A Northern California county has begun a door-to-door coronavirus testing pilot program in a majority Latino community that has become a virus hot spot.
Santa Clara County volunteers started handing out self-testing kits in the East San Jose neighborhood of Silicon Valley’s San Jose last week, where 55% of the population is Latino and officials say many residents cannot easily access testing sites.
Communities of color nationwide have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
Santa Clara County’s efforts come as more than 325,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to California on Sunday amid record-setting case numbers and shrinking intensive care unit capacity.
The first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine left Michigan early Sunday for 145 distribution centers nationwide. States will get vaccines based on their adult population and additional shipments are coming this week.
The vaccine is heading to hospitals and other sites across the country that can store it at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero. Pfizer is using containers with dry ice and GPS-enabled sensors to ensure each shipment stays colder than the weather in Antarctica.
In California — where Saturday produced another record day of new confirmed cases — counties will have specific allotments that will be distributed to hospitals determined by state health officials to have adequate storage capacity, serve a high-risk health care population and have the ability to vaccinate people quickly. Priority will be to inoculate health care workers on the front lines of a pandemic that has infected more than 16 million people and claimed nearly 298,000 lives in the U.S. alone.
Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that a group of medical experts convened by Western states met Saturday to discuss the vaccine and confirm that it is safe for public use. Newsom said distribution could begin as early as Sunday.
The vaccines are coming as the situation grows more dire by the day nationwide and in California, with the holiday season well underway. Public health officials are afraid the already surging infection rates and hospitalizations will continue to climb as people ignore precautions to gather for the holidays.
On Saturday, the number of available ICU beds in San Joaquin Valley plummeted to zero for the first time and San Francisco reported 323 new cases, the highest since the pandemic began. Millions of Californians in the majority of the state are under stay-at-home orders.