Los Angeles shatters another record for COVID cases, county could see vaccine in coming weeks

LONG BEACH, CA - December 09: Health care workers wearing personal protective equipment prepare and hand out COVID-19 tests to a long lines of subjects who self-administer the tests at sunset at Long Beach City College-Veterans Memorial Stadium on We

Breaking another daily record, Los Angeles County reported 12,819 new coronavirus cases, along with 74 new deaths. Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized is now up to 3,433 and 23% are in the ICU.

LA County health officials say in the past two days, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by more than 300.

The county also reported its first COVID-19 related death in a child. The health department says the child was hospitalized for multisystem inflammatory syndrome and had severe underlying health conditions. The child that passed away is also the first MIS-C associated death in L.A. County.

RELATED: CHLA reports first death of child from COVID-related syndrome

As cases continue to rise, the U.S. is one step closer to a vaccine. On Thursday, a U.S. government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off.

RELATED: US advisory panel OKs Pfizer vaccine in last step before FDA approval

During a press briefing Thursday night, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said as many as 500,000 COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines could be delivered to Los Angeles by the end of the month.

LA County could see up to 83,000 doses in next few days and if approved by the FDA, Mayor Garcetti said Los Angeles could see its first vaccine distributed by the end of the upcoming week. 

“Vaccines will be the most important tool in getting this crisis under control,” the mayor stated.

First priority for the vaccine will go to health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. It will likely be several months before the vaccine is made available to the general public.

Hospitals will prioritize the administration of the doses, following state guidelines developed in consultation with U.S. Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines for long-term care staff and residents will be distributed via a federal contract with CVS and Walgreens.

Dr. Paul Simon said that after the initial distribution, the county expects to receive roughly 250,000 more doses the following week, and another 150,000 the week after that, with weekly deliveries of up to 250,000 doses anticipated beginning in the new year.

After the distribution to health care workers and long-term care staff and residents is completed, under “Phase 1A'' of the plan, Priority will then move to essential workers and then people at highest risk of severe illness from the virus, such as seniors or those with underlying health conditions.

But Simon noted the judgment of who is considered “at risk'' could become a matter for debate.

“That probably is going to become an important consideration when we really start to roll things out -- when we move beyond the highest-risk groups into groups where the risks may be a little bit more uncertain or there are larger areas of gray,'' he said.

“And there, I think, we will do our best to prioritize, be as transparent as possible. I don't think we're going to be doing validation checks with each person as they float through the line, so I think there is sort of an honor system to some degree. But we will do everything possible to make sure we are doing this in an equitable manner, tending to the risks and making sure that we maximize the benefits.''

City News Service contributed to this report