The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today unanimously endorsed a suite of actions to support those most negatively impacted by the spread of coronavirus including those in low-income, essential worker and Latinx communities. The goal of these initiatives is to address COVID-19 disparities while reducing overall community spread, allowing the county to move out of the most-restrictive purple tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The actions include:
- Increased testing opportunities
- Enhanced outreach to the Latinx community
- Providing financial assistance for those who are COVID-19 positive and need to quarantine
- Expanded partnership with the business community
- Expanded education and marketing campaign
“These new strategies will help us focus on the root cause of our issues here in Sonoma County – the unequal access to health and economic resources that limits the ability of many residents to effectively protect their health and that of their families,” said Susan Gorin, Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “I’m optimistic that these strategies will provide the resources where they are needed most and, in the end, will benefit the entire community.”
The County and state are using the Healthy Places Index to monitor improvements in disparities. The HPI measures factors that predict life expectancy such as income and housing. Recent data shows that the overall testing positivity rate for Sonoma County stands at 5.1%, while the census tracts where residents have access to the fewest socioeconomic resources remains at 7.5%. Residents of these tracts are more likely to:
- Be an essential worker living on limited income who cannot afford to miss work for testing or isolation or quarantine
- Lack sick leave or job security to take time off when sick
- Live in a shared space due to lack of affordable housing
- Share transportation
- Lack health care access
Residents can find out whether they live within the targeted census tracts by going to this map that is now available on the SoCoEmergency.org website. The map includes a search window where users can input their address to find out if they reside in a targeted census tract and are therefore eligible for financial assistance.
The County of Sonoma will implement the following actions to reduce the inequities experienced by those with the fewest socioeconomic resources.
The County of Sonoma is doubling the number of pop-up test sites to serve neighborhoods that fall into the lowest 25% of the HPI census tracts. New pop-up testing sites will be available this week – and following weeks at the following sites (the County will adjust the times next week, after which they will remain consistent):
- Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Andy’s Unity Park, 3399 Moorland Avenue Santa Rosa
1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Healdsburg Day Labor Center, 405 Grove Sreet., Healdsburg
9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Thursday, October 22, 2020
Roseland Library, 779 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa
1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Friday, October 23, 2020
Burton Avenue Recreation Center, 7421 Burton Aveue Rohnert Park
9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Testing appointments for these pop-up locations as well as other locations including Empire College, at 3035 Cleveland Ave. in Santa Rosa, and Alliance Medical Center at 1381 University Ave. in Healdsburg, are available by calling (707) 565-4667.
In order to ensure culturally and linguistically sensitive communications with trusted messengers, the County has contracted with On the Move to implement large-scale outreach and education campaigns to the Latinx and indigenous communities.
On the Move’s COVID-19 Urgent Response and Aid Project is a partnership involving multiple family resource centers and agencies embedded within their local communities. The project will:
- Provide information on COVID-19 to farmworkers, local laborers, and other Latinx and indigenous language-speaking communities
- Provide necessary personal protective equipment for farmworkers and other high-risk workers
- Connect individuals to medical supportive services
- Support outreach for neighborhood testing events
- Support in providing emergency financial assistance
Financial assistance and incentives
Residents who are living on limited income and cannot afford to miss work are less likely to access testing or have the ability to isolate or quarantine. Financial assistance will help low-income individuals afford to isolate when they are COVID-19 positive, slowing the spread of the virus.
To incentivize residents to take part in testing, the County will offer gift cards to help offset costs such as lost wages or transportation. The testing incentive gift cards will be offered only at testing sites in census tracts that are in the lowest 25 percent of the HPI and will be limited to one per month. The County is predicting a 50% to 75% increase in testing demand in target groups based on data from counties with similar incentives.
Residents of the census tracts that are in the lowest 25 percent of the HPI who lack access to paid leave or other compensation will also be offered financial support including lost wage replacement of $1,216 for a 14-day isolation period. The amount was determined using Santa Rosa’s minimum wage rate of $15.20/hour. Wage replacement will be available to those working 40 hours a week for a maximum of 80 hours of missed work for 14 days.
Partnership with business community
The County is encouraging private/public partnerships to support all of these initiatives including sponsorship of on-site testing, incentive programs, financial support for COVID-19 positive individuals as well as bilingual outreach. The County also will be working with the Economic Development Board and key business industries to enhance worker education on appropriate infection prevention and control practices and share information on testing and incentive programs.
Isolation and quarantine support
The County will pursue a multi-pronged approach to increase resident’s ability to effectively isolate, as it is a critical component of limiting the spread of COVID-19. This includes securing additional hotel space for isolation closer to the targeted census tracts and providing a gift card incentive to individuals who isolate at the Alternate Care Site or these additional locations. The county will provide mobile medical services and additional wrap-around services such as medication delivery, meal/grocery, and laundry services to individuals who choose to isolate at the ACS or other safe sites.
Expanded communication campaign
To promote these new strategies, the County’s Strategic Communications unit is proposing a robust Education and Marketing Campaign targeting residents within those priority census tracts. The goal of the plan is to increase participation in testing and utilization of isolation and quarantine resources through a multi-platform campaign including radio, streaming services, print and television ads in Spanish and English in addition to supermarket videos, social media messaging and geo-targeted digital advertising. The campaign also will feature more outreach to complement the Latinx programs offered by On the Move. The campaign will focus on:
- Expanded opportunities and incentives for testing
- Financial support available for low-income COVID-19-positive individuals
- Encouraging residents to avoid large gatherings this holiday season
- Universal theme: “Mask Up, Back up, Wash Up. Don’t Let Up!”
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the strategies and $4 million in CARES Act funding for initial activities through December 31. Staff will come back to the Board of Supervisors at a later date to request the additional $11.9 million needed to fund the programs from December 31, 2020 through June 30, 2021.