County vaccinates over 3,000 at International Agri-Center

Supervisor Amy Shuklian says the county administered 3,250 vaccines in two days, encourages people in Phase 1B and those 65 years of age and older to make appointments

Amy Shuklian
District 3 Board Supervisor

TULARE COUNTY – Despite the rocky rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Tulare County managed to put 3,250 needles in the arms of Tulare County residents last Friday and Saturday.

The Tulare Agri-Center that would normally be preparing for the internationally renowned World Ag Expo, instead played host to the county’s first mega vaccine distribution site. According to Tulare County District 3 board supervisor and chair of the Board of Supervisors, Amy Shuklian, county health staff distributed 1,304 vaccines on Friday, and 1,946 on Saturday.

Shuklian said they were expecting more doses of the vaccine, but got less than half of what the county was told.

“We were expecting 10,000 last week, and we got a little less than [5,000]. I don’t know why…And my understanding is that this week, we’re going to get even less,” Shuklian said.

Porterville College and College of the Sequoia’s Visalia campus hosted similar events on Wedneday, Jan. 20. Shuklian said she was expecting a similar turnout to Friday and Saturday’s vaccine distribution. In the face of lacking vaccine dosages, Shuklian said the strategy is still to distribute as much of the vaccine as they have with the expectation of being resupplied.

Shuklian said the appointments for the COS and Porterville College distribution events were filled days before the event. She added that on Friday and Saturday at the Agri-Center they had over 1,000 appointments between the two days.

As of now vaccine distribution is an open call to anyone 65 years of age or older, and those who fall within Phase 1B—agricultural workers, teachers and emergency service workers. But Shuklian said that it is important for them to make an appointment as opposed to just arriving on site.

“You can’t just be you know, anybody. You’ve got to be 65 or in one of the tiers and you can’t just show up,” Shuklian said.

Part of the reason is for fear they will run out of the vaccine at one of these events. According to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, 5,388 residents have been vaccinated thus far, and they have 18,275 doses to administer. But each vaccination requires two doses meaning that the doses that are outstanding will vaccinate 9,138 people.

Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz told the Board of Supervisors during the Jan. 12 meeting that the state’s appointment system has been a hang up. He said it doesn’t recognize a scheduled second round of the vaccines nor does it prioritize who can get the vaccine and when so the phased tiers are basically meaningless to this system.

Two weeks ago Health and Human Services staff had some internal links for appoints that were intended for targeted groups, but instead they were leaked on social media opening up local appointments people well outside the area.

“We had people come in from Oakland, San Jose, and throughout the state trying to come in to get vaccinations,” Lutz said. “it definitely created some problems and frankly, frustration for people who our staff had to go through the list the night before, cull through who’s eligible, do mass cancellations and hope that they get it in time for that and or deal with angry people the next morning.”

Lutz said that there is some “inconsistencies that [he] hates” but added that considering the rate they are attempting to vaccinate the population mistakes are expected. However, that does little to quell the tempers of patrons. Lutz said patrons who signed up online and were then turned away because of the error in the system have become aggressive.

“We’ve had some that have refused to leave. They start to rev their engines to intimidate staff. Since this is a drive thru clinic, and have also been pretty verbally abusive to our staff,” Lutz said.

HHSA staff are trying to see about police response to help protect and supervise the staff.

Tulare County Held their first mega vaccination site at the Tulare Agri-Center where over 3,000 residents received the COVID-19 vaccine. Porterville College and College of the Sequoias are hosting similarly sized events on Wednesday.Photo courtesy of the County of Tulare
Flouting rules

At this point in the pandemic businesses are openly flouting the rules and guidelines intended to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Their actions have in turn led to a sustained surge well into January.

Lutz said as much during his weekly report to the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 12.

“Public health is receiving numerous reports of businesses that really are now just completely ignoring much of the guidance, including open bars and in-door dining and large hosted gatherings,” Lutz said. “These types of activities do have a direct correlation to how fast we’re able to start to bring our case rates back down.”

He added that the county spread correlates with the places that are flouting the rules.

As of Jan. 19, the county’s new daily cases per 100,000 people stands at 92.8. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are 204. Active cases in the county are 5,421, and the number of deaths climbed to 501.

Lutz said the majority of evidence public health has received are photographs of businesses breaking the rules. Shuklian, recalled that nearly 70% of cases in the past had occurred from gatherings. Lutz concurred with Shuklian, but said that contact tracing over the most recent surge of cases has not yet brought conclusive evidence that the rise of cases is from restaurants and bars.

Meanwhile the San Joaquin Valley region in the state remains at 0.0% ICU capacity.

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