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County seeing progress in COVID-19 fight
COVID vaccine clinic
On April 1 all Californians 50 years and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine and on April 15 eligibility expands to anyone 16 years and older (Journal file photo)

Vaccination efforts in Stanislaus County are growing and COVID-19 cases are decreasing, giving some room to hope that the area will be able to move into a less restrictive tier by mid-March.

“This is the first good news we’ve had in a while,” said Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa after being briefed on the current COVID-19 status at Tuesday’s meeting.

As of Monday, Stanislaus County expanded the vaccination efforts to Phase 1B, which is for people 50 years and older who work in education and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture sectors.

For this week the County was allocated about 9,000 vaccines, up from the 5,800 from the previous week.

The County also is seeing COVID-19 cases drop recently. Since Feb. 8, Stanislaus County has seen cases dropping at a small but steady rate, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency data.

“There is some encouraging data in the community,” said County CEO Jody Hayes.

As of Tuesday, Stanislaus County has recorded 49,970 positive COVID-19 cases. Of those, 1,165 are presumed active. There have been 937 COVID-19 deaths in the county. Currently, 116 people are hospitalized with the virus, including 27 in intensive care units.

If the county continues to see cases drop, while also maintaining a certain level of testing, it’s possible by the start of March that the area would reach the requirements for moving out of the purple tier to the red tier, said Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan. That would allow for several businesses to re-open or expand operations by mid-March.

On Monday Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state is partnering with OptumServe and local counties to open up to 11 vaccination sites within the next week to serve some of the hardest-hit or most at-risk communities in the Central Valley.

“The efforts announced today will help us meet vulnerable and vital Central Valley communities where they are, helping our entire state combat this pandemic effectively, efficiently and equitably.”

The state is also increasing vaccine allocations to the Central Valley by 58 percent above last week, based on recent changes in the state’s allocation methodology that better reflect this region’s workforce. The state’s vaccine allocation formula began factoring in the employment sectors in Phase 1b, Tier 1 (education, emergency services and food and agriculture). The new formula weights age 65+ at 70 percent and employment sectors at 30 percent, which increases allocations to the Central Valley due to its heavy concentration of food and agricultural workers.

While the County is working on vaccinating as many residents as possible, it is still critical that all residents continue to follow the recommendations to wear a mask, avoid gatherings, wash hands often, stay 6 feet from others whenever in public places and get tested if exposed or experiencing symptoms. These steps, along with vaccines, are essential in ending the pandemic by stopping the spread of COVID‐ 19 and protecting the community, according to health officials.