LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis Monday signed an executive order directing the L.A. County Department of Public Health to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments available to residents 65 and older starting Thursday.
"Over the past several weeks, the County of Los Angeles has administered the vaccine to frontline healthcare workers, so that they can stay safe while doing the important work of saving lives, and residents and staff in skilled nursing facilities, and long-term care facilities," Solis said in an emailed statement. "The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been an enormous undertaking, especially during an unprecedented surge where cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to skyrocket.
"However, if we are to ever get out of this dark winter, it is critical that we make headway vaccinating people 65 years of age and older as soon as possible – in line with Governor Gavin Newsom's recommendations," the statement continued.
Solis said that she was giving the health department until Thursday to begin opening appointments up to those 65 and older until Thursday so they could "adequately prepare for the rollout.
But hours earlier, Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county's chief medical officer, said that the county was not yet at a point to move forward with vaccinating seniors.
"If we do see by the end of the week that the rate of uptick by healthcare workers is dropping off, suggesting we need to move onto what's called Phase 1B, particularly Tier 1 for the elderly people, we'll make that call pretty quickly," he said.
The move comes as researchers at Cedars-Sinai announced that a new local strain, designated as Cal.20C might be contributing to the surge and has been found in more than one-third of COVID-19 Cases in Los Angeles.
Gunzenhauser said the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has been watching that, and a number of other mutations — including one first detected in the United Kingdom.
"We are concerned that if that does, you know, surface up and it causes a lot of transmission, we could see a big wave in February or March," he said.
Public Health has not yet released a statement addressing the executive order, which can be viewed online, but has previously said it was delaying the rollout for older residents citing vaccine shortages as it worked to get healthcare and frontline workers inoculated first.
The department will be hosting a virtual COVID-19 vaccine town hall Wednesday.
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