Santa Ana, hit hard by coronavirus, takes step to establish city-focused vaccination and testing - OCRegister

Leaders in Santa Ana, a city that’s been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus, agreed Thursday to open a vaccine distribution site when the drug is more widely available and restart a COVID-19 testing program for city residents.

In what might be unique among Orange County cities, the Santa Ana council authorized City Manager Kristine Ridge to hire a company to roll out the vaccine, which would be provided by the county health department, to Santa Ana residents. The goal is to inoculate as many people as possible once the Orange County Health Care Agency expands distribution of coronavirus vaccines beyond the specific groups currently allowed to receive them.

“We want to be able to start doing the front end work in coordinating with the county on how we can better deliver the vaccine to our residents,” Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said following a special council meeting dedicated specifically to the testing and vaccine issue.

The Council agreed to spend $750,000 to supplement the county’s testing and vaccination efforts. Most of that, $500,000, is part of a federal community development block grant the city will designate for low-income residents, and the rest will come from the city’s general fund reserves.

Sarmiento described the decision to boost local testing and vaccinations as a “bridge out of January, which is going to be a horrendous month.”

Coronavirus cases have been spiking since Thanksgiving, with the spread rate in Orange County recently setting a new record of 67.8 cases per day for every 100,000 residents. At the same time, the number of available beds in hospital intensive care units has fallen dangerously low.

And the pandemic is particularly acute in some parts of Santa Ana, where multiple families often share houses or apartments and many can’t stay home for work. In some Santa Ana ZIP codes,