COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Lassen County soon

The bad news is the number of COVID-19 infections in Lassen County rises dramatically every day. The good news is the distribution of the long-awaited vaccine that represents a light at the end tunnel in this pandemic will begin soon — perhaps as early as later this week.

“We’re getting an allocation of the vaccine, and it may be here as early as the end of this week,” said Richard Egan, Lassen County administrative officer and a public information officer for the COVID-19 Incident Command Team. “It will be for health care workers initially, and then we’ll go from there. Public health staff is working on the logistics of getting that delivered and administered once it’s available.”

Egan said he wasn’t sure exactly how many doses of the vaccine would be arriving in Lassen County “because that’s subject to change. Hopefully it will be enough for all the health care workers who want it right away.”

Later the vaccine will be available for law enforcement and first responders as well, but Egan said the health care workers will get it first.

“Within a month or so, it may even be available to the general public,” Egan said at an event similar to the drive-through flu vaccination clinics at the Lassen County Fairgrounds.

One of the purposes of the drive-through clinics was to train public health workers to respond to a pandemic such as this one.

“We’ve got a really good model in place for administering vaccines,” Egan said. “We can roll it out when we get the mass numbers of vaccine. As soon as it’s available, it’s out there. I think it’s going to go really smoothly. Ten months ago everybody was saying it’s impossible, but here it is upon us.”

Despite the arrival of the vaccine, Egan said he encouraged county residents to continue to follow the CDC guideline regarding mask wearing, social distancing and frequent hygiene.

Egan said the county is now in the purple tier, the state’s most restrictive category, and local restaurants should only be serving outside or takeout — but enforcement of that guideline may be difficult.

“There’s some legitimate question about if the purple tier recommendations have the force of law,” Egan said. “ I think there’s a debate to be had about that. They were not done by virtue of a state health officer order like some of the other orders. So they’re slightly different than that … They intentionally did it that way, and I guess you can read into that whatever you like.”

The Susanville Police Department added another rub when it declined to enforce the governor’s most recent public health order.

According to a Nov. 24 press release signed by Kevin Jones, Susanville’s city administrator and chief of police “As of Nov. 24, 2020, the state of California has put the county of Lassen, which includes the city of Susanville, in their defined Purple Tier. Part of Mr. Newsom’s order is a ‘limited stay-at-home order,’ curfew that restricts non-essential work, movement and gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

However, the Susanville Police Department will not be determining compliance with, or enforcing the compliance of, any health order related to this curfew. We recognize the increase of COVID cases in the last several weeks and respect the precautions put in place by the health agencies. I would like our community to be precautious and respectful of other businesses and people’s wishes on protecting each other during this pandemic.”

And while Egan admitted it wasn’t his call to make, he said he hoped Lassen County students could return to in-person instruction after the first of the year.