San Diegans looking for a broader look at the county's response to the pandemic and its direction going forward tuned in for the annual State of the County Address Thursday night.
At the top of newly-appointed Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher's address were his thoughts on the county's fight with COVID-19 and its path for recovery.
Fletcher characterized 2020 as a "year of tremendous sacrifice and tremendous loss," and "a year that has shown us the very best of each other and, sadly, some of the worst."
The coronavirus pandemic is still the county's immediate priority, and with decreasing cases, increasing vaccinations, and stabilizing hospital occupancy, Fletcher said the county can see light at the end of the tunnel.
"Because the sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we get our lives back … get San Diegans back to work…and our kids back in the classroom," Fletcher said.
To date, the county has administered 684,000 COVID-19 vaccines, which leads California counties, according to Fletcher.
Teams of community health workers are now canvassing hardest-hit neighborhoods to help along those left behind in the vaccine rollout.
Fletcher said new vaccination sites are on their way to help facilitate expansion to the next tier of patients, which includes law enforcement, teachers and grocery store workers. Starting March 15, the county will make vaccines available to residents with underlying health conditions and disabilities, Fletcher said.
"The reality COVID has made clear is not just a global public health pandemic. We see clearly there is a pandemic of inequality we must stamp out. A pandemic of injustice we must overcome. A pandemic of intolerance we must unify against," Fletcher said.
Racial justice and social equality were also part of Fletcher's address.
"The legacies of the original sin at the founding of our country are still present today," Fletcher said. "In all parts of our society -- land use, environmental and economic policy, criminal justice."
The Board of Supervisors Chair offered startling statistics illustrative of his point:
- A Black baby born in South Eastern San Diego will live, on average, 10 years less, than a white baby born in La Jolla
- A Latino child in Barrio Logan is 7 times more likely to have asthma than a white child in Solana Beach.
- The average life expectancy of a Trans Woman of Color is just 35 years old.
"Overcoming persistent inequality will remain a permanent focus of County Government," Fletcher said.
Two ways the county is hoping to help the region rebound economically are revitalizing the region's film industry, and increase contracting with local businesses.
A 5% increase in contracts could inject $75 million into the local economy, Fletcher said.
Fletcher announced new framework for inmate health care, born from an agreement between himself and Sheriff Bill Gore. Last year Gore announced plans to outsource healthcare in county jails, but the two agreed to increase staffing for mental health professionals, drug treatment provider and nurses.
He also teased a forthcoming proposal for a "campus" to support mothers who have been separated from their children by incarceration or addiction.
"We not only want them to be reunited, but provide the tools, training and support necessary to break generational cycles of instability. Childcare, parenting training, job training, behavioral health services and so much more," he said.
A positive to come from the pandemic, according to Fletcher, is a renewed connection to the outdoors. That realization led Fletcher to come up with plans to revitalize Downtown San Diego's waterfront park by inserting basketball and pickleball courts, a dog park, chess tables, and a world-class t-ball and whiffle ball complex. He also announced the creation of a countywide chess tournament for students in underserved communities.
Fletcher did not mention how much any of his proposals would cost the county.