Tulare County ramps up COVID-19 vaccinations amid Omicron surge

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Before the holidays, the Tulare County Health Department detected its first case of the Omicron variant.

Six days into the new year, lab results have been alarming but not surprising, says Carrie Montiero.

"89% of them are coming back as Omicron, and 11% are Delta. So Omircon is here. We saw one case spread to 89% in two weeks," Montiero with the Tulare County Health Department said.

Meanwhile, vaccination rates haven't changed much.

In Tulare County, only 48% of people are fully vaccinated, and 51% have one dose.

In Porterville, efforts are underway to improve those statistics.

City officials, Sierra View Medical Center and Imperial Ambulance partnered to host two vaccine round-up events in January.

The first one kicked off Thursday, and the lines remained long all day.

"We are starting to see people accept it with the times. We are very excited about the turnout and the acceptance of getting the vaccine," said Donna Hefner, CEO of Sierra View Medical Center.

Those who get the vaccine at the events will also walk away with a $100 gift card to local businesses, helping boost the economy. The funding comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

"It's a very creative use of that ARPA funding, and it's a win-win," said Alida Verduzco Silva, marketing manager with Sierra View.

Last year, six vaccine round-up events took place, and more than 9,000 vaccines were administered.

Sean Roberts with Imperial Ambulance hopes the events continue being a success, especially with cases spiking.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people know somebody sick or in the hospital right now, and that kind of bumps up the vaccination numbers as well," Roberts said.

Sierra View Medical Center experienced an uptick in COVID patients this week, and Montiero says they're not alone.

"COVID hospitalizations have risen 36% in Tulare county this week, and a large number of hospital workers are also getting sick, which I very concerning," Montiero said.

The vaccination clinic in Porterville is open to everyone in the county. It continues through Friday and Saturday.

The second round-up event will take place from January 27 to January 29.

The clinic is also open every week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm.

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