The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its first set of recommendations that allow people who are fully vaccinated to gather with each other without masks.

The new guidance includes recommendations for how and when a fully vaccinated individual can visit with other fully vaccinated people and with other people who are not vaccinated. In addition to being able to visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors (without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart), the new guidelines also permit non-masked indoor visits with unvaccinated people from one other household if everyone in the other household is at low risk for severe disease. Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose.

“While we can all be encouraged and pleased that this is a positive step, we have to recognize that we still have some distance to go,” said County Director of Public Health Corwin Porter. “Until then, we are asking everyone to continue to wear masks, socially distance, wash their hands often, get tested and avoid unsafe social gatherings to protect the large number of people who remain unvaccinated.”

California has instituted new vaccination equity policies in an effort to ensure vaccine doses reach residents in disadvantaged areas by setting aside 40 percent of available vaccine doses for the state’s hardest-hit communities.

“With more vaccines online and administered, California is now in a position to take steps toward ending this pandemic by keeping our guard up and by vaccinating those Californians most at risk and most exposed,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. “Vaccinating our most impacted communities across our state is the right thing to do and the fastest way to end this pandemic.”

State officials point out that the pandemic has not affected California communities equally. For example, the infection rate for households making less than $40,000 per year is more than double that of households with an income of $120,000. At the same time, California’s wealthiest populations are being vaccinated at nearly twice the rate of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Local officials note that assisting underserved communities has long been a principal focus for the county.

“From the beginning of this pandemic, our county has focused intensively on helping our most severely affected communities, including working to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccines,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman. “We will continue and even intensify these efforts, including providing vaccinations where they are needed most.”

The county has made it a priority to make the vaccines available in hard-hit communities while at the same time encouraging residents to take full advantage of vaccination opportunities. Over 70 percent of the county’s vaccine distribution sites are located in the 162 identified areas in the county that make up the bottom 25 percent of the county.

“In addition to our advertising campaign, we’ve established mobile vaccination clinics to give disadvantaged communities better access to the vaccine, and we have targeted much of our communication outreach to increase understanding about the vaccines among our most vulnerable residents,” said Hagman. “We have also partnered with the Inland Empire Concerned African-American Churches to conduct vaccine clinics at several predominately African American churches in the county.”

The vaccination efforts have contributed to notable improvements in overall disease trends. According to the county, case rates, test positivity, transmission rate, hospitalizations and ICU admissions have all declined steadily since the surge late last year.

“We’ve recently seen marked improvements in both our positivity and equity positivity rates, along with significant declines in hospitalizations and ICU admissions,” said Porter. “We expect these trends to accelerate as vaccination rates increase and people continue to practice the protective behaviors that reduce transmission of the virus.”

As of Tuesday, March 9, 417,040 doses have been administered to county residents. County providers have administered a total of 489,255 doses.

The county has received 143,325 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 166,000 of the Moderna vaccine. Of the county’s Pfizer inventory, it has distributed 130,630 doses, allocated 12,210 doses and has 485 doses available as of March 9. Of the county’s Moderna inventory, it has distributed 165,780 doses, allocated 220 doses and has no doses available.

As of March 9, 282,64 county residents have been vaccinated, which is 17.6 percent of the population over the age of 18.

As of Tuesday, March 9, Redlands Community Hospital has administered 10,701 total doses. Beaver Medical Group has administered 5,719 doses. Redlands Urgent Care Center has administered 1,203 doses and Rite Aid Pharmacy on Redlands Boulevard has administered 1,165 doses.

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