Various leaders from state and local government are demanding the San Diego County Board of Supervisors come up with new ideas on how to combat the Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego as well as the homeless and housing crisis facing the region.
San Diego City Councilmembers Chris Ward and Barbara Bry, Assemblymember Todd Gloria, State Sen. Ben Hueso and others proposed an emergency action plan, calling on county officials to spend more money to battle the outbreak that has prompted a local health emergency.
Countywide there have been 490 confirmed cases of Hep A since Nov. 2016, Eighteen of those cases have been deadly.
The coalition spoke on the steps of the County Administration Building Thursday, asking county officials to spend more money hiring public health nurses and caseworkers be assigned to temporary facilities designated to house the homeless, among other things.
Ward, whose Council District 3 includes downtown, Little Italy and Balboa Park, also wants to get real-time data about the number of hepatitis A cases and zip codes of where the cases are reported.
He said that data can help city officials decide "where can we align [services] better so we can make sure we're most accurately responding to where the newest outbreaks are occurring."
"It's common sense," he said.
Ward described a conflict over jurisdiction when he asked for more resources from county officials. He said the city doesn’t have the resources to deal with the health and human services component, while the county does.
Vice Chairman of San Diego Unified Port District Rafael Castellanos said the virus does not care about jurisdictions.
“Instead of pinching pennies and being proud of your $2 billion bank account, demonstrate some leadership,” Castellanos said. “Take action now to do whatever it takes to address this emergency, sparing no reasonable expense.”
Dianne Jacob, Chair of the San Diego Board of Supervisors, described the news conference as an attempt to “score political points off this public health emergency.”
She said cities are responsible for sanitation while the county is responsible for providing vaccines and other direct services for the homeless.
The action plan also suggested county officials consider new solutions for chronic problems like housing and homeless.
Gloria (D - 78th Assembly District) said the state recently changed rules allowing paramedics to vaccinate in the community in an effort to tackle the problem in a new way.
"This is the fastest way we know to stop the spread of this disease," he said.
The county has spent $3 million fighting the outbreak so far and it expects to spend $1.5 million per month until the outbreak is over.
San Diegans may remember a few years ago when county officials offered up $150 million for a new football stadium.
“We’re asking them to care as much as people who are dying on the streets as they cared about a football field,” Nathan Fletcher, candidate for county supervisor, said.
"Any suggestion that the country backed a $150 million giveaway for a Chargers stadium is a complete fabrication. The board never took action to approve any money for a stadium," Jacob said.
Republican Bonnie Dumanis, who is also campaigning for the supervisor seat that will be available when Supervisor Ron Roberts steps down due to term limits.
“This is not a time for finger pointing. The City and County are now working together to contain the Hep A outbreak and our focus should continue to be on expanding vaccinations, getting the homeless off the street, and keeping San Diegans safe,” Dumanis said.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County Public Health Officer, briefed the Chula Vista City Council Tuesday night on the county's efforts to curb the number of Hepatitis A cases.
Wooten said, "We have seen a leveling off of the number of cases. We need several more weeks. Maybe even another month before we can definitively say."
The county has set up hand washing stations and power washed streets in areas affected by hepatitis A in an effort to combat the spread of the disease.
See our coverage of the Hepatitis A outbreak in our special section.