Vaccines Come With a Dose of Caution in California


Good morning.

It was a little after 6 a.m. in California on Monday when the first shot began to reverberate across the country.

A vaccine had arrived.

“I feel like healing is coming,” said Sandra Lindsay, the critical care nurse in Queens, N.Y., whom officials said was the first person in the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19 outside of trials. “I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history.”

Later in the day, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, looked on as health care workers at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical pushed up the sleeves of their scrubs to receive some of California’s first shots.

The governor and the mayor made small talk and posed for the cameras. Masked workers applauded as the shots were administered.

[Track coronavirus cases and hospitalizations with The Times’s map.]

An intensive care nurse, Helen Cordova, 32, was first up — both at the large hospital on Sunset Boulevard and in the state, according to the governor’s office.

“I’m feeling great,” she said, wearing a mask and blue scrubs in a short video posted on Twitter. “I’m excited, I’m hopeful.”

While the day was an undeniable turning point in the pandemic — the start of an enormous, high-stakes logistical undertaking involving FedEx trucks, ultracold storage and sensitive timing — California leaders on Monday tempered relief with pleas for vigilance.

“We hold that horror and that hope together,” Mr. Garcetti said. “While we celebrate, don’t let up.”

The virus has continued to overwhelm hospitals, even as millions of Californians live under some of the strictest rules the state has implemented since the spring.

[Read about restrictions in place now.]

As of Monday, intensive care units in the San Joaquin Valley were still full, and intensive care capacity in the vast Southern California region had dipped to 2.7 percent.

Nevertheless, the wheels are in motion.

As Hilda Solis, a Los Angeles County supervisor who also spoke at the hospital on Monday, put it: “The offramp is in plain view.”

Here’s what else you may want to know about California’s vaccine rollout:

How many doses did California get, and where are they going?

Mr. Newsom, who spoke outside the Los Angeles hospital early Monday afternoon, said that some 33,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in California and had been distributed to sites around the state. (He added the grim observation that that was roughly the number of new virus cases reported on Monday.)

The remainder of the state’s initial allotment of about 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were on their way in coming days, he said. They’ll be divvied up by regions across the state. (You can see how many doses are set to go to each region here.)

As the governor has repeatedly noted, those will go to a small fraction of California’s roughly 2.4 million health care workers, who will need two shots a few weeks apart.

Late Monday afternoon, the governor said on Twitter that he had just gotten word from Pfizer that 393,000 doses would be sent to California next week.

By the end of the month, the state estimates that it will have gotten about 2.1 million doses and, of course, more in the new year.

[Look up how many vaccine doses are set to go to each state.]

How is the state prioritizing who will get vaccinated?

As is the case across much of the country, frontline health care workers will be the first priority, followed by people living in long-term care facilities.

Then things get a little less precise; the state has released its vaccine rollout plan, in which experts will help develop plans for distributing more doses as they become available.

It is clear that essential workers, then those who are older or have health risks, will be next, before the rest of the general public. But there are millions of essential workers, and already, as The Los Angeles Times recently reported, companies are jostling to get their workers inoculated.

Mr. Newsom said that teachers “will be a priority.”

Ms. Solis on Monday also emphasized, as Mr. Newsom has, that health equity will be top of mind.

What happened with California’s independent vaccine review?

If you need a quick refresher, in October, the governor announced the state would do its own, independent review of federally approved coronavirus vaccines, as leaders across the country worried that the federal vaccine approval process would be politicized. Then, a week later, the governors of Washington, Oregon and Nevada said they’d join California’s effort.

Thus was born the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which on Sunday confirmed the federal review process that gave the Pfizer vaccine the go-ahead.

When Mr. Newsom announced the review, he said the group wouldn’t delay the distribution of the vaccine. And this week, the state described the panel’s work as concurrent with the federal government’s.

How are the vaccines being shipped? Where will you get your vaccine if you’re not an essential worker or part of a high-risk group? Are there side effects?

My colleagues have answered those questions and more here, in this extensive piece.

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)

  • Joseph R. Biden Jr. got his 306 electoral votes yesterday, formalizing his victory in the presidential election. And California’s 55 votes officially pushed him over the 270-vote threshold. [The New York Times]

Also: Can Congress overturn the Electoral College results? Probably not. [The New York Times]

  • In the wake of his French Laundry faux pas, Mr. Newsom unveiled a new ethics policy, barring any paid campaign or political consultant from also working as a lobbyist. But it’s unclear how the policy would apply to someone like the lobbyist whose birthday party Mr. Newsom attended at the Napa Valley restaurant. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • “It can happen to anybody.” The artist FKA twigs sued the actor Shia LaBeouf in Los Angeles, citing a relentlessly abusive relationship. [The New York Times]

  • If you missed it, code-breakers just cracked one of the Zodiac Killer ciphers. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

The Cliff House, the San Francisco dining institution that has been open in some form for more than 150 years, will close permanently at the end of the month. The restaurant’s current proprietors have said that the pandemic didn’t help matters, but the move was, ultimately, the result of a long-running dispute with the National Park Service, which owns the building overlooking the sea.

Dan and Mary Hountalas have run the restaurant since 1973, and spent years restoring it, according to a history the restaurant sent out, along with a statement about the closure.

The couple “decorated with hand-painted valances, silver-leaf and hand-pressed copper ceilings, Bradbury and Bradbury wall coverings, antique furnishings and historic photographs to create an elegant, comfortable setting that transports visitors to a bygone era,” according to the document.

Now, the statement said, much of the memorabilia collected over the years will be auctioned off, “lost forever.”

My colleague Jim Wilson visited the Cliff House on Monday and captured these images.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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