SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom and Santa Clara County officials launched operations Tuesday morning at the state’s newest and largest mass COVID-19 vaccination site located at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
The stadium is just the latest major sports facility in the state to transform into a mass vaccination site. On Monday, Petco Park — home of the San Diego Padres — opened a vaccination facility, while a federal-state collaboration site manned by U.S. military troops was preparing to open at Ring Central Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics.READ MORE: Lake County Luxury Hotel, Housing Project Raises Concerns Over Wildfire Risk
“The goal is pretty straight forward,” said Newsom, who was a late arrival at the Levi’s news conference. “The goal is to design a system that has only one limitation and that’s supply. The issue in the nation, in this state, is supply. I just got off the phone with all the governors in the United States and the Biden Administration — it’s our weekly phone call — where we discuss allocations. We are going as a nation from 10.5 million doses that will be distributed nationwide to 11 million. That’s not enough.”
“We have a three-week window, we have a three-week visibility,” Gov. Newsom continued. “That three-week window, that visibility into the future shows that the state of California will receive roughly the equivalent number of doses that we received a week ago — a little over 1 million. However, of those million doses, they only total 594,000 first doses. The rest are second doses.”
“Next week we expect a modest increase in the total allocations and based in the call today, [it] works out to about 50,000-plus. Supply is the issue.”
Tuesday’s soft launch at Levi’s saw only 500 doses distributed, as patients arrived in waves every 15 minutes. The county’s health department plans to scale up distribution to 1,000 doses on Wednesday, and hit 1,200 to 1,500 doses by week’s end.
The Levi’s Stadium facility’s approximately 3,000 daily appointment slots have been filled up for the opening week with officials hoping to increase that to 15,000 county residents a day when more vaccine becomes available.
“I hope tomorrow the headline in the newspaper is the 49ers save lives because today they demonstrate they care even more about the community than before,” said Dr. Jeff Smith, the County Executive for the County of Santa Clara. “They have always been here for us and always will be here for us but right now they are opening their home to make sure that citizens in Santa Clara County can be vaccinated.”
When asked if the site will be decreasing vaccine distribution at hospitals throughout the hard-hit county, Smith said Levi’s was designed to merely speed up getting “vaccine into arms.”
“This will not steal any vaccine from anybody,” Smith said at a morning news conference. “This is a site that will be able to expedite the use of the vaccine, get vaccine into arms and make sure the people of Santa Clara County are vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
Newsom said opening up mass vaccination sites to non-residents of the county is unlikely given the limited supply of vaccine.
“While I appreciate that we want to open up to everybody in the state, we’re trying to geographically place these these sites in a way that can address the underserved and under resourced in a very strategic way and we’re just starting that process at a different scale and pace. But the only limited factor is supply,” said Newsom.READ MORE: Theft Leaves San Jose Couple Bereft: 'We’re Heartbroken, All Our Precious Things Are Gone'
As of Monday, the county had received a reported 351,485 doses of vaccine and administered 266,326 doses altogether.
Santa Clara has been the hardest hit of all Bay Area counties by the COVID-19 pandemic. The county recorded the nation’s first death linked to COVID-19 when Patricia Dowd, a 57-year-old senior manager for a Silicon Valley semiconductor firm, became sick with flu-like symptoms in late January and passed away on Feb. 6, 2020.
As of Tuesday morning, there have been 105,386 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county since the outbreak began nearly a year ago. There have been 1,546 deaths and there are currently 326 county residents hospitalized with the illness.
News of the new mass vaccination site was greeted with relief by county residents. Among them Barbara Lund, who works at a hair salon in Willow Glen and is waiting to become eligible for a shot.
“I’m praying that they roll it out as quickly as they can,” she said.
Lund is excited that Levi’s Stadium is right in her own backyard. She said she would make an appointment to get the vaccine through the county if she can get it quicker than with her doctor when she’s eligible.
“This is great, it’s wonderful,” said Lund. “I want my customers to feel safe, and I want to feel safe and I want to protect my family.”
Germaine Decker, 85, looked forward to grocery shopping on her own.
“Real easy. No pain, no nothing. I didn’t even feel the needle go in,” said Decker.
The process from start to finish at Levi’s Stadium can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Patients will have to get through security, register, go through a COVID screening and then undergo a 15-minute observation after the actual immunization.
Levi’s Stadium will be open Tuesday through Friday from 12-6:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. VTA is currently not collecting fares systemwide, so buses and light rail trips that provide front door service to Levi’s are free.MORE NEWS: Indoor Restaurant Dining Resumes, Movie Theaters Reopen in SF and Santa Clara Counties
Santa Clara county residents can sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination at www.sccfreevax.org.