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SAN DIEGO COUNTY BECOMES 1st IN NATION TO DECLARE COVID-19 MISINFORMATION A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS

09/01/21

San Diego County tonight became the first county in the nation to declare that using health misinformation is causing a public health crisis in their community. Nathan Fletcher, Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors authored the policy.

“Combatting health misinformation needs to start on the ground, in counties and cities across our nation,” said Chair Fletcher. “San Diego County took the first step by becoming the first local jurisdiction in the country to align its policies with the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendations to fight health misinformation. Health misinformation is a national crisis and it requires all of us to fight against it together.”     

Chair Fletcher introduced the policy at a time when 83.7% of the County’s COVID-19 cases are amongst not fully vaccinated people and 96.7% of the County’s hospitalizations are amongst not fully vaccinated people, since March of 2021.  

Leading experts in the field of public health view health misinformation as a major contributor to rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and vaccine hesitancy. The U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy recently issued an advisory entitled “Confronting Health Misinformation. ”

Chair Fletcher’s policy passed by a vote of 3-2. It came after many hours of public testimony from mostly right-wing, anti-vaxxers. The vote:

  • Approves a resolution Declaring Health Misinformation a Public Health Crisis in San Diego County
  • Directs the County’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to implement the following strategies cited by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy in his advisory:
    • Devote resources to identify and label health misinformation and disseminate timely health information to counter misinformation that is impeding our ability to keep our community safe,
    • Modernize public health communications with investments to better understand gaps in health information, and questions and concerns of the community, especially in hard-to-reach communities. Develop targeted community engagement strategies, including partnerships with trusted messengers,
    • Expand our research efforts to better define and understand the sources of health misinformation, document and trace its costs and negative impacts, and develop strategies to address and counter it across mediums and diverse communities,
    • Invest in resilience against health misinformation including digital resources and training for health practitioners and health workers. Explore educational programs to help our communities distinguish evidence-based information from opinion and personal stories,
    • Partner with federal, state, territorial, tribal, private, nonprofit, research, and other local entities to identify best practices to stop the spread of health misinformation and develop and implement coordinated recommendations,
    • Identify resource gaps to combating health misinformation and working with state and federal partners to meet ongoing needs, and 
    • Work with the medical community and local partners to develop a website that will serve as a central resource for combating health misinformation in our community. 

Declaring Health Misinformation a Public Health Crisis aligns with Chair Nathan Fletcher’s Framework for the Future of San Diego County . The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Chair Fletcher is fighting for racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, government transparency, and fundamental changes to county operations.