Orange County Partners With Blue Shield as It Eyes Orange Tier

March 23, 2021 Updated: March 24, 2021

The Orange County Board of Supervisors has approved a partnership with Blue Shield to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The board during its March 23 meeting approved a memorandum of understanding with the insurance company on a distribution contract. The partnership will allow Orange County to continue using its Othena scheduling platform.

During the meeting, Orange County’s public health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, said the region has seen a dramatic drop in hospitalizations, positivity rate, and infections in Orange County.

Right now the county is vaccinating the highest-risk individuals first, especially those hindered by what Chau referred to as a “barrier of inequity.”

To bolster its efforts, Orange County will extend weekend hours at its Santa Ana vaccination site, enabling those who work during the week to have better access to the vaccine, Chau said. If the extended hours are well-attended, other sites could begin offering weekend appointments.

“We still recommend the public be very cautious and not go back to normal yet because there are those who have not been able to access the vaccine yet,” Chau said.

Reduced Restrictions

Chau told supervisors that if the county can sustain its COVID-19 metrics for another week, it might be approved to slide into the less-restrictive orange tier.

Counties move between tiers based on positivity rate; adjusted case rate; and a health equity metric. They’re required to sustain their standing in any given tier for at least three weeks before graduating to a less-restrictive tier. Once counties reach a new tier, they must meet its criteria for two consecutive weeks before moving lower. However, if a county’s metrics worsen, they are moved back to the more restrictive tier.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said: “The public is very much looking forward to moving to the orange tier so that we can open up businesses, our theme parks, schools, etc.”

Supervisor Don Wagner questioned the motivations behind current guidelines.

He pointed to the seeming “randomness of the restrictions currently imposed” on activities such as cheerleading, outdoor sports, and other extracurricular activities. And that the changes seem to come on suddenly without regard to tier status or other metrics.

“What is the science behind preventing families from being together, let’s say, at a ball game?” he said.

Chau said that until more studies around the business of human interaction have been conducted, it will be difficult to know for sure.

Wagner replied, “How do we study that if no human interactions are allowed?”

“We don’t want people who don’t live in the same household to mix,” Chau said. “Some people are vaccinated and others not and we can’t take the chance they will spread the virus.”