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Los Angeles County is reportedly expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to, among many other groups, public transit workers. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the county is working to make appointments available for people in the new groups.
Other groups who are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are: custodians and janitors, airport ground crew workers, certain social workers who handle cases of violence and abuse, and foster parents who provide emergency housing for young people. There will already be appointments available specifically for custodial and janitorial workers both Saturday and Sunday at the county-run super site at the Forum.
While the county is expanding eligibility to more people, supply still remains limited, which means it may take a while to find an available appointment, she said.
For the first time since the color-coded economic reopening system was set in place, Los Angeles County is within days of qualifying to leave the most restrictive purple tier and advance into the red tier. Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the state will certify L.A. County’s red tier status by Friday. Ferrer, for her part, didn’t offer any details about what will be in the new health order, but said it could go into effect as early as Mar. 14.
“We’ve been here before – if we’re not really careful, it can result in an increase in cases. So I am going to urge all the businesses to take a hard look at the directives. We do need everyone to be 100% compliant with them,” she said. Ferrer also noted that if the county’s COVID-19 metrics continue to improve, it could get another upgrade to the orange tier within a few weeks.
The county is now seeing the lowest number of daily cases since last April, with an average of less than 700 cases a day. Ferrer also said that before COVID-19 started its catastrophic spread last year, coronary heart disease was the number one killer in Los Angeles.
The L.A. Metro board of directors recently voted to spend millions of dollars to restore transit service that had been slashed throughout the pandemic. Because of it, the agency undertook different cost-saving measures, most notably cutting bus service by 20% in Sept. 2020, which riders spoke out against. As COVID spiked, Metro ridership reportedly declined from a high of 615,000 in Oct. to 475,000 in Dec., but it began rebounding in Jan.
Despite the decline in ridership, scientists said public transit has proven to be one of the most COVID-safe places to be outside the home. Many scientific studies have reassured essential workers that it’s largely safe to take public transportation given that many public transit vehicles are relatively uncrowded, well-ventilated, and usually not the site of the kind of loud conversations that can accelerate the spread of airborne particles. Moreover, the fact that most transit agencies are requiring personal protective equipment to passengers also factors in.
Moreover, President Joe Biden recently signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which reportedly includes $30.5 billion for the transit industry, as well as $1.7 billion for Amtrak. The act (H.R. 1319) passed in the House with a vote of 220 – 211.