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California Switching To Age-Based Vaccine Eligibility, Lifts Stay-At-Home Orders

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California’s regional stay-at-home orders have been lifted, with most counties returning to the strictest tier in the state’s color-coded COVID-19 reopening plan, according to the state's Department of Public Health. However, individual counties can still keep in place, or impose, stricter regulations. It remains unclear how this change will affect Los Angeles County.

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the change at his weekly COVID-19 press conference, while Los Angeles County’s own health department will be giving a public update with more details later this afternoon. You can watch the full press conference from Gov. Newsom above and read highlights below.

VACCINE PROVIDERS HAVE TO USE IT OR LOSE IT

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Many vaccine providers have been holding on to second doses after administering the first dose. However, Newsom said that providers have been directed to use their full supply — or the state will reallocate it to providers who will.

The state is also working to get providers to enter the data about vaccinations into the state system more quickly, reducing the lag in data.

The state plans to announce a plan for its new vaccination network on Tuesday, shifting from a bottom-up strategy (similar to what the state uses with the flu vaccine) to more of a coordinated, top-down strategy. The California Vaccine Team is working to move to a unified, statewide network.

To meet President Joe Biden's goal of 100 million vaccines in 100 days, California would need to vaccinate 110,000 Californians per day. The state is already vaccinating 120,000 per weekday, and that it should strive for more — though the supply issue remains, as well as attitudes by some toward vaccinations.

VACCINE ELIGIBILITY CHANGING TO SPEED UP VACCINATIONS

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The state is continuing to vaccinate those 65 and older and health care workers, then will be prioritizing first responders, food and agriculture workers, and teachers and school staff.

However, it will transition from there to age-based eligibility. Newsom said this would allow the state to scale up and down quickly, getting the vaccine to disproportionately impacted communities.

Newsom compared the system to when airlines allow different groups to board a plane, without waiting for everyone in a certain group to come before opening up to the next group.

The state has also launched a new scheduling system for Californians looking to get vaccinated at MyTurn.CA.gov. You can sign up to get notified by text or email when it's your turn to be vaccinated, and to schedule an appointment when it is your turn.

It's currently a pilot program, available in L.A. and San Diego counties. The plan is to launch the My Turn website statewide in early February.

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California's daily COVID-19 vaccinations have tripled, according to Gov. Newsom, with that pace sustained. It's up from 43,459 vaccinations on Jan. 4 to 131,620 on Jan. 15.

The state's "10-day challenge" is to give 1 million more vaccine doses in 10 days, according to Newsom. The state is working to simplify the vaccine eligibility framework, standard vaccine information and data, and to address supply issues. That includes both distribution what the state has, as well as pushing the federal government to get more.

LIFTING REGIONAL STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS

The statewide order was lifted as four-week projections of available ICU capacity exceeded 15% in each region, a key requirement for loosening restrictions.

Projections show that Southern California will have 33.3% available ICU capacity as of Feb. 21, four weeks from now. The state is also making the inputs used to make these projections available on the state Public Health Department website.

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The health department stressed the need to continue wearing masks, physically distance at least six feet, avoid gatherings and mixing with other households, wash your hands frequently, and to get vaccinated when you’re eligible. They described the pandemic as being “far from over.”

There were 27,007 new COVID-19 cases reported Sunday, with the seven-day average at 23,283 new positives per day.

The two-week positivity rate is back into single digits at 9.4%. That's down from 13.6% two weeks ago. The positivity rate over the past week is just 8%. California ranks 26th in the nation over the past week for positivity rate; that compares with up to 29.7% in Idaho.

COVID-19-positive hospitalizations are down 19.8% over the past two weeks, from 21,747 to 17,432. COVID-positive ICU admissions are down 9.5% over that time period, from 4,854 to 4,395.

RENT EVICTION PROTECTIONS EXTENDED TO JUNE 30

The state is extending eviction protections through June 30 for those who pay at least 25% of their rent through June. The debt remains owed, but those tenants can't be evicted for it.

There is $2.6 billion in federal funds attached to this deal, including money going directly to counties and cities. That funding is targeting low-income renters.

COUNTY REOPENING TIERS

Further updates on which tier each county is in happen every Tuesday, based on local case rates and test positivity. Right now, 54 of the state's 58 counties are in the purple tier, including all of Southern California. There are three counties in the red and one county in the orange tier, with no counties in the least restrictive yellow tier.

In a statement, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said:

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for."

Counties in the purple tier that don’t have further restrictions will be able to resume some services and activities immediately, including outdoor dining and personal services such as indoor nail and hair salons. Certain youth sports competitions may also resume in those counties.

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