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San Diego County reports 3,261 new COVID-19 infections, crosses 200,000 mark

Wednesday's cases marked the 44th consecutive day with more than 1,000 new diagnoses.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego County public health officials reported 3,261 new COVID-19 infections and 54 deaths from the virus Wednesday as the county officially crossed the 200,000 total case mark and neared 2,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began.

Wednesday's cases marked the 44th consecutive day with more than 1,000 new diagnoses. It was also the 17th time that 3,000-plus daily infections have been announced. More than 4,000 cases have been reported three times.

The county's cumulative totals are now 201,580 cases and 1,952 deaths.

The state of California Wednesday authorized immediate access to COVID-19 vaccines for all residents aged 65 and older, following new guidance from the federal government.

"There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement announcing the change. "Individuals 65 and older are now the next group eligible to start receiving vaccines. To those not yet eligible for vaccines, your turn is coming. We are doing everything we can to bring more vaccine into the state."

However, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher asked San Diegans to temper their expectations for the time being. There are more than 620,000 people in the county counted in the Tier 1A vaccine distribution cohort. With the 65+ group, health officials are looking at another 500,000 for well over a million people eligible for vaccines. Both vaccines on the market are not effective without two doses.

"We have received just north of 200,000 vaccines in the county," he said, emphasizing for the time being health care workers would still be prioritized until more vaccine supplies become available.

Even so, the county plans to open three more "Vaccination Super Stations" in early February like the one already opened in Downtown San Diego adjacent to Petco Park. Fletcher said the county's Health & Human Services Agency was working with health partners to expand smaller distribution sites from four to 12.

Shortly, after the governor's announcement, 89-year-old Robert Freistedt called his doctor to schedule an appointment.

"Sharp [Rees-]Stealy said we don't have the vaccine as we don't have plans to vaccinate over 65 at this point

The Navy veteran says he went online and checked the county's vaccination location page but found it confusing. This was before it was updated. It now says in small print the state expanded vaccinations to Phase 1A and 65 and older but the county is prioritizing 1A and will update when vaccines for individuals aged 65 years and older will be available. 

"When I went online I found it was very confusing," said Freistedt. 

Chairman Fletcher says San Diego County was one of the chosen few to be a part of the state's pilot Clinical Management System dashboard where you will be able to register, access eligibility and schedule a vaccination appointment. He says it should be up and running sometime this week. 

The county's Petco Park Super Station experienced a snag with backed up traffic as officials said six people had an allergic reaction to the vaccine given, so they paused on vaccinations and switched to a different batch and resumed vaccinations again. Appointments ran behind with a schedule slated to stay open late in order to honor all appointments. 

The HHSA hopes by the end of June to have 70% of the county's population over the age of 16 -- or 1,882,554 people -- vaccinated. Currently it has .04% immunized from COVID-19 and is administering 6,153 vaccines a day. Fletcher said the county's goal is giving 18,686 vaccines each day by Feb. 1.

Of the 14,636 tests reported Wednesday, 22% returned positive, raising the 14-day rolling average to 14.2% from Tuesday's 13.8%. The county and its health partners have administered more than 3 million tests since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations resulting from the virus rose to a record 1,804, and intensive care units had 425 patients with COVID-19, just one shy of Monday's record 426. A total of 33 staffed ICU beds remain in the county -- including both adult and pediatric beds. Only 246 ICU beds are occupied by patients without COVID-19.

Sharp Healthcare sent News 8 statement: To date, Sharp HealthCare has received an allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine to administer to our employees, physicians and long-term care patients. Thus far, more than 16,000 Sharp team members have received the vaccine. Availability of the vaccine for San Diegans 65+ is dependent on health care providers receiving sufficient doses as well as working with San Diego County officials, who are determining the timing of vaccine phases. We do not have further details to share at this time, but will communicate them as soon as we do.

Scripps Health also sent a statement: Scripps Health is aware that California officials have allowed for residents 65 and older to qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations. However, none of the San Diego hospitals have been given the vaccinations at this time to begin distribution to their patients, and we are waiting to hear from the government on when to expect them. Scripps asks that our patients wait to hear from us, and we promise to keep them fully informed. At this point, please do not call your Scripps physician’s office as they do not know when the vaccines will be available.

Kaiser sent News 8 a statement: At Kaiser Permanente, we are committed to getting COVID-19 vaccines to all of our members and communities as soon as possible. We have been preparing for the expansion of eligibility under state guidelines, and are working with counties and state leaders on expanding vaccination locations. Successfully delivering the vaccine to people 65-and-older depends on getting access to adequate supplies of vaccine, which we understand is coming. In the meantime, we are continuing to complete vaccination of community and Kaiser Permanente health care workers. For information on vaccination, go to kp.org 

UCSD Medical Center did not return our request for information about the vaccination of the 65 and older population.