Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center proposed as vaccinations site, devil’s in the details

Drivers lined up for COVID-19 antibody testing on Saturday, May 9 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of BCHD)

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has identified the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center as a potential location for distributing COVID-19 vaccines, first to healthcare practitioners in Los Angeles and ultimately to the general public. Depending on how negotiations between the city and county pan out, the MPOD (Medical Point of Dispensing) could become operational as early as Wednesday.

At issue now is a formal agreement between the city and county. As it is currently written, the memorandum of understanding proffered by the county obligates the city to provide material support for the MPOD, including funding and staffing. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Redondo Beach City Council voted to hold off on opening the vaccination site until some amendments could be made to the language of the document.

“We certainly want to assist in the distribution of the vaccine, but we don’t want to sign up for something that we can’t do,” Mayor Bill Brand said. “We can’t do this, the way this is written.”

City Attorney Mike Webb referred to the memorandum as boilerplate, or unspecific, developed for a broad range of scenarios. The agreement was reportedly drafted during the anthrax scare of 2001.

“It’s less than ideal,” City Manager Joe Hoefgen said. “It’s not the way we would’ve written it.”

Police Chief Keith Kauffman said he was told by county officials that the city would not be responsible for staffing the site, but there wasn’t time before Tuesday’s meeting to fine-tune the agreement. Despite the best efforts of the city attorney’s office, the matter was raised at the 11th hour, Brand said.

The mayor explained that he received a text message at 8 a.m. on Tuesday from Los Angeles County of Supervisor Janice Hahn. She was asking about the possibility of administering 4,000 vaccines per day, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Brand said he responded that the city would need some extra support from the county for traffic control, security, and medical personnel, noting: “We don’t have the resources to manage this effort, but we do have the location, which we’re happy to provide.”

Councilmembers unanimously agreed at this week’s meeting that it would be unwise to enter into an agreement the city could not realistically honor.

“A small little city like Redondo Beach, with our limited resources, we can’t do a staffing like this,” said councilmember Nils Nehrenheim. “It’s just impossible for us to do.”

“I don’t want us to be hindering any kind of plan to get this vaccine out in the name of perfection, but at the same time, I agree we shouldn’t be bearing a whole bunch of the cost for this,” echoed councilmember Laura Emdee. “It’s for healthcare workers that aren’t necessarily Redondo residents.”

The Department of Public Health has the authority to request the city open the facility. The city, though, has the sole discretion to choose whether or not to open it.

Councilmember Christian Horvath made a motion on Tuesday to move forward with signing the agreement, but to direct staff not to open the facility until the amendments have been made. Should the changes be completed before next week’s council meeting, the MPOD could open on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

“If they’re willing to [make the changes], then great, we can open up next Wednesday to reflect the urgency of the matter,” Webb said. “But we need an agreement from them.”

Resident Holly Osborne called in during the virtual meeting with a simple question: “I just want to know if normal Redondo Beach people can get a vaccine there, too,” she said.

“Not during Tranche 1A — this is for healthcare workers — but the Performing Arts Center is being considered for public vaccination in the future,” Police Chief Kauffman said. ER

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Written by: Easy Reader Staff

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