CENTRAL VALLEY, California (KGPE) – Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that 40% of doses coming into the state will go to vulnerable communities as part of an effort to vaccinate those most at-risk and open the state’s economy quicker. Many of these communities are in the Central Valley.
The state is looking at the lowest quartile of California’s healthy places index. Several factors are considered including education, transportation, access to healthcare, and housing. Many of the areas that fall into the lowest quartile are in Los Angeles County and areas throughout the Central Valley.
“It is very critical that the governor made this announcement. Communities across the state have been pleading that we see a more equitable distribution of the vaccination because minority groups like Latinos and African-Americans have been disproportionately impacted,” said Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria. Areas in her district fall into the lowest quartile.
Newsom recognized on Thursday that more needs to be done for communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“Low-income households earning less than $40,000 a year have been impacted two times those in households whose incomes are north of $120,000. They’ve been impacted by multiples in terms of the impact of this disease and this pandemic,” Newsom said.
Yet they have had less access to vaccines.
“At the same time, insult to injury, households earning over $120,000 have twice the access to vaccines than those communities that have been disproportionately impacted. That’s what we have to reconcile. That’s what we have to own up to,” Newsom said.
Newsom acknowledged that community-based organizations have played an essential role in building trust with these communities.
“There’s a lot of hesitancy in this group and really these community-based organizations represent the people, they’re trusted partners,” said Dr. Kenny Banh, director of UCSF Mobile HeaL COVID-19 Equity Project.
Frseno’s COVID-19 Equity Project, a partnership with UCSF Fresno and several community-based organizations, has been building trust throughout the pandemic and is now administering vaccines with the goal of reaching these populations.
“If you look at the percentage of the population that work as essential workers, that work on hourly, that cant commute from home, that are at risk because of comorbid medical conditions, being obesity, underlying pulmonary disease, high-risk, diabetes, that’s the Central Valley,” Banh said. “Our health markers are poor. We have a large, underserved, and socio-economically depressed population.”
Newsom’s announcement is also an effort to get the economy open quicker. Once the state reaches 2 million doses administered in these vulnerable communities, counties in the Purple Tier will be able to move into the Red Tier more easily. Instead of having to be at seven new daily cases per 100,000 people, the threshold will be 10 daily cases per 100,000 people. Fresno County is currently at 14 daily cases per 100,000 people.
“When we see case rates, positivity rates continue to stabilize, vaccination rates continuing to rise, we will be in a position to modestly loosen up some of the tiering,” Newsom said.