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Latinos have been the hardest hit racial group by COVID-19, representing 44 percent of county deaths from the virus and more than half of cases, yet they’ve received just over 15 percent of vaccinations. Black people have received just 2 percent of vaccinations, even though they’re about 5 percent of the county.
Those discrepancies, community activists told our Maya Srikrishnan, is driven by trust issues that predate the pandemic, and access issues that are both particular to the vaccination program and that go beyond it.
“We just went through this with testing,” said Nancy Maldonado, CEO of the Chicano Foundation. “It feels like we’ve learned nothing.”
Marginalized groups are in a race for vaccine appointments, and can be at a disadvantage not just because of potential bandwidth or computer literacy issues, but because they’re less likely to have the time to refresh a website all day.
““The majority of people who have gotten vaccines are White,” said Dr. Rodney Hood, a physician and president of the Multicultural Health Foundation. “It’s open to everyone who is knowledgeable and can get on their phone. It’s a race.”
The county has now rolled out a program that will set aside some appointments at vaccine sites in communities of color, while working with partner community groups to get the shots to hard-to-reach groups.
But some issues can’t be solved by trouble-shooting transportation and access issues. Black county residents were likelier than any other racial group to say they didn’t want to take the vaccine, and Hood tied those sentiments to centuries of inhumane treatment in America. Immigrants have been dissuaded by some websites that ask for residents’ Social Security numbers, which fed on lingering distrust from the Trump administration.
“We’re heard many people say, ‘We want to wait until somewhere smaller in my neighborhood opens up,’” Maldonado said.
To San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, the state of the city is fragile. To Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, the state of the county is resilient. But both speeches, delivered weeks apart, expressed a sense of optimism and made a number of key promises while articulating what a more equitable and inclusive society might look like along California’s border.
“Our community can’t rise to its full potential if so many San Diegans are prevented from ever rising at all,” Fletcher said Thursday night.
The new Democrat-controlled county has made quite a few changes already. It declared racism a public health crisis, laid the groundwork for a new climate action plan and took the first step toward legalizing the sale of the devil’s weed in unincorporated communities.
Fletcher, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, introduced a series of proposals in January, under what he’s calling the “framework for the future.” It included plans to distribute COVID-19 funds directly to communities and a new public records portal.
Fletcher expounded on these ideas in his speech Thursday and offered a few new ones. For instance, the creation of a new Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, Office of Immigrants and Refugee Affairs (which he’s been talking about for years) and Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities.
A considerable portion of the speech was dedicated to rebuilding the county’s behavioral healthcare system and helping to train and recruit new professionals. Fletcher drew a connection to the state of the county’s jails and said he and Sheriff Bill Gore, who publicly sparred last year, had agreed to stop the expansion of outsourcing health care and seek an increase in the number of county health nurses, mental health professionals and drug treatment providers.
Taken together, Fletcher’s vision mirrors what he and other Democrats have long wanted — a county government with a greater role in the local economy, and one that takes immigrant rights and the environment more seriously.
The special election to replace Secretary of State Shirley Weber in the 79th Assembly District is just around the corner.
Five candidates hoping to fill the seat will join us Wednesday at 5 p.m. to debate the future of the district. We’ll discuss their positions on police reform, school equity, the immediate recovery from COVID-19 and more. We’ll also take your questions.
Register and learn more about the virtual event here.
Thursday’s story on the 79th District Assembly race misstated Marco Contreras’ biography; he was born in San Diego and grew up in Tijuana, Mexico.
The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Megan Wood and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.