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New equity metric could impact Santa Cruz County’s economic recovery

santa cruz county
Santa Cruz County

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) Health equity is a new metric in the state’s road map to recovery.

The state said it added the metric because some communities within counties have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and have higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths.

Many California counties have significant differences in test positivity among more and less advantaged neighborhoods, so the new metric is an effort to reduce transmission in all communities.

Throughout the pandemic, South Santa Cruz County has tallied a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 cases. Watsonville alone represents 57% of all total cases in the county, despite having less than 20% of the population.

“It is clear south county is more impacted than other portions of the county,” Chief of Public Health Jen Herrera said.

The trend across state is showing neighborhoods in lower income areas are contracting COVID-19 at an higher rate.

Dr. Amy McEntee says it's not a coincidence that Watsonville has a disproportionate number of cases.

“Many people are essential workers and part of the front line," the Chief Medical Officer for Salud Para La Gente said. "They are exposed to the public, and don’t have jobs where you can work from home...there’s a lot of crowded housing and substandard housing. That’s kind of the perfect condition for COVID to spread.”

The new equity metric will force county’s to close the geographical gap in cases, or they won’t get to re-open more aspects of the economy.

“It will allow health departments to consistently assess whether there’s an intersection between higher test positivity among communities that are struggling financially,” Herrera said.

The two indicators will be positivity rate and total cases. Right now the Watsonville area nearly matches the county’s 3.5% positivity rate.

However, to limit the cases, county public health is working with community based organizations in the Pajaro Valley. That’s led to increased testing capacity and rapid results at sites like Ramsay Park, and provided funding during COVID-19 sick leave for essential workers through Salud Para La Gente.

“We’re cautiously optimistic right now. In the last couple weeks in our clinic we are seeing a change in the direction things are going. We’re hopeful that continuing to educate people about protecting themselves, taking precautions and isolating early can have an impact," McEntee said.

The new health equity metric begins next week. County officials tell KION they believe Santa Cruz will stay in the less restrictive red tier for at least another week.

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Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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