As Contra Costa County opened vaccine availability to everyone 16 and older Tuesday, health officials warned that the county's infection and hospitalization rates went up last week.
"I also want to sound a note of caution. Our case numbers have actually leveled off and bumped back up a little bit, as well as our hospitalization numbers," deputy health officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli said at the county's Board of Supervisors meeting.
He said the county hit another grim milestone this past week.
"We received coroner data about a 15-year-old who passed away back in December from COVID-19," he said. "This is the first pediatric death in our county, that we know of. While these events are incredibly rare, they're also very tragic. It's just one more reminder of how urgently we need to vaccinate our community."
The health officials said the county could move from the red to the orange tier of the state's reopening guidelines by next week, once total state vaccinations hit 4 million in underserved communities. Then restrictions loosen.
"Even when we do get to the orange tier, it's really important we continue to mask, to socially distance out in public," Tzviell said.
County health director Anna Roth said at the board meeting, "If you're 16 and over and you live or work in Contra Costa County, it's your turn."
She also cautioned that state sites haven't opened to everyone, making it important to use the county site at cchealth.org or call 833-829-2626. The state's MyTurn.ca.gov site will likely open to everyone ages 16 and older by April 15, she said.
"We still have appointments available," Roth said. "We already are getting people -- we just updated it and we're getting one request per second."
Vaccines will be available on a limited walk-in basis at two sites beginning next week: Richmond Auditorium and Bay Point Clinic.
"But we do have a plan to expand those," Roth said. "Those are coming soon. We do have some (walk-in) capability at our mobile clinics."
Contra Costa County has administered more than 630,000 doses of vaccine, covering more than 45% of its population. Roth said 97% of county residents 75 and over have received at least one dose; 85% of 65 to 74-year-olds, and 45% of those 50 to 64.
Roth said the county will see a bigger influx of vaccine in coming weeks, thanks to ramped-up federal efforts. Aside from tiers based on age and serious health issues, vaccine allocation is distributed based on community need, with those hit hardest by the virus getting priority.
"Last week we delivered almost 100,000 vaccines in one week," Roth said. "Even with that, we still have thousands of appointments now available because of this increased supply of vaccine. We really want to see them; we want to get them their first dose. We've made a lot of progress, but our work's not done."