KPBS: Fletcher Spearheads Coronavirus Recovery Task Force Focusing On Equity For People Of Color

June 17 – KPBS – Matt Hoffman reports –  A new report from the San Diego Association of Governments released Wednesday found compared to whites, blacks and Hispanics in the county are four times as likely to live in areas that have been impacted by COVID-19 and unemployment.

In order to help ensure that the recovery from COVID-19 is equitable for San Diegans of color, county supervisor Nathan Fletcher is spearheading the creation of the COVID-19 Taskforce for Equitable Recovery.

“I feel like that government system in the last 200 years in America has not been working for communities of color,” Fletcher said. “That’s why you have the problems that you have.”

Nathan Fletcher said issues of inequities among people of color are nothing new.

“What’s changed is COVID and the accompanying social unrest, not just around the murder of Mr [George] Floyd, but the broader spotlight on that issue has shone a spotlight on these issues that has engaged a lot of folks that haven’t historically been engaged,” he said.

Fletcher is hoping this new coalition made up of local politicians and community leaders will help bridge that divide.

“We use the word ‘equity,’ meaning our reality is inequities, but the root cause of that is what we call structural racism,” said Dr. Rodney Hood, president of the Multicultural Health Foundation. Hood said he has been a physician in South San Diego for 40 years and seen disparities first hand.

“Underlying barriers and social determinants of health food insecurity, job insecurity, economic insecurity,” Hood said.

Hood said the first step is acknowledging the problem, then taking action.

“It shouldn’t be just a thing that’s on the wall or in the filing cabinet. It really needs to have teeth,” Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, the mayor of National City said.

As this group of politicians and community members is independent it is unclear what, if any, authority they would have over decisions. Fletcher said the idea is people can come to the coalition meetings and voice concerns that members can then advocate for.

“The point of this group is to take the voices of the community and the elected officials, and I figure out hey what needs to change,” Fletcher said.

Data from county health officials show Hispanics and Latinos make up two thirds of positive cases and have the highest percentage of COVID-19 deaths.

The task force is planning to meet virtually for now. Their first meeting is next Wednesday and the public is invited to share concerns.

“It’s hard to ask for help and it’s even more difficult if you don’t know where to ask for help,” Sotelo-Solis said. “I look forward to this recovery task force being a space where if they have questions they can tap into that resource.”

As of Wednesday, here is the complete list of organizations and individuals participating in the task force:

– San Diego Families (ISDF) Coalition

– ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties

– Center on Policy Initiatives

– Dr. Rodney G. Hood, President of the Multicultural Health Foundation

– JoAnn Fields, Government and Public Relations Director, Asian Pacific Islander Initiative

– Climate Action Campaign

– Environmental Health Coalition

– Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas

– Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear

– Carlsbad City Councilmember Priya Bhat-Patel

– National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis

– San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez

– Chula Vista City Councilmember Steve Padilla

– Cipriano Vargas, Trustee, Vista Unified School District

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