COSTA MESA, Calif. - Officials opened their newest super POD vaccination site at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa Wednesday.
"This site will add tremendously to our capacity ... to move the county safely ahead to reopen our economy," Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do said.
"We have been working really hard to ensure greater access for all residents in Orange County," Do said.
Supervisor Katrina Foley, who represents the district that includes the fairgrounds, said plans are in the works to offer more flexible hours at the site "because some people cannot afford to take time off from work to go to a POD from 8 to 5."
Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said it is critical to vaccinate as many residents as possible to outrace the variants of the virus, which have prompted upticks in some states and countries.
He said officials are dispensing vaccines to anyone who wants one in the ZIP codes identified by the state as priorities because they are underprivileged communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
"Several countries have gone back to soft lockdowns and we know it's because they haven't been able to vaccinate quickly," Chau said, adding that England has not had to do that because officials there are vaccinating residents as quickly as possible.
In some countries, officials held back inoculations to make sure there was enough vaccine for booster shots, but England prioritized getting first shots done as much as possible before getting the booster shots, Chau said.
"That seems to have worked and I have made the same recommendation to the state, so we'll wait and see," Chau said.
He emphasized the importance of continued adherence to social distancing and face coverings and reminded travelers that the state "strongly recommends" quarantining for 10 days after returning from an out-of-state trip
The county has inoculated about 1.1 million residents and about 500,000 have gotten a shot and a booster, Chau said.
Orange County officially qualified for the orange tier on Tuesday, when the state announced its weekly update on coronavirus data, and the eased restrictions went into effect Wednesday.
"Ever since we got to open for indoor, sales have really rocketed and gone up quite a bit so we’re so excited to do indoor seating now and people love it," Tim Taber, Dick Church’s restaurant owner said.
In the summer, the plan is for a permitted roller rink in Dick Church’s parking lot.
The latest weekly update from the state showed the county's test positivity rate improved from 2.1% to 1.7%, and the adjusted case rate per100,000 people on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag improved from 3.5 last Tuesday to 2.8.
Retail stores now do not have to limit attendance at all, and churches, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums can expand attendance from 25% to 50% of capacity.
Restaurants can expand indoor dining to 50%, wineries can offer indoor service at 25%, and bars that don't serve food can reopen outdoors for the first time.
Gyms and fitness centers can expand to 25% of capacity, and family entertainment centers can offer indoor attractions such as bowling.
Chau said it is unclear when the county might be able to make it up the yellow tier. The state mandates remaining in the orange tier for at least three weeks.
Chau predicted the state will reach its goal of 4 million inoculations of lower-income residents, which will trigger a loosening of the standards for each color of the tiered network for reopening up the economy.
The state has inoculated 3.4 million in the lower-income category.
The case rates have to dip under one per 100,000 to make it to the yellow tier, but the county has qualified for the yellow tier in positivity rates for the last week, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said.