Three years after the COVID-19 health crisis sent the nation into emergency response, San Mateo County officials reflected on recovery efforts with hopes of learning from successful interventions to continue pushing for equitable improvements.
“There’s a lot of work that’s been done in the past three years but I want to emphasis that we took time during these three years to step back, reflect, think about what we were doing, learn from what we were doing and try to improve the programs going forward,” Deputy County Executive Officer Peggy Jensen said during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Since initiating a shelter-in-place order in March 2020, nearly $400 million has been spent on programming to keep businesses afloat, residents housed and fed, and people safe from the respiratory virus.
Officials tapped into local revenue sources like half-cent sales tax Measure K dollars to assist the public. State and federal dollars, like those from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and American Rescue Plan Act, also flowed into county and city accounts.
With those dollars and the support of trusted community messengers, Jensen said the county invested $188 million into housing initiatives, $76.4 million toward food security, $33 million to small business and nonprofit relief, $16 million for additional financial assistance, nearly $9 million for child care programming, and $10.7 million for youth programming.
The county funded the establishment of testing sites early on and eventually launched vaccination sites when treatment became available. And officials constantly tracked data that influenced frequently augmented safety precautions in businesses, schools and other gathering places.
Meanwhile, nonprofits like Second Harvest Food Bank and Samaritan House substantially increased the amount of aid it was distributing. And when immigrants were closed out of aid programs due to their legal status, the county established a fund in partnership with the Sobrato Foundation to provide $1,000 grants to more than 16,000 families in need.
Much of that progress was made possible through the support of trusted messengers and nonprofits, Jensen said, asserting communication channels have substantially improved over the years due to the need for a collective response. Moving forward, Jensen said officials should continue to foster and feed those partnerships.
Geocoding, a tool used to identify what communities were receiving assistance, has also become an invaluable tool for collecting data and ensuring the county is reaching the communities that need the most support.
“In terms of advancing equity, what you can see is data is extraordinarily important, we know that,” Jensen said. “But also the importance of trusted community messengers, working with collaborative community partnerships, [and] ongoing community engagement, which is not only listening but acting on what you heard and listening again to make sure the impacts of what you’re trying to implement or the things you’re trying to improve are actually happening.”
While the state and county’s emergency orders have come to an end, work to protect the community from the virus is ongoing and advancing equity remains a key objective for officials.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 184,000 residents have contracted the virus and 920 have died. At its peak, more than 200 patients were being treated with the virus in local hospitals. Today, about 21 are seeking medical support, according to the county’s dashboard.
About 95% of residents have received an initial COVID-19 vaccine dose since becoming widely available in early 2021 but only about 34% have received the updated bivalent booster shot that protects against newer more contagious strains of the virus.
Rates are lowest among Hispanic residents with 16% having received the bivalent booster, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders at 13% and Black residents at 26%. About 40% of white residents and 39% of Asian residents have received the updated dose.
Supervisor Noelia Corzo said she’d hate to see what conditions would have been like without the united response from the county and its partners. Her colleagues also lauded county staff for their work over the years.
“The pandemic shined a light on the gap between the haves and the have-nots here in San Mateo County,” board President Dave Pine said in a press release. “What we have tried to accomplish with these investments is to really focus on programs and projects that address the most basic needs in our community to close that gap.”
Visit the County Health website at mchealth.org/coronavirus to learn more about COVID-19 vaccine and testing opportunities, data and guidance.
The only lesson we learned is that none of these unelected "officials" can be trusted and we must all think and do for ourselves from now on. The "science" has been forever politicized.
There's nothing here about housing and being able to social distance, finding hospital beds, PPE and quality masks and distributing it where needed, and why they were unavailable and why water and broadband became life and death issues or why the county never used federal recovery act money to insure those services were broadly available. This is pat on back rather than prep for the next event.
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