race for a vaccine

Front-Line Health Care Workers Get First Vaccines in Contra Costa County

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The arrival Tuesday morning of 9,715 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to Contra Costa County, and the planned vaccination of the first front-line county health workers that afternoon, was hailed as a "great milestone" in battling the COVID-19 pandemic locally, health officials said.

All of this first round of vaccines will go to workers in various Contra Costa emergency rooms, intensive care units and other key medical facilities throughout the county, Health Director Anna Roth told the county supervisors on Tuesday. Workers at skilled nursing facilities and other similar places are expected to be available by the end of this month, as an expected 22,000 more vaccine doses are expected in the next week to two weeks, Roth said.

"All indications are that they'll be coming on a regular basis as we move forward," said Roth, noting that county health officials are confident in the vaccine's safety and effectiveness.

It couldn't come too soon, as Contra Costa County -- along with much of the Bay Area and beyond -- has seen its infection rates skyrocket in an expected post-Thanksgiving infection surge.

Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county's health officer, told the supervisors Tuesday that 181 Contra Costa residents were hospitalized over the past week with COVID-19. The county's positive test rate during that time, he said, was 7.6 percent, and as high as 12 percent in some communities where COVID-19 infections have been higher.

There were three COVID-19 deaths in Contra Costa on Wednesday, Farnitano said, three more Thursday and six on Friday. The youngest victim, he said, was 45.

"We can be relatively certain that December will be our deadliest month, based on the cases we've seen so far," Farnitano told the supervisors. There are about 500 new cases being reported every day now, he said; of those,about five are expected to die.

As for whether the stay-at-home health order issued Dec. 4 by Contra Costa and four other Bay Area counties has been effective in slowing COVID-19's spread, Farnitano said early indications are that it probably is helping. But it won't be until sometime next week that health officials will have enough information to make a more accurate determination, he said.

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