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TimesOC: County to ramp up vaccination efforts as COVID-19 hospitalizations drop 45%

"Sign up for our TimesOC newsletter" and the L.A. Times logo over the Huntington Beach Pier at sunset.
TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Feb. 24. I’m Carol Cormaci, an editor new to this rotation with my colleagues, editor John Canalis and reporter Ben Brazil, to bring you the latest roundup of Orange County happenings.

As we collectively embrace the spring-like weather this week, alongside the news that after a winter surge there’s been a significant drop in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, many of us are still left wondering when or where we might be able to bare our arms to receive our COVID-19 vaccines.

It’s great news that, as of Saturday, Orange County hospitals had reported seeing a 45% reduction of COVID-19 patients arriving at their doorsteps over the previous two weeks. But the fits and starts of getting the vaccines to as many in the U.S. as possible, a promise most recently hindered by transportation issues caused by last week’s extreme weather conditions across the country’s heart, have been dispiriting to many.

As was the grim news Monday that our nation’s COVID-19 death total to date has surpassed a half-million souls. That was unthinkable a year ago today, when many of us were just beginning to get clued in about the threat of a novel coronavirus that was spreading around the globe.

Local teachers, food and agricultural workers can take some comfort in knowing Orange County health officials announced vaccines are being set aside so these segments of the population can be inoculated.

According to Los Angeles Times reporter Alex Wigglesworth, our county plans to dedicate 30% of its most recent vaccine allocation those who toil in those sectors, along with others who work in emergency services. Wigglesworth learned from Orange County Health Care Agency spokeswoman Jessica Good that the remaining 70% of the vaccines will be offered to residents who are 65 and better.

That news came on the heels of a report by Ben Brazil pointing to efforts by Orange County to turn to community health centers in underserved communities to achieve greater equity in distributing the vaccines. He notes, for example, that while the local Latino population has taken a huge hit during the pandemic, just 12% of those inoculated against COVID-19 in Orange County are Latino.

There is still a wide swath of the populace that will just have to wait until more supplies are ready to be distributed. Read columnist Mary McNamara’s take on the situation. She’s envious of people who have received their shots and posted pics to prove it on social media. “I don’t need my emojis to be cool, " she says. “The only trend I care about is vaccine chic.”

A woman receives a first-round COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday at a distribution center on the Disneyland lot in Anaheim.
A woman receives a first-round COVID-19 vaccine at an Orange County distribution center on the Disneyland lot.
(Photo by BBP West)

NEWS

— A 7.6 -billion COVID-10 economic package approved Monday by the state Legislature means Orange County residents and their counterparts throughout California who qualify for a $600 state stimulus payment could see the money arrive as soon as a month after they’ve filed their tax returns. The package also includes upward of $2.1 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses.

— An appellate court last week ruled in favor of Tiffany Tabares, the mother of a 27-year-old who was shot and killed by a Huntington Beach Police Department officer outside of a local 7-Eleven in 2017. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a jury could find Officer Eric Esparza acted unreasonably when he shot Dillan Tabares seven times on Sept. 22, 2017, across the street from Marina High School.

— After Surfside Republican Michelle Steel in November beat Harley Rouda to represent the 48th Congressional District, the race was on to fill Steel’s remaining 2nd District term on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Five candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for the March 9 election, and although many voters already cast their ballots by mail, the campaigns are still going in full force. Reporter Sara Cardine gives an update on the state of the race.

Candidates for an open 2nd District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors
Candidates for an open 2nd District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, from left, are Kevin Muldoon, Janet Rappaport, John Moorlach, Katrina Foley and Michael Vo.
(Collage by Sara Cardine)

— The man convicted of sexually abusing and brutally killing two young boys during the 1980s (one of the victims was from Anaheim Hills) pleaded guilty Monday in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer last week said he objected to such a bargain made by the office of L.A. Dist. Atty. George Gascón because he feared 59-year-old Kenneth Rasmuson might one day be granted parole, but the deal calls for Rasmuson to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

— A motorist lost his life Friday in the second Costa Mesa Police Department officer-involved shooting in the past few weeks.

— Also in Costa Mesa, a man was arrested Sunday on suspicion of driving under the influence after his vehicle struck a pedestrian at the intersection of Newport and Harbor boulevards before colliding with another vehicle and causing three to be hospitalized with injuries.

A vehicle rollover on Costa Mesa's Newport Boulevard Feb. 21, 2021
A vehicle rollover that injured three on Costa Mesa’s Newport Boulevard early Sunday is being investigated as a DUI incident, CMPD reported.
(Courtesy of Costa Mesa Police Department)

— A proposed mixed-use project on Mariners Mile moved closer to fruition after receiving a round of permit approvals from the Newport Beach Planning Commission on Thursday.

— Some Orange County teens took their first whale-watching excursion together, courtesy of Save Our Youth last Friday. Although whales didn’t make an appearance, a slew of dolphins captured their attention, according to Daily Pilot reporter Matt Szabo, the lucky guy who got to climb aboard with them for the trip.

Students with Save Our Youth take part in a whale watching trip on Friday, Feb. 19.
Students with Save Our Youth take photos of a pod of common dolphins during a whale watching trip on Friday, Feb. 19.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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SPORTS

— Mike Trout wants to silence the same old song asking why the Angels don’t win

— Angels manager Joe Haddon welcomes recent news reports that Major League Baseball had slightly deadened the ball this season amid a six-year surge of home runs.

— The Angels have been looking for someone to replace Albert Pujols, and it looks like Jared Walsh is poised to do just that. But don’t rush Pujols off the roster, his wife says.

— Things are looking up for high school sports following the pandemic shutdown, with new guidelines in hand that will allow athletic departments to organize games.

— One high school sport that is seeing some action this spring is cross country: Fountain Valley rolls to dual meet sweep of Ocean View.

OPINION

— Columnist Michael Hiltzik: Hoag Memorial Hospital says it’s the target of retaliation by a giant Catholic healthcare chain

— Letters to the Editor: Orange County readers write on the Main Street closure in Huntington Beach, the effects of climate changes and the state of local journalism.

FOOD

— Ben Mims writes on vegetable roasts that can satisfy anyone hunting for a full-on, tasty meal.

LIFE & ARTS

— Free interactive musical performances, hosted by the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, kicked off this month and will run through May. Anyone can play their heart out in this interactive virtual orchestra, and my colleague Vera Castaneda tried it out herself.

— “Lunar Tides,” an art installation created by Scott and Naomi Schoenherr, brings new wave of artistic beauty to Heisler Park.

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