San Diego County has created a new task force to ensure the region's COVID-19 recovery efforts equally support underserved communities and people of color.
The Regional COVID-19 Taskforce for Equitable Recovery was proposed to Supervisor Nathan Fletcher by the Invest in San Diego Families Coalition (ISDF), an advocacy group that pushes for services and policies that better serve the county's diverse communities.
ISDF campaign manager Paola Martinez-Montes said recovery must be viewed "through a racial and equity lens... otherwise we will risk deepening the injustice our communities have been carrying for hundreds of years."
According to the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the task force will offer recommendations to the Board of Supervisors that can help address the impact of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities, especially in Black, Latino and Pacific Islander communities and among the homeless.
Fletcher said it is because of pre-existing disparities that these communities were disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
"COVID-19 didn’t cause the economic inequities or health disparities that exist in our society, but it highlighted how a crisis situation can make things more difficult for people struggling because of those injustices," Fletcher said.
The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) said Wednesday that Hispanics and Latinos are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. About 67% of the county's nearly 9,900 positive cases are among the Hispanic and Latino population, even though they only make up about 34% of the population. Of COVID-19 related deaths, 43 percent were among the demographic.
The county said that some contributing factors could be that Latinos are more likely to be essential or frontline workers, have more underlying medical conditions, are more likely to live in multigenerational households, and are more physically affectionate than other populations.
San Diego County has seen a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases in the South Bay leading prompting officials to take additional measures to increase testing in the area in order to combat COVID-19 before it spreads. The task force would also help address the spike in South Bay's cases.
A report released by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) on Wednesday shared similar findings, concluding that the hardest-hit zip codes for both unemployment and COVID-19 cases were in the South Bay.
Economically, the Black and Hispanic/Latino populations were the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, SANDAG's COVID-19 Impact on the San Diego Regional Economy report found.
Since the stay-at-home order went into effect in mid-March, Black and Hispanic/Latino people were four times more likely to live in areas with higher unemployment rates and a higher than average COVID-19 cases.
The same report also found that Blacks, Hispanics and Latinos were more likely to be among essential workforces.
"Hispanic employees account for 32% of the overall workforce but represent 46% of those working in the food service industry, and 37% of those working in the retail sector (excluding grocery and drugstore). Black employees account for nearly 5% of the overall workforce but represent more than 7% who work in childcare and social services, 9% in trucking, warehouse, and postal service, and nearly 20% of public transit workers," the study found.
Asian workers also account for 12% of the workforce but represent 22% of the health care sector, the report found.
The task force includes members of ISDF, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the Center for Policy Initiatives, Supervisor Fletcher, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Carlsbad City Councilmember Priya Bhat-Patel, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, San Diego Councilmember Goergette Gomez, Chula Vista Councilmember Steve Padilla, among several others.
The group will meet next Wednesday at 4 p.m. for its first strategy session.