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California sets new 'health equity metric' for large counties to meet

Posted at 5:06 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 20:29:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)- There's a new requirement that large California counties have to meet before they can advance on the state's color-coded COVID-19 reopening system.

State health officials say the "health equity metric" will help reduce infection rates among vulnerable populations.

Sunday, San Diego County health officials opened another drive up testing site in Chula Vista.

Local leaders say they've been targeting disadvantaged communities with education, outreach, and testing since the start of the pandemic.

"About 34% of our county population is Latino, but about 66% of the cases, we saw that early on, and that's why we took the action of developing the South Bay Saturation Strategy for testing. We have sites in every community in the South Bay," said Nick Macchione, director of the Health and Human Services Agency for San Diego County.

Counties with more than 106,000 residents will be divided into quartiles based on income, education, and other factors gathered in census tracts.

The goal is to bring the infection rates in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in line with the county's overall rate.

"Now they need to make sure that not only does their test positivity for the whole county, their adjusted case rate, but also their test positivity in the lowest quartile in the Healthy Places Index for the county all need to meet the criteria for the least restrictive tier," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's health secretary.

Ghaly said counties will need to show that they're directing money and resources to help the communities hardest hit.

"It's not just the test positivity, that's the piece that helps counties move forward or slows them down in moving through the tier system, but we are working with counties on a broader strategy to focus on equity," said Ghaly.

Ghaly said failing to meet the metric cannot push a county back into a more restrictive tier, but can slow it down from moving ahead.

Nancy Maldonado is the President and CEO of the Chicano Federation. She welcomes the additional metric.

"I do think it's a good thing because I think it places emphasis on the importance of taking care of our community and taking care of our essential workers who are disproportionately communities of color," said Maldonado.

Some fear it's yet another hurdle to reopening.

County Supervisor Jim Desmond took to Twitter, saying if the governor wants to help disadvantaged communities, he should let them get back to work.

"I think it's really ironic the governor keeps those businesses and lower income folks out of jobs, and now he wants a metric to make sure we're taking care of them," said Desmond.

San Diego county remains in the red tier, which is one tier away from the most restrictive purple tier.