By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County reported 538 new cases of COVID-19 and just one additional death Sunday, though health officials said the relatively low numbers and deaths may reflect delays in weekend reporting.

The number of COVID-19 patients in county hospitals continued to decline, dropping from 669 Saturday to 655, while the number of those in intensive care increased from 166 to 178, according to state figures.

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Sunday’s numbers brought the county’s totals to 1,218,225 cases and 23,077 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

As the overall numbers continue to decline, the department is warning the public that Spring Break and the Easter and Passover holidays present danger of greater transmission of the virus.

“As we approach Spring Break and numerous religious and spiritual holidays, it is important to remember that travel and gathering in-person with others increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the department said Saturday. “While COVID-19 numbers have decreased in L.A. County, transmission remains widespread and is increasing in many other states and countries.”

Anyone who is arriving in Los Angeles County from outside the state must self-quarantine for 10 days, officials added.

Meanwhile, with vaccine eligibility expanding this week to all residents aged 50 and over, a county health official is warning that getting an appointment for a shot will initially be difficult due to the continued scarcity of vaccine supplies, but he said the situation will improve.

The county this week is actually set to receive its largely weekly allotment of vaccine to date — 338,100 doses — and tens of thousands more doses will be sent directly to other local vaccination providers, such as pharmacies and health care centers.

But when eligibility expands to those 50 and over on Thursday, it will add an estimated 800,000 to 1 million people to the pool of residents competing for limited doses. That’s on top of the millions of people who are already eligible for the shots.

“There will undoubtedly be a rush come April 1,” said Dr. Paul Simon, the health department’s chief science officer. “… I want to make sure the public recognizes that there may be challenges to getting an appointment immediately. It just, again, reflects the limited supply of the vaccine.

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“Even with an increased supply of vaccine, we certainly can’t handle a million people over that first week, given all the other groups that are also currently being vaccinated,” he said. “But I would expect over the following several weeks, the demand will diminish a bit and things will open up, particularly as the vaccine supply continues to increase. I encourage people to just be patient. If they’re not able to get an appointment immediately, wait a week or so and I believe things will be easier to navigate.”

It was unclear when people in the newly eligible group will be able to start making appointments on the state’s MyTurn website — which is the main clearinghouse for appointments. Simon noted that there are also separate appointment websites for other providers, such as local pharmacies, and there was no specific timeline on when they would start accepting appointments for the new group.

Eligibility will expand again on April 15, when everyone aged 16 and up will be able to receive the vaccine. Simon warned that of the three currently available vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in people under 18, so people aged 16 and 17 will have to ensure they make appointments at a Pfizer vaccination site.

Last week, the county expanded vaccine eligibility to more classes of workers, including gardeners and landscapers, nannies and private child-care workers and housekeepers, as long as they all work at least 20 hours per week. Flight crews based in Los Angeles County were also added to the eligibility list.

At the end of last week, a total 3,794,829 doses had been administered in Los Angeles County by the various providers. That total is more than 2.5 million first doses — including about 67,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — and about 1.2 million second doses.

Simon said that even as vaccine eligibility is expanded to more groups of people, the county will continue to focus its efforts on lower-income neighborhoods that have been hard hit by the pandemic. In fact, 65% of all doses the county receives this week will be directed to such neighborhoods.

The county is continuing to prepare for an anticipated sharp increase in vaccine supply, something that’s expected to occur by late April. Simon reiterated that the county is working with its providers to expand infrastructure at existing vaccine sites and prepare for new ones, in hopes of building countywide capacity to 1 million doses per week. The county currently has the capacity to administer about 600,000 doses per week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week the state will have the capacity to administer 4 million doses per week by the end of April. But Blue Shield, which now oversees vaccine distribution in the state, announced Friday that the 4- million capacity statewide has already been reached.

But for now, the overall vaccine supply remains well short of that level.

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)