The coronavirus vaccine rollout has begun in California. But in San Francisco, at least, health officials downplayed what might typically be a headline-ready, made-for-TV moment: trucks delivering a life-saving vaccine to beleaguered hospital workers who have been the front-line troops in the fight against a global pandemic.
The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine arrived in California Sunday night at Los Angeles International Airport. Within hours, the Bay Area received its first delivery of 2,000 doses at San Francisco General Hospital.
But you wouldn’t have known it from listening to Monday's coronavirus briefing by one of the city’s top health officials.
Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of health, instead delivered a sober analysis of the city’s latest surge — COVID-19 cases are up 50% since Thanksgiving — and asked people to take a “step back and realize how dire our situation is at this point.”
He briefly acknowledged the city was one of four in the state to receive the first shipment of doses while taking questions from reporters. But he was less than celebratory.
“The hope of this vaccine will not crush this curve and with limited supply the vaccine will not save us from this current increase and surge in hospitalizations,” he said.
The Bay Area’s ICU capacity is hovering just above the 15% threshold set by the state to trigger its latest stay-at-home order.
There was a little more theatricality involved in an event attended by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who offered a qualified comment about how Californians should celebrate the vaccine’s arrival but also be “mindful about the challenge we face.”
Newsom sat with five health care workers as they received the state’s first vaccine doses at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Los Angeles. Kim Taylor, an emergency department nurse, was one of the workers who received a shot.
“We front-line workers have been working around the clock, sacrificing so much of what we do and love to take care of our patients, we've been doing this while trying to take care of our own families and keep them safe, what I want you guys to know is — help is on the way, today's just the first step,” she said.
Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s vaccine and testing officer, said an initial round of more than 17,000 doses for county use will arrive this week.
“We are following the priorities that were determined by the CDC and the state,” he said. “We will be vaccinating health care workers as well as residents of skilled nursing facilities.”
In Marin County, the vaccine, which was supposed to arrive Monday, has been delayed and is now due on Wednesday. Vaccinations could begin there on Thursday.
A few hours after his press conference, Newsom announced in a tweet that Pfizer was sending an additional round of its coronavirus vaccine to California next week.