Disneyland to be Orange County’s First Large-Scale Vaccination Site
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
On the day the coronavirus death toll in California reached 30,000, Disneyland and other locations such as Dodger Stadium were established as vaccination super sites.
Newly confirmed infections are rising at a dizzying rate of more than a quarter-million a week and during the weekend a record 1,163 deaths were reported – Orange County surpassed 2,000 reported deaths.
Bereft of visitors for months because of the pandemic, Disneyland will soon see thousands of guests when it serves as one of Orange County’s five planned mass vaccination sites.
County officials announced the deal Monday, Jan. 11, to use the theme park in its effort to ramp up inoculations as the number of Orange County residents hospitalized with the virus hovers above 2,200.
“The Disneyland Resort, the largest employer in the heart of Orange County, has stepped up to host the county’s first Super POD (point-of-dispensing) site – undertaking a monumental task in our vaccination distribution process,” acting Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do said in a news release.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee, whose district includes Disneyland, said his constituents “have been highly impacted by COVID-19. These Super PODs are absolutely critical in stopping this deadly virus.”
The county didn’t share details of exactly how or where on the Disneyland property the vaccination site would operate, but the news release said it would open later this week to serve – by appointment only – people who live or work in Orange County and are eligible based on the state’s priority list.
Currently, the state is still in the highest priority phase of inoculations, which target people working in health care, including hospital, lab, and pharmacy employees, paramedics and EMTs, home health aides, as well as long-term care facility residents and workers.
Most eligible workers will be notified by their employer and will be directed to make an appointment through an app, Othena, the county helped develop.
“Disneyland Resort is proud to help support Orange County and the city of Anaheim with the use of our property, and we are grateful for all of their efforts to combat COVID-19,” Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said. “After a year in which so many in our community have faced unprecedented hardship and uncertainty, there is now reason for optimism with the administration of a vaccine.”
Other of the planned mass vaccine sites have not been named by the county – spokeswoman Molly Nichelson said contracts are still being finalized – but the Voice of OC previously reported they could include the Costa Mesa fairgrounds, the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park and the Soka University campus in Aliso Viejo.
Large-scale vaccinations for thousands of medical workers will be conducted at baseball stadiums in Los Angeles and San Diego and at fairgrounds in Fresno and Sacramento. They are among cities nationwide converting huge parking lots into massive vaccination stations to ramp up inoculations after the initial rollout fell below expectations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the rollout of vaccines has been too slow and he pledged 1 million shots will be administered this week, more than twice what’s been done so far.
That effort will require what Newsom called an “all-hands-on-deck approach,” including having vaccinations dispensed by pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, dentists, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, and members of the California National Guard.
Orange County is also recruiting volunteers to help run its sites, including people with medical training and others to do non-medical tasks. County officials have set a goal of completing all vaccinations by July 4.
California’s death rate currently ranks third nationally, behind Texas and New York, which is No. 1 with nearly 40,000 deaths. It took California six months to record its first 10,000 deaths. But in barely a month, the total rose from 20,000 to 30,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Still, Newsom and the state’s top health officer, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said there is a sliver of hope, with hospitalizations leveling off in the last week and vaccinations about to shift into a higher gear.
New hospital admissions dropped from about 3,500 each day earlier this month to about 2,500, “a significant difference” that shows the earlier holiday surge from Christmas and Hanukkah “isn’t as significant as we had anticipated,” said Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.
Yet recent frightening jumps in new positive cases show the state may simply have brought itself time to prepare for what officials still expect to be an end-of-month peak in part driven by New Year’s celebrations, Ghaly and Newsom said.
The state may have “a little breathing room,” Ghaly said, enough for hospitals to prepare, to ensure they can provide enough oxygen both in medical facilities and when sending patients home, and for 1,000 newly arriving contract medical workers to be augmented by another 1,000 or so before the surge peaks.
“I don’t want to think that we’re out of the woods in any measure,” Ghaly said, adding later that “We’re in the early parts of that holiday surge. It looks encouraging at the moment.”
Information on Orange County’s vaccination efforts is at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-vaccine-resources.