more likely to be exposed to the virus.

This is especially critical because researchers are still learning about the long-term impacts of COVID-19, Hernández said.

“So it’s not just are you going to survive the loss of taste, but are you going to have foggy brain?” she said. “And are you going to have neurologic conditions? And are you going to have psychiatric conditions? Or are you going to have other organ conditions?”

Hernández added that while reports have focused on seniors as the population at highest risk from COVID, many young Latinos have also become critically ill and died.

“Given the prevalence of this infection in our community, we should be very concerned about understanding long-term COVID symptoms and how those are going to manifest chronically in our communities,” Hernández said.

The roundtable was the first in a series of virtual discussions led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Thurmond, who is Afro Latino, said he’s holding the roundtables in order to encourage vaccinations in the Black and Latino communities.

"Twenty three percent of the vaccines have gone to Latinos, while Latinos represent 55% of the cases and more than 40% of deaths," Thurmond said, citing California Department of Public Health figures.

Other participants included civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, AltaMed CEO Cástulo de la Rocha, and Dr. David E. Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA.

They spoke of barriers to getting vaccines — like challenges with technology and signing up for appointments online, the lack of information in Spanish and the need for more vaccine clinics in largely Latino neighborhoods — as well as vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation or mistrust toward the larger health system.

California Sen. Alex Padilla sent a video message urging folks to become vaccinated when eligible, adding that all Californians ages 16 and older will be allowed to get their shots starting April 15. Padilla also urged people to keep wearing masks and social distancing until health care officials say it’s safe to stop.

Julie Chang

Health Officials Brace for Increasing Demand and Shrinking Supply Amid Vaccine Shortfall

The classic problem of skyrocketing demand and shrinking supply is one that health officials had dearly hoped to avoid in the case of COVID-19 vaccines.

But that appears to be the situation as Bay Area public health departments are bracing for a significant shortfall in vaccine doses in the coming weeks, just as they gear up to vastly expand eligibility to everyone 16 and older on April 15.

California health officials on Thursday warned counties to expect a sizable drop in supply of all three vaccines this month.

That’s largely because of a major decline in national production of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the result of a recent manufacturing error at a Baltimore facility that ruined millions of doses.

California officials say they've received about 2.4 million doses this week, but expect just 2 million next week and 1.9 million the week after. That's in addition to doses shipped directly from the federal government to pharmacies and community health centers.

Although state supplies are expected to ramp up again by the end of the month, the shortfall could throw off California’s goal of fully reopening its economy by June 15.

Some Bay Area health officials are anticipating their total vaccine supply to shrink by as much as a third this month, potentially forcing them to limit or delay first-dose appointments.

In San Francisco, the health department is planning to receive just 10,000 doses of all three vaccines next week, down from 16,000 this week, according to a public health department spokesperson. The department is encouraging residents to try to also book appointments through the city's network of private pharmacies, and to not be picky about which vaccine they receive.

"Given the lack of supply, we are advising healthcare providers to prioritize second doses," a department spokesperson said in an email. "As such, appointments for first vaccine doses are limited, and people who are eligible may not be able to get appointments right away."

Across the bay, Alameda County officials are expecting a similar deficit, but say that shouldn't impact residents who already have appointments.

"Like other counties in the Bay Area and across the state, we expect a significant reduction in our allocations of Johnson & Johnson for this upcoming week," said Neetu Balram, a spokesperson for the Alameda Department of Public Health. "Thanks to careful planning, we do not expect to cancel appointments and will carefully monitor our supply and information from the state to make future decisions."

Statewide, more than 22 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, and close to 45% of the adult population has received a least one shot.

Matthew Green

Bill Would Require Public Disclosure of Individual Workplaces With COVID Outbreaks

The California State Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee voted Thursday to forward a bill that would require the California Department of Public Health to post workplace COVID-19 outbreaks on its website.

Five members of the committee, all Democrats, voted yes on Assembly Bill 654, with two Republican assemblymembers voting no.

The bill expands on earlier legislation that mandated that the state post information online about outbreaks by industry, without naming employers. The new bill would go further, requiring state health officials to allow the public to track COVID-19 outbreaks by individual workplace.

The earlier bill, AB 685, went into effect Jan. 1, with the required data posted several months later.

During the hearing, committee Vice Chair Heath Flora, R-Ripon, questioned why business owners should be blamed for outbreaks that may have originated outside of work.

“We’re going to hold a business accountable for things that people do outside of the workplace,” Flora said. “In my district, we have large employers that employ multiple families, multiple people from the same family. If they’re hanging out at a dinner or in the barbecue in the backyard and they bring that to the workplace, how in good faith can we hold the business responsible for that?”

Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, who introduced both bills, replied that the legislation had nothing to do with who’s responsible for an outbreak.

“It has to do with making sure that a worker knows they’ve been exposed,” Reyes said. “And making sure the community knows when there’s an outbreak at one of the workplaces in their community.”

Representatives of the the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council and the California Labor Federation called in to the hearing to voice support for the legislation, saying essential workers have a right to know about outbreaks.

Groups including the Family Business Association of California, Housing Contractors of California, the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities and the Agricultural Council of California voiced opposition. Rob Moutrie, policy advocate with the California Chamber of Commerce, argued the legislation would shame businesses for events they cannot control.

AB 654 will now go to the Appropriations Committee before it heads to the Assembly floor.

Alexandra Hall

San Francisco's LightHouse Launches Vaccine Pop-Up for Disability Community

Finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment near you in the Bay Area has been a challenging road for months now. And many disabled people are finding that both physical and online inaccessibility is putting up even more roadblocks between them and the vaccine.

As part of a community-led effort to connect disabled Californians with vaccine appointments, San Francisco non-profit LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is now providing fully accessible pop-up vaccination clinics at their San Francisco headquarters each Friday until May 7.

These weekly clinics offer the COVID-19 vaccine by appointment to all members of the blind, low vision, extended disability community and their caregivers.

"We're super happy that the city of San Francisco worked with us so that our site is available to all people with disabilities in the Bay Area and their assistants," LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin told KQED's Brian Watt this week. Bashin said LightHouse is offering around 200 vaccine doses at each of these Friday pop-up clinics.

LightHouse's Friday vaccination clinic at 1155 Market Street in San Francisco is open by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 628-652-2700. You'll speak to a member of San Francisco's City Vaccination call center who will ask for some basic personal information and your health care provider details, and give you more accessibility details about the appointment process and what to expect at the pop-up clinic.

Read the full post here.

Carly Severn

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive to Reopen May 2

After 13 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will reopen its galleries to the public on May 2. The museum will operate under a new safety plan, maintaining a three-day weekly schedule (Friday–Sunday), timed ticketing and 25% capacity limit.

Awaiting visitors is the much-heralded retrospective of Richmond quilter Rosie Lee Tompkins, which was open for less than a month before the Bay Area shut down last year. Originally slated to close in December 2020, that exhibition of approximately 70 quilts, pieced tops, embroideries, assemblages and decorated objects is now on view through July 18, 2021.

BAMPFA’s theater, film library and study center will remain closed until further notice, but their streaming film programs will continue online, along with live virtual programming.

Read the full story.

Sarah Hotchkiss