Sonoma County increases focus on COVID inequality

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Sonoma County is the only county in the Bay Area still stuck in California’s most restrictive “purple” COVID-19 tier.

“Sonoma County’s kinda unique, you know. We‘re different than the other Bay Area counties. We have an agrarian workforce. We have the dairy, farmworkers, agriculture,” said county health officer Dr. Sundari Mase.

The county is increasing its focus on bringing down COVID-19 numbers among its most disadvantaged populations, hoping to improve its performance on the state’s equity metric.

Latinos have made up an overwhelming number of the county’s overall cases, at one point accounting for 78 percent of cases. Latinos make up about 26 percent of the county’s overall population.

Dr. Mase says the county is already making strides within the community, which now accounts for 54 percent of overall cases, and does not plan to slow down the effort.

“More testing, more outreach, and financial relief for those who are isolated and quarantined,” she said of the county’s plan.

Officials hope they can improve enough on the equity metric to bring the county down from the purple tier, despite having a higher overall case rate.

Another wrinkle in the county’s efforts are the recent wildfires. At least 15 new cases were tied to evacuations from the Walbridge Fire.

“You know we had a lot of evacuees with the Glass Fire, and I think we’re still waiting to see what the impact of that is,” said Dr. Mase.

That is part of the reason why she is asking residents to stay vigilant and cautious as the holiday season approaches.

“Bear with us,” she said. “I understand there’s a lot of frustration out there. We all share it.”

Testing capacity has improved across the county thanks to new pop up sites, and Dr. Mase said results are now available within 24-48 hours on average.