While COVID-19 hospitalizations in Orange County are declining, leaders in Irvine have shifted their concern to the overall supply of COVID-19 vaccine, a compounding issue affecting both city and county level operations.

Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan said the county is expecting 40,000 more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, an increase from 37,000 a week prior. The Orange County Health Agency reported 376,735 total doses have been administered as of Monday, Feb. 8.

The Irvine City Council has reiterated the city’s ability to host a SuperPOD (Point of Distribution) vaccination site, specifically within portions of the Great Park. However, city officials continue to cite the county’s shallow supply of COVID-19 vaccine as the main factor delaying plans for any additional SuperPOD sites – in Irvine or Orange County.

Additionally, in January, a license agreement between the city of Irvine and the county, authorizing the use of the Great Park as a SuperPOD site, was pulled from the Irvine City Council agenda at the request of County CEO Frank Kim.

During the Jan. 26. meeting, Irvine City Manager Marianna Marysheva said the city hoped to receive a final word on the location of a SuperPOD site in Irvine by Feb. 10. As of Tuesday, Feb. 16, the city has yet to publicly address any discussions about the location of a SuperPOD site in Irvine.

In an email with Irvine Weekly, Marysheva explained that the city is ready to facilitate a COVID-19 vaccination SuperPOD when the county is ready to move forward.

“We continue having an ongoing dialogue with the county. As you know, at this time the supply of vaccines provided to the Orange County Health Care Agency by the state is constrained.” Marysheva wrote.

“With this, the county currently has insufficient supply to distribute through the existing channels, including the two SuperPOD sites (at Disney and Soka) and mobile clinics. Together with the county, we will monitor the supply on an ongoing basis, and when it becomes sufficient to warrant opening additional SuperPOD sites, Irvine will be ready.”

After her weekly mayor’s call with Dr. Clayton Chau, Khan said she expects the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be approved in the coming days, and with that approval she expects more SuperPODs to follow.

“The county will be opening small equity pod sites at Santa Ana college focusing on individuals in the nearby ZIP codes,” Khan wrote in a Facebook post, Friday, Feb. 12. “We are expecting and hopeful that Johnson & Johnson will be authorized on Feb. 26, will enable the county to open a third SuperPOD site.”

Khan added that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose vaccine, which is expected to be administered to the local inmate populations, along with migrant farm workers and those with intellectual disabilities.

Still, delays with the current vaccine have caused bottlenecking in distributing all the Phase 1A vaccines before moving into Phase 1B, a problem Khan attributed to the size of the county.

“Orange County is the second largest county with the largest senior population, that’s why it’s taking longer for us to move from phase 1A to 1B. The county hopes to get through 50 percent of seniors by next week,” Khan wrote via Facebook. “In addition, the county is trying to meet the senior equity requirements for the Black, Latino and API seniors.”

In the meantime, Khan said Irvine seniors, 65-years and older, seeking the vaccination can do so by way of local pharmacy chains. CVS, which will carry approximately 100 doses, and Rite-Aid, that will carry about 20 doses-per day, will also be points of distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine in Orange County.

Orange County continues to push ahead with Operation Independence, the partnership between Orange County Fire Authority and the Orange County Health Agency, with the shared goal of vaccinating all individuals seeking vaccinations by July 4.

On Feb. 12, the Centers for Disease Control issued guidance to begin vaccinating individuals over the age of 16, with underlying health conditions.

Orange County is quickly approaching the one-year anniversary of its first confirmed COVID-19 case, which was recorded on March 2, 2020. Since then, the county now has an accumulative total of 243,163 COVID-19 cases with 3,617 COVID-19 related deaths.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Orange County reported a total of 658 COVID-19 cases with 40 COVID-19 related deaths. HCA noted that Tuesday’s daily totals were an accumulative total of from both Feb. 15 and 16, due to the President’s Day holiday.

With 235 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, as of Tuesday, Feb. 16, the county intensive care unit capacity increased to 11.3 percent. Tuesday’s ICU total marks the highest available ICU capacity total since Dec. 9, 2020.

Currently there are 748 COVID-19 patients hospitalized – the lowest total since Dec. 3, 2020.
The city of Irvine has also seen decreased case counts, in comparison to a month prior.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the city reported a total of 34 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the city’s total to 9,866 total COVID-19 cases with 60 total deaths.

Now with a testing positivity rate of 7.8 percent, Orange County has met the criteria to move into the less restrictive Red Tier, or the substantial COVID-19 risk category.

Within the Red Tier, restaurants, places of worship, along with gyms and fitness centers may reopen for indoor operations, with modifications. While fitness centers will be able to resume operations, capacity must be limited to 10 percent.

Movie theaters will also get the green light to return to indoor services, at 25 percent capacity.
Statewide, COVID-19 rates are on a downward trajectory.

On Jan. 16, the state reported 42,229, a month later on Feb. 16, the California Department of Public Health reported just 5,692 new COVID-19 cases, a stark decrease from a month prior, and also the lowest statewide daily total since October 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released guidance for the safe reopening of schools, which includes a color coded COVID-19 transmission risk chart, along with the universal use of face masks.

The CDC’s color coded map for reopening schools for all in-person instruction is categorized from low transmission (blue), moderate transmission (yellow), substantial transmission (orange), high transmission (red).

This chart, will be used as a roadmap to determine what mode of education – full in-person instruction or the hybrid model – that will be implemented throughout the district, determined by the COVID-19 transmission rates within the community.

Along with following community transmission rates, Irvine Unified School District will also be implementing more sanitation strategies.

“Five mitigations strategies” in resuming in-person learning — universal masking; social distancing; hand-washing and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and ventilating facilities; and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine protocols.

Currently, all schools within the Irvine Unified School District are operating within the hybrid model, but there are no plans to transition back to in-person education at this time.