Sacramento, CA – The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Health Access, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Prevention Institute, and Public Health Advocates released the following joint statement in response to Governor Newsom’s announcement of a new equity measure for California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
“We commend Governor Newsom for his recognition that California must consider the communities bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in our quest to reopen our economy. Communities of color are contracting COVID-19 and dying at disproportionate rates, largely due to our contributions to California’s economy as essential workers. The pandemic has laid bare the structural drivers of poor health outcomes and the weaknesses in both our social safety net and our public health infrastructure.
Requiring counties to demonstrate an improvement in the COVID-19 positivity rates in the neighborhoods facing the most severe impacts is both an essential and an attainable element of our pandemic response. By focusing our collective resources on the health and safety of the communities most impacted by the pandemic, we can safely move to reopen our state. We encourage the state and counties to engage local community leaders in developing strategies to achieve the necessary progress, and to focus concurrently on the immediate pandemic response and on the systemic inequities in our state.”
Governor Newsom announced that a health equity metric has been added to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and will be effective beginning October 6th. Going forward, counties will be required to demonstrate that COVID-19 positivity rates in the most disadvantaged census tracts do not lag significantly behind the rest of the county in order to move into new tiers of reopening. This new metric will leverage the California Healthy Places Index, created by the Public Health Alliance of Southern California, to explore and understand social determinants of health. This tool will help us understand how neighborhoods within a county are impacted by conditions such as housing, education, economic and other policies that contribute to health and wellbeing. By utilizing this index, counties can understand and address not only who is most negatively impacted by COVID-19 but also the factors that contribute to these outcomes.
While the smallest counties in the state are excluded from meeting the equity metric, all counties will be required to develop and submit plans for targeted investments into reducing the disparities and supporting disproportionately impacted communities to emerge from the pandemic. Finally, the state will be working with counties to develop milestones for improving the collection of race and ethnicity data related to COVID-19 testing and cases, which is currently not available for a significant share of test and case reports.
In April, we sent a letter to Governor Newsom and the administration with recommendations for an equitable response to the pandemic. We urged the administration to work closely with community-based organizations, who are and serve those most impacted, to ensure timely and linguistically and culturally appropriate materials, testing, and other resources, and to prioritize and protect the safety of communities of color by investing in systemic changes.