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Morning Brief: Risks, Rewards And Snow Machines: How Successful Governments Are Distributing The Vaccine

A dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Good morning, L.A.

As Los Angeles. and many other California cities struggle to distribute the coronavirus vaccine, Long Beach — a city of nearly 500,000 — is moving swiftly.

In late January, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said the city’s healthcare workers were almost all vaccinated. Now, the next tier of inoculations are well underway. Garcia told my colleague Sharon McNary that 6,500 education and childcare workers and 2,500 food workers have received at least one dose. The city’s police, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, emergency workers, and residents over the age of 65 are also eligible.

In L.A. city and county, by comparison, vaccines are currently available only to healthcare workers and people aged 65 and over.

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Garcia attributes his city’s success so far to the fact that Long Beach has its own health department, sparing it some bureaucratic roadblocks. Additionally, he said, city officials took a calculated risk early on.

"We made some decisions to not hold on to supply, but to run out as fast as possible,” he said. “That's helped us move along really quickly."

Across the country, states that have been the most successful in getting shots in arms have tailored distribution plans to their population’s particular needs. Alaska has vaccinated the second-highest percentage of its population (after West Virginia), and there, medical teams traverse snow-covered, mountainous terrain to administer doses “on snow machines, on four wheelers, in trucks, in airplanes, standing on tarmacs in -20 windchill … basically anywhere,” Dr. Ellen Hodges, Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation chief of staff, told the Pew Charitable Trusts.

And West Virginia has relied heavily on independent, community pharmacies and clinics, where staff often know residents personally and trust is high.

Meanwhile, California officials are launching a website they hope will streamline the vaccination process, and banking on age-based eligibility to help inoculate more people. In the meantime, legislators might well look to Long Beach for guidance — because for Garcia, it’s personal. The 727 coronavirus deaths in the city include his mother and stepfather.

"Because I've also lost both my parents,” he said, “I certainly feel like every vaccine that we get out is a potential life-saving opportunity."

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

What Else You Need To Know Today

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Before You Go … Meet LA’s Pop Art Nun

wonderbread, serigraph, 1962 (Photograph by Arthur Evans, Courtesy of the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles, CA)

Silkscreen artist Corita Kent was known in the art world as the Pop Art Nun. A member of the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Feliz between 1936 and 1968, her work was a rebellious take on religious art. In 1966, she was named an L.A. Times Woman of the Year.

So when Nellie Scott, director of the Corita Art Center, found out that the small studio in East Hollywood where Kent did some of her most significant work was going to be razed for a parking lot, she was devastated.

"It really was just a gut punch," she said. "A plaque just wouldn't do it justice."

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