The largest vaccine center in the United States was launched at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles County on Friday as the metropolitan area is about to hit the latest grim milestone of 1 million total cases this weekend.
In an effort to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination rate, Dodger Stadium, home stadium of Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers and once one of the largest COVID-19 testing sites in the country, was transformed into a massive vaccination center, which eventually will have the capacity to vaccinate 12,000 people per day.
"Our goal is to vaccinate as many Angelenos as quickly and safely as possible," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a tweet. Garcetti and California governor Gavin Newsom witnessed the launch of the mass vaccination site on Friday.
"This is the proverbial Ark of our time, one among other sites to help end the global suffering," Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Jeff Gorell tweeted.
The nation's most populous county reported on Friday 15,051 new confirmed cases and 258 additional deaths, pushing its caseload to 989,928 with 13,489 related deaths, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported in a daily release.
The county, home to 10 million residents, has reported a daily average of 15,000 new cases over the past week.
There are 7,715 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in the county with 22 percent of them in intensive care. For most of this week, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 each day remained slightly under 8,000, according to the department.
"While the number of patients hospitalized daily with COVID-19 decreased slightly, healthcare workers and ICU capacity remains strained," health officials noted.
Officials said that more than 279,000 doses of vaccine, including more than 219,000 first doses and more than 60,000 second doses, have been administered to healthcare workers and residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities as of Thursday. It's estimated that an additional 450,000 healthcare workers need to be vaccinated in the county.
The department added that beginning next week, it will be working with healthcare providers and pharmacies to get ready to vaccinate people aged 65 or older once the county's vaccine allocation increases.
Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, said that the county wants to expand vaccinations "as quickly as possible" as vaccine supply allows.
"We are very hopeful that our allocation of doses increases enough for us to begin vaccinating seniors before the end of the month. As vaccine supply improves, more residents will become eligible for vaccinations," she said, adding that it will take a number of months to reach the level of vaccination needed in the population to curb ongoing transmission of the virus.