Around Thanksgiving, there were signs that public health officials’ worst fears would be realized. By December, hospitals — especially in hard hit areas, like Los Angeles — were overwhelmed with patients, and the state ordered Californians to stay at home again.
Now, as the focus has turned to the state’s vaccine rollout,Californians have been frustrated with what they have seen as a confusing and chaotic effort.
When state officials recently announced that the state would expand vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 or older starting April 15, Dr. Christopher Longhurst, U.C. San Diego Health’s chief information officer, predicted “continued frustration as more people become eligible but supply is not available to meet demand.”
Experts have also criticized the process for allowing poorer and harder-hit communities to be bypassed, even though state officials have repeatedly said equity was a “North Star” for their efforts.
Leaders in California are painfully aware of the divide between the state’s wealthiest and often whitest communities, on the one hand, and its poorest communities, often home to predominantly Latino essential workers, on the other, and so advocates for equity have said that speed and precision should both be priorities in the distribution of vaccines.
“Equity and scale are possible for the wealthiest states in the nation,” Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, chief executive of the Latino Community Foundation, said recently.
State officials said on Tuesday that they were confident in the state’s ability to inoculate millions more Californians, including particularly vulnerable workers, over the next couple of months.
“We’ve been very thoughtful and measured with who’s eligible to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services.