Santa Clara County volunteers began handing out self-test kits in the East San Jose neighborhood of San Jose in Silicon Valley last week, where 55% of the population is Latino and officials say many residents cannot easily access the test sites.
Communities of color across the country have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
Santa Clara County efforts come as more than 325,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to California on Sunday amid record numbers of cases and reduced intensive care unit capacity .
The first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine left Michigan early Sunday for 145 distribution centers across the country. States will receive vaccines based on their adult population, with additional shipments arriving this week.
The vaccine is heading to hospitals and other sites across the country that can store it at extremely low temperatures – around 94 degrees below zero. Pfizer uses containers with dry ice and GPS sensors to make sure each shipment stays cooler than the weather in Antarctica.
In California – where Saturday produced another record-breaking day of new confirmed cases – counties will have specific allotments that will be distributed to hospitals determined by state health officials to have adequate storage capacity, to serve a population. high-risk health care facilities and the ability to immunize people quickly. The priority will be to vaccinate healthcare workers on the front lines of a pandemic that has infected more than 16 million people and killed nearly 298,000 people in the United States alone.
Gov.Gavin Newsom tweeted that a group of medical experts convened by Western states met on Saturday to discuss the vaccine and confirm that it is safe for public use. Newsom said distribution could begin as early as Sunday.
The vaccines come as the situation worsens day by day across the country and in California, with the holiday season well underway. Public health officials fear that already sharply rising infection rates and hospitalizations will continue to rise as people ignore vacation precautions.
On Saturday, the number of available intensive care beds in the San Joaquin Valley fell to zero for the first time and San Francisco reported 323 new cases, the highest since the start of the pandemic. Millions of Californians across the majority of the state are ordered to stay at home.