There are more than 400,000 Orange County residents inline to get COVID vaccinations, but it isn’t clear how much longer they will be waiting, county officials tell the RHA.
It is generous to say that the Othena.com website that the county set up earlier this month had a pretty bad rollout. Disasterous might be an apt description. The site crashed on its initial opening and it left many county residents uncertain whether they had even registered and when they might actually get a shot.
As of the end of this week, just over 500,000 county residents had registered and 94,000 appointments had been scheduled, according to Tim Whitacre, the acting chief of staff for the county’s second supervisorial district, which includes unincorporated Rossmoor. Former Supervisor Michelle Steel was elected to Congress, so the district office is now vacant, but for the staff. Whitacre has been a stalwart public servant for Rossmoor during his time at the county.
Across the county, 84,000 people have gotten at least their first shot, many of them in the first tier because they are medical providers or first responders. Those people will go to the head of the line when it is their turn to get the second dose.
Meanwhile, the toll of the disease continues to mount. As of Jan. 30, the county has suffered 3,014 deaths from the disease, including 43 for the day. This weekend, restaurants were reopened for outside dining and other restrictions were relaxed. Broad availability of a vaccine would accelrate a much needed return to normality for our society, our economy and the education of our children.
The main problem with accelerating the vaccination rate is shortages of the vaccine. The state allocates doses to each county and it is anything but clear what priorities it sets for the allocations. But it is certain that the Orange County allocations are not enough to meet demand. “Orange County is not getting enough, period. We are bugging the state every day,” Whitacre said.
The way the county has handled the distribution started out has a “nightmare.” It is getting significantly better, but it is still less than ideal. The county operates two outdoor distribution centers in tents for the general public and when it rains or the wind blows strongly they have to shut down their operations. The county goal was to have all of the residents wanting a vaccination to be fulfilled by July 4, hence the name Operation Independence. Unfortunately, Gen. George Washington, who won our country’s revolution against the British, is not on hand to run this operation.
But in all fairness, Whitacre says, “It is the first time inour life that we have a pandemic.”
Other counties in the state, such as Riverside, have websites that allow residents to register and get specific apppointments weeks ahead of time.
By contrast, the Orthena.com website provides a barebones statement that you are in a “waiting room.” That says nothing about where you stand in the waiting room or when you might make plans for changes in your life after you get vaccinated. The website should be doing a better job at giving residents an understanding where they stand in line. Anybody who has visited Disneyland can get a good ideal at how long they will wait for a ride by looking at the line. This is less transparent.
You can try to contact the county’s COVID-19 HOTLINE at 714-834-2000. The county also provides information on their website.