Contra Costa Supervisors approve creation of Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice

“Racism exists in our county and in our county department” – Supervisor Federal Glover

“Racism is a public health crisis” – Contra Costa Health Department Director Anna Roth

County COVID-19 ranking lowered to Red Tier as health officials warn about holiday season upsurge

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020 unanimously passed a proposal to create a county funded Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice to address increasing concerns about rising issues of racial inequality and social injustice especially in how the county delivers health services to people of color.

The nonprofit San Francisco Foundation will provide the biggest donation of $75,000 to help launch the formation of the new office.  Other organizations providing funding are the Contra Costa Regional Health Foundation, $20,000; East Bay Community Foundation, $10,000; John Muir Community Benefits, $10,000; Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation, $25,000; Public Health Advocates, $25,000; Republic Services, $25,000; Richmond Community Foundation, $5,000: The California Endowment, $25,000 and Y&H Soda Foundation, $25,000.

Before supervisors voted to start the planning process to potentially launch a county Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice, supervisors had unanimously approved a resolution Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis.  Some of the resolution’s 12 clauses were:

“WHEREAS, disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease, shorter life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, and health inequities for Black/African Americans and other racial groups are widely recognized and documented, yet continue in particular as well as other communities of color; and

“WHEREAS the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated racial and social inequities by disproportionately impacting the Latinx community as well as other communities of color; and

“WHEREAS Contra Costa Health Services cares for and improves the health of all people in Contra Costa County, and yet as a system has perpetuated racism and anti-black racism; and

“WHEREAS the Contra Costa Health Services cares for and improves the health of all people in Contra Costa County, and yet as a system has perpetuated racism and anti-black racism.”

If Contra Costa County moves ahead in to create in the 2021-2022 fiscal year an Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice, the county will join San Francisco and Oakland that had both established similar offices in 2019.

“Racism exists in our county and in our county department,” said Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, who along with Gioia pushed for the formation of the new county office.

“I have always attacked the health disparities, particularly when it impacts our low income communities,” said the supervisor who was reelected last week to a seventh  four-year term in a runoff election last week against Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer.

“Racism is a public health crisis,” concurred Contra Costa Health Department Director Anna Roth. Roth said there exist ethnic-economic-racial-social inequities in health care throughout Contra Costa County.

“This is a major issue no matter if it is intentional or unintentional,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. “We have seen it all in our own county.”

“I support the eventuality of a Contra Costa County Office of Racial Equity,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, who at one point disputed with Gioia over how to fund the operation of the proposed new office if it reaches that point by next May. Both supervisors agreed to not bring up the funding issue until May when supervisors will review the 2021—2022 budget.

County Returns to COVID-19 Red Tier With More Restrictions 

The 2020 holiday season is around the corner and Contra Costa County Public Health officials are sparing no time in ramping up efforts to advise residents to wear face coverings, maintain social distances, use disposable dining ware and stay outdoors instead of indoors during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors were informed Tuesday. County health officials announced the public safety measure as the county’s COVID-19 tier ranking was lowered Tuesday from purple tier to red tier.

County health officials saw a 200 percent boost in the number of COVID-19 cases during the past two weeks, Contra Costa Health Department Director Anna Roth said. Even with news on Monday that Pfizer Inc. has developed a vaccine that has notched a 90 percent safety record, Roth said the county reported an increase in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, 20,166 cases and 46 deaths.

“With the holiday season approaching, we recommend, keep it small, keep it outside with no more than 13 persons and lasting no more than three hours,” Roth said. In addition, Roth said persons should wash hands and faces frequently, remain outside as much as possible, wear face coverings, and maintain six-feet separations.

Roth reported that a county sponsored COVID-19 test event held in San Pablo on Saturday, Nov. 7 was a success because 673 persons were tested. Eighty-five percent of the test takers were first-time participants. A majority of those participating in the free tests were residents of Latinx descent.

Count health officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said the county is prepared to store the Pfizer vaccine that has been reported to be 90 percent effective but requires extreme cold refrigeration. “The county has purchased the ultra-cold storage capability to story up to 70,000 doses,” Dr. Farnitano informed supervisors. The storage unit can keep the vaccine cold at 70 degrees below zero.

 

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