California to Turn Stadiums Into Vaccination Sites to Speed Rollout

About 784,000 Californians have received the Covid vaccine, and Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday another 1 million will receive shots in the arm in the coming days.

Long lines of motorists wait to take a coronavirus test at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. California will now bring Covid vaccination sites to the stadium and others like it, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

(CN) — California will convert sport stadiums and fairgrounds into vaccination distribution centers, Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday, nearly 12 months after health officials confirmed the first Covid-19 case in the Golden State.

Many of the larger Covid-19 testing sites in California will convert to vaccine sites in the coming days.

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego and Cal Expo in Sacramento will serve as vaccine distribution sites later this week. More sites will open across the state later this month.

According to Newsom, California has received just 2.4 million vaccines. He said the state of 40 million people expects to receive more when the Biden administration takes office on Jan. 20, but that’s still being worked out.

The emphasis now is an “all hands on deck” mission to administer as many vaccines as possible to the eligible Californians and expand the pool of who can administer the vaccine. Dentists, pharmacy technicians, EMTs and officials are in talks to train nursing students, firefighters and retired health care workers to join the line.

The ramped-up vaccinator pool will give officials the flexibility to vaccinate people who are otherwise farther down the priority list.

Roughly 784,000 people have received the vaccine, but Newsom said the goal is to vaccinate another 1 million in the coming days.

“Get it out of the freezers and into people’s arms,” said Newsom.

Newsom said a new survey showing that 2% of workers at University of California medical facilities have refused the vaccine and 81% of California Department of Veterans Affairs have received the vaccine “flies in the face” of national headlines about large numbers of health care workers refusing the vaccine.

The statewide shift to vaccinations arrives as California reports 264 new deaths and nearly 40,000 new confirmed cases on Sunday.

But the mood and progress made against the virus lies in the numbers: While over 21,600 are in the hospital with Covid-19 across California, the increase equates to a modest 6% increase over the last 14 days.

“That’s the smallest increases we’ve seen over a two-week period in some time. It’s just a point of some optimism,” said Newsom. He called it “a little bit of light” but noted health officials are not overly optimistic because there’s still a possibility that a post-holiday surge will rear its head in the coming weeks.

“We still have a few more days before we can confidently say that it isn’t as high as we feared,” said Ghaly said of the surge many medical professionals had predicted. “We are still concerned over the last week we’ve seen some high case numbers and those will end up in our hospitals in five or 10 days from now. I don’t want to think we’re out of the woods in any measure.”

Humans are not alone in the pandemic.

In an alarming development, Newsom announced two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo tested positive for Covid-19 and another was symptomatic. In a statement, the zoo said the gorillas have some congestion and coughing but are otherwise doing well. They likely caught the virus from an asymptomatic staff member.

Members of the gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, Calif., are seen in their habitat on Sunday. (Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Safari Park via Courthouse News)

Still, some institutions view 2021 as a turning point in the war against the novel coronavirus.

The University of California will allow in-person classes this fall at 10 campuses.

“As the university continues to monitor the evolution of the pandemic, we are also carefully planning a safe return to in-person classes,” said UC President Dr. Michael Drake in a statement. “Current forecasts give us hope that in the fall our students can enjoy a more normal on-campus experience.”

The UC system has roughly 286,000 students across all its schools. Its announcement follows word the California State University system will open its 23 campuses to in-person learning this fall.

While testing will remain a major component in the fight against the virus in the coming months, LA County announced over the weekend it will discontinue using the Curative Covid-19 PCR test after an alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the tests return too many false negative results.

The oral swab test made up 10% of all tests used by the county at its pop-up sites.

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