CBS San Francisco Staff Report

SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — As new cases continue to soar to record levels across Santa Clara County, health officials announced Monday they were preparing for their first allotment of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer — 17,500 doses expected to arrive around Dec. 15th.

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Dr. Marty Fensterscheib, the Santa Clara County COVID-19 testing officer, said a committee within the federal Centers for Disease Control have already prepared a priority list as to who will be given the first doses.

“The early vaccines that we will be getting in small numbers are going to be prioritized for the acute care health workers in hospitals for the most part,” he told reporters at a Monday news conference. “The second priority is for residents in long care health facilities. We will certainly not be getting enough for both of those large groups but this is the first allocation.”

Fensterscheib said the county and local hospitals have brought in the equipment needed to provide the extremely low temperatures required for vaccine storage.

He also admitted it won’t be until the summer months before most local residents will finally be vaccinated.

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While officials await the vaccine’s arrival, they find themselves in the midst of a startling surge of new cases and additional deaths. On Monday, county health officials reported 1,450 new cases over the weekend with 8 additional deaths and 62 new hospitalizations.

“Yesterday our county set a new record with 1,450 new cases diagnosed with COVID,” said Dr. Ahmad Kamal of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center system. “To put that into perspective, this is double the record we set just last week. We are clearly seeing increase levels of transmission in our community and we know from historic data that about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with COVID will need hospitalization.”

Kamal said the 62 new hospitalization will soon be topping 100 a day.

“We are very concerned about our health care systems capacity in particular when it comes to ICU beds,” he said. “As of today we have 50 ICU beds remaining in our county. That’s 50 beds for a county of 2 million people. To care not just for COVID but to care for everyone who needs critical care in a hospital.”

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He said many county hospitals have begun to cancel elective surgeries to free up beds.