Santa Clara County officials said Wednesday they are making progress with COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning but remain concerned amid spiking cases and hospitalizations.
Like other jurisdictions, the county will receive a limited supply of vaccines at first. The top priority will be to provide a vaccine to healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against the virus. It may take "many months" for everyone else who wants a vaccine to get one, Dr. Jennifer Tong, Associate Chief Medical Officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said.
Meanwhile, the county is still "extremely concerned" about having enough beds and staff to care for the sick, Tong said. As of Wednesday morning, the five hospitals that serve the southern and eastern portions of the county collectively had less than one dozen intensive care unit beds available, the county said. Countywide, only 44 ICU beds were available.
It remains unclear how many vaccine doses the county will receive at first due to the changing nature of distribution.
"We are prepared to store and then distribute the full volume of what we do receive," Tong said.
There are some difficult logistics, including the fact that necessary ultra-cold storage units are only now being set up to store some of the different vaccines at 70 degrees below zero. But Tong said it's happening.
"I literally, before coming to the press conference, was on the phone with a group that was telling me that freezers had arrived on a truck as of yesterday," she said. "Multiple freezers have been installed."
The order requiring anyone traveling more than 150 miles from the county line to quarantine for 14 days when they return remains in place.
James Williams, County Counsel for Santa Clara County, said the county is using 150 miles for the travel distance because it covers a so-called "sweet spot."
"The 150 miles was arrived at trying to come up with an appropriate area that would account for the fact that there are a lot of people who travel for work on a regular basis or live and work across county borders within a few hours of Santa Clara County, but wanting to ensure that folks who, that where there's significant surge in cases...would be subject to the quarantine," he said.
The county did announce the following clarifications to the travel quarantine order Wednesday:
- Licensed healthcare professionals, as defined by the order, and all persons working at acute care hospitals, do not need to quarantine following arrival to ensure adequate staffing.
- Persons who traveled solely for the purpose of performing an essential governmental function do not need to quarantine following arrival.
- The following persons are required to quarantine, but may leave their home or place of quarantine solely for work:
- Government employees who perform essential government functions, but only if the government entity would otherwise lack staffing to fulfill the essential function.
- Essential workers traveling solely for the purpose of performing essential critical infrastructure work, but only if the employer determines it would otherwise lack staffing to perform such work.
- Persons solely transiting through Santa Clara County and not staying overnight do NOT have to quarantine. This includes people who, for example, have a layover at SJC.
- Persons traveling to Santa Clara County to obtain services from a healthcare facility are required to quarantine but may leave quarantine to obtain those services.
- Persons may leave quarantine to comply with a court order or make an appearance in a court of law or administrative proceeding.