LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Teachers, grocery store workers and law enforcement personnel in Los Angeles County will likely be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine beginning on March 1, public health officials indicated Tuesday.
L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday that, beginning March 1, the county plans to expand vaccine availability to three sectors of essential workers: education/child care; food and agriculture, and emergency services and law enforcement.
Making those groups eligible will add about 1.5 million people to the pool of residents seeking shots.
“We will be done with a big cycle of second doses by March 1, which is why we estimate that here in L.A. County we will be opening up for teachers, staff at schools, other educators and daycare workers,” Ferrer said.
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The pool will expand further March 15, when the state has called for vaccines to be made available to anyone aged 16 or older with an underlying health condition that makes them particularly susceptible to severe illness or death from COVID.
Currently only healthcare workers and people over age 65 are eligible. Whether there will be enough doses, however, to begin vaccinating these new groups is another story. L.A. County has had a severe supply shortage in recent weeks.
Both L.A. city-run and L.A. County-run super sites are predominately administering only second doses this week because of the shortage. Only about 4,800 first-doses were available at the city’s newest super site at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
The city of L.A. had such an extensive shortage that it was forced to shut down its large-scale sites over the weekend, including Dodger Stadium. It only received about 58,000 new doses this week.
Two new sites in L.A. County are offering first-dose appointments. A site co-managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened Tuesday at Cal State L.A., capable of vaccinating up to 6,000 people per day.
Another site opened Monday at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. That site is a joint effort by Dignity Health, the LA Galaxy and Dignity Health Sports Park.
Meanwhile, L.A. County Public Health Department officially announced Tuesday that the COVID-19 case rate had lowered to a threshold which allows for all elementary schools countywide to reopen campuses immediately.
The state permits elementary schools to reopen as soon as counties reach an adjusted average new daily case rate of 25 per 100,000 residents. L.A. County is at 20 cases per 100,000 as of Tuesday.
However, the superintendent of L.A. Unified – the second largest district in the nation – has repeatedly said that its campuses will not reopen until teachers and staff are vaccinated.
School districts in the county will decide individually whether to actually open campuses for students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
Those that do welcome students back will need to meet a series of safety protocols — such as limited class sizes and provision of protective equipment – – while also continuing to offer a distance learning option to accommodate families wary of sending their children to in-person classes.
In-person classes cannot resume for grades seven through 12 until the county’s rate of new COVID cases falls to seven per 100,000 residents.
Ferrer said Tuesday 12 school districts in the county have already had their safety plans approved, and two other districts have plans that are under review. A total of 173 private or charter schools have also had plans approved, with seven other private/charters awaiting approval of their plans.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)