SANTA ANA, Calif. - Officials in Santa Ana on Wednesday issued a requirement for all city employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face regular testing as the Delta variant fuels a surge that has hospitalizations continuing to climb.
Santa Ana City Manager Kristine Ridge announced she was requiring vaccination of all city employees to help better protect staff and the public they interact with.
"We were a very hard hit community," Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said. "We have over 800 deaths of people we can point to and we don't want any more, and we simply wanted to make sure we're as responsible as possible and this is at least a responsible first step."
Ridge said she will meet with the city's labor leaders on the requirement to discuss how it will be implemented. Sarmiento said it was a "courtesy" and anyone who cannot get vaccinated for a health or religious reason the option is open to submit to regular testing for the virus.
"I want this to be more a carrot than a stick and encourage people" to get vaccinated, Sarmiento said.
Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, said the city's effort to get employees vaccinated is "great. I'm all for it."
Four more COVID-related fatalities were logged Wednesday in Orange County, but three were in January and the other on Dec. 23. The county's cumulative death toll is 5,165. Experts said that fatalities have decreased because of the high vaccination rates of seniors who are most vulnerable to the virus.
There were 12 infected people in Orange County's jails as of Wednesday, down from 14 on Tuesday, but officials say they are all newly booked inmates.
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Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said Tuesday that he thinks "we're pretty stable now" with infection rates.
"I am confident to say that we're probably reaching a peak now, a plateau," Chau said. "But we're keeping an eye on the hospitalizations."
The county has 21.7% of its ICU beds available, and 69% of its ventilators.
The county reported 11,213 tests Wednesday, raising the cumulative total to 4,522,326.
Of those eligible to get a shot, 75.4% of Orange County residents have received at least one dose, up from 73% last week, Chau said. Of the eligible residents, 67% are fully vaccinated now, up from 65% last week.
The county is also seeing an increase in interest for a third shot of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that have already been authorized for immunocompromised people, Chau said.
That population includes organ transplant recipients and individuals undergoing therapies that suppress their immune system.
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