LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Teachers and other essential workers will soon be able to make appointments to get COVID-19 vaccines, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

Despite the fact that only a fraction of residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose and supply remains scarce, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county public health director, said the expansion would happen in about two to three weeks.

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“At this point, we’d like to make significant inroads into getting people who are older vaccinated,” she said. “Our hope is that over these next two weeks you’re going to see that number go way up in terms of the number of older people who are getting vaccinated.

“But also it’s an acknowledgement that we do have to get started with some of our essential workers,” she continued. “It’s gonna be really difficult to wait weeks and weeks and weeks until we complete an entire sector before we move on.”

The move comes weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom called for vaccines to be offered to workers in three additional categories: education/childcare; food and agriculture; and emergency services and law enforcement. In L.A. County, those categories represent roughly 1.3 million people.

“We’re trying to follow along with what’s happening across the state,” Ferrer said. “In some counties, smaller counties or smaller cities, they’ve been able already to start vaccinating in those sectors, and they also have not completed vaccinations for all of their folks who are 65 and older.”

Officials also reported 3,434 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 141 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 1,155,309 cases and 18,500 deaths.

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The number of reported cases, deaths and hospitalizations have been trending downward in recent weeks as the county moves past the winter surge.

Public Health reported there were 3,973 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 29% of whom were being treated in intensive care units — a dramatic decrease from early January when there were more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized.

Ferrer said she was cautiously optimistic about the declines.

“The number is still more than three times the average daily case rates we were reporting in September,” she said. “And, also, we’re at a time of the year when people may be more tempted to gather.

“It’s our hope that all residents are choosing to not get together with people from outside their household or travel to celebrate Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day or Presidents Day.”

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