Information provided by the California Department of Public Health and the California Office of Emergency Services.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) gave details on Sept. 30 regarding a health equity metric to help guide counties in their continuing efforts to more effectively fight COVID-19. It requires more intensive efforts to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among Californians who have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic.
According to a recent press release, the equity metric, which is part of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy announced on Aug. 28, is designed to reduce COVID-19 cases in all communities and takes effect on Oct. 6.
“Our entire state has come together to redouble our efforts to reduce the devastating toll COVID-19 has had on our Latino, Black and Pacific Islander communities,” said acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan. “This isn’t just a matter of higher cases in these communities—it is an issue of life and death that is hurting all Californians. An all-community, cross-sector approach to work together to slow the transmission of COVID in all populations will help ensure we reopen our economy safely, protect our essential workers, and support our local partners.”
According to CDPH, Black, Latino and Pacific Islander communities, low-income Californians, and essential workers have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. These individuals and communities have higher rates of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths. The differences in health outcomes are most concerning in COVID-19 deaths. Throughout the pandemic, Latinos, African Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have died at disproportionately higher levels than other groups.
Under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a county will need to meet an equity metric and/or demonstrate targeted investments to eliminate disparities in levels of COVID-19 transmission to advance to the next, less restrictive tier. Counties with a population of greater than 106,000 people must ensure the test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods do not significantly fall behind its overall county test positivity rate and submit a plan that defines its disproportionately impacted populations, specifies the percent of COVID-19 cases in these populations, and outlines plans to invest funding to interrupt disease transmission in these communities. In addition, counties with demonstrated declining case rates and test positivity rates for both the countywide and its most disadvantaged neighborhoods that fall into two tiers below their current tier may advance to the next, less restrictive tier.
Due to data limitations in smaller populations, this same equity metric described above cannot be reliably applied to smaller counties. Therefore, counties with a population of fewer than or equal to 106,000 people must submit a plan that defines its disproportionately impacted populations, specifies the percent of COVID-19 cases in these populations, and outlines plans to invest funding to interrupt disease transmission in these communities.
The release states the equity metric builds on efforts to provide all Californians access to COVID-19 testing, education and supports, particularly for individuals in communities that are disproportionally impacted, to help reduce the transmission of the virus. This includes disease investigation, contact tracing, support for isolation and quarantine, and policies that impact the underlying issues that contribute to these disparities. The announcement builds on the state’s ongoing efforts to reduce disparities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which have included public education campaigns geared to communities that are disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, assistance to essential workers, community testing sites and increased laboratory capacity, temporary and permanent housing programs, as well as targeted funding for counties to reduce disparities.
To assist all counties in developing best practices in achieving this metric, CDPH is launching a Health Equity Technical Assistance Team to provide additional support and resources as needed.
CDPH said it is committed to promoting equitable social, economic, and environmental conditions to ensure all Californians have equal opportunities for optimal health, mental health and well-being.