Vaccine Rollout Revs up, Sputters

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Millions of LA County residents are scrambling for thousands of COVID-19 vaccines.

On Jan. 19, county officials announced long-awaited vaccine appointments would become available widely to residents over the age of 65 for the first time. Unlike in many other states and countries, Los Angeles had so far only opened up vaccinations to frontline healthcare workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities.

But within hours of the online vaccine portal opening, it was overwhelmed.

“Our COVID-19 vaccination hotline and website are fielding thousands of calls and users, and experiencing technical difficulties,” county representatives wrote on social media on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 19. “We appreciate your patience as we work to fix these technical issues.”

According to information shared in another social media post by the county department of public health on Tuesday, of the 685,000 vaccines so far provided to Angelenos, only about 350,000 had been distributed. According to that health department post, “LA County is working rapidly to vaccinate residents. However, the pace of vaccinations is entirely dependent on the doses we receive from the federal and state government.” That did not explain why only about half of the doses provided to LA County had been administered. 

Though the comments on the post were flooded with people questioning why the vaccine rollout was moving so slowly, the department did not provide a reply; but, just hours later, Dr. Seira Kurian, MD, the department’s medical affairs director, said 75 percent of the county’s vaccines had been administered, a figure in contrast to the department’s social media post.

Kurian, speaking during a virtual vaccine town hall that took place on Tuesday, also said the county had a goal of an additional 200,000 vaccinations over the next two weeks. 

Part of that roll-out included a slew of new vaccination sites opening across the county, including at Dodger Stadium, Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Pomona Fairplex, the Forum and Cal State Northridge (CSUN). Vaccines are also available in limited numbers at scores of pharmacies and clinics across the county; according to the vaccine website,, there were no vaccinations currently available in Malibu.

Data shows Malibu public schools have had positive COVID cases in the last 14 days

According to a school district live-updated COVID dashboard, Malibu Middle School/High School and Malibu Elementary campuses have each experienced at least one positive COVID case within the last 14 days. Though further information on the individuals who experienced positive results was not immediately available, schools are offering distance learning only and students have not been on campus, save for small groups of special education and English-learner students and some students attending outdoor athletic conditioning.

The dashboard tracks the number of individuals who have been at a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) site in the last 14 days and currently are in isolation, quarantined or have had a positive test. 

It is possible for one person to be counted in multiple columns; for example, if they tested positive and then were in isolation, SMMUSD representative Gail Pinsker said. Pinsker defined “isolation” as “someone who is symptomatic,” explaining that some who are symptomatic choose not to get tested but to stay in isolation for 10 days. The term “quarantine,” according to Pinsker, signifies “someone who may have been exposed or traveled, but who is not symptomatic.”

As of Friday, Jan. 16, the dashboard showed that Malibu Elementary has had one individual test positive in the past 14 days and one person in isolation. Malibu Middle School and High School as a group have five individuals quarantined, have had two positive tests and four people in isolation. 

Webster Elementary had one person quarantined, but no positive tests. 

The numbers changed slightly as of Tuesday, Jan. 19: MHS/MMS saw five quarantined, two positive tests and three isolated; Malibu Elementary had one positive test and one isolating; Webster had one quarantined with no positive tests and no one isolating.

The total number of positive tests within the last two weeks within SMMUSD as a whole—across more than 15 campuses in both Malibu and Santa Monica—was 12 positive COVID tests as of Tuesday, down two from the 14 positive tests shown on Friday, Jan. 16.

These statistics apply only to staff. Pinsker said that SMMUSD would be adding a separate section tracking student COVID totals when more students were on campus. 

The chart is updated by SMMUSD nursing staff as numbers change; the chart does not show cumulative totals since the beginning of the pandemic, only the past two weeks. 

“Individuals will be counted until they are cleared by the school nurse in accordance with LA County Dept. of Public Health (LACDPH) guidelines,” a note attached to the chart says. 

SMMUSD wrote as of Friday, Jan. 15, that it would be releasing a graph next week (Jan. 18-22) that would show COVID trends within the district. 

Case rate plateaus countywide, as Malibu’s numbers continue to climb

Malibu remains one of the least affected areas in the county when it comes to novel coronavirus infections, but the local case rate continues to climb upward, with Malibu hitting 31 new cases from Jan. 13-18.

Hospitalizations for the disease have been slowly dropping off across Los Angeles from a high above 8,000 in early to mid-January. As of Tuesday, Jan. 19, 7,322 Angelenos were hospitalized.

In total, as of Tuesday, 286 Malibuites have tested positive for the disease; six have died.