S. E. Williams |
“California has collected a wide range of data to inform its response to COVID-19, and developed tools to help process and analyze that data.” – COVID19.CA.Gov
One of the most valuable sources in helping to assess and tell stories of the true and disparate impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities in California was access to demographic information in relation to the virus and vaccination rates by area as the virus wreaked havoc up and down the state in 2020 and the early days of 2021.
It was the advocacy of the Black Press, including Black Voice News among others, who pushed for this important level of transparency as the number of infections climbed and death settled over Black and Brown and Native American communities like an impenetrable fog.
In recent months however, everyone breathed a sigh of relief as vaccination numbers improved, the coronavirus slowed its spread, and the jangling cacophony of discourse which disrupted our lives for more than a year gradually lowered its decibels. However, the reprieve was not lasting.
As many celebrated the reopenings, others kept a wary and watchful eye on the Delta variant of the coronavirus as it had its way with countries around the world.
Reports were worrying. The variant is more contagious—at least 60 percent more transmissible—according to some reports, it is impacting younger people and although there are some breakthrough cases among those who are vaccinated, the majority being hospitalized and dying—more than 95 percent—are the unvaccinated.
Mask orders are being reimplemented in many communities and the same irrational argument about personal choice is once again the source of feigned rage in many communities, especially those led by Republicans, as if life and death, safety and sanity should only be assessed through a partisan, political lens.
And as the dangers continue to mount even the California governor has not taken a stand on masks –a governor who once led the nation by acting on COVID safety, to date is silent on the issue of a statewide mask mandate. We are all aware of the beating Newsom took from his Republican antagonists in response to his bold actions when they were warranted in 2020.
I would be among those to argue, his shuttering the economy and mandating masks indoors was warranted to save lives. He did what a leader should do.
Recently the governor at least issued a state mandate requiring masks in schools for the coming year and, as to be expected, he is now feeling renewed heat from his opponents for the decision.
Is he hedging on the mask issue, because of the looming recall election?
This is not the only curious change in Sacramento. The state has also gone silent on publishing key data related to the coronavirus and its impact on underserved communities. Important statewide data that helped guide reporting, legislative action and the deployment of COVID-19 services is no longer readily available on the state website.
This includes any testing data, COVID cases, deaths, hospitalizations disaggregated by race; vaccine allocation by race and type, and any detailed reporting about vaccine administration by “Healthy Places Index,” All such reporting was rolled back.
Equally as important, if not more so today, there is no available data regarding how the Delta variant is impacting racial groups in general and in contrast to their vaccination rates—something the Black Voice News has inquired about for nearly two months.
The state should reestablish its publication of critical demographic information about the virus and include an added focus on the Delta variant.
The nonprofit Giving Compass works to help donor contributions have meaningful impacts aimed at driving change for communities, noted, “Analytics (how data can turn into insights) can help provide organizations with real-time data about the impacts of COVID-19 on communities and can inform responses.”
One sure way to understand the true impact the Delta variant is having on underserved communities and, to help target efforts to control it, is to follow the numbers. Secreting this information away from the public serves no one, especially minority and underserved communities. The governor and his administration should reestablish this resource and also add information related to the Delta variant.
We need the governor to be courageous and lead, now, more than ever. Courage should not hinge on the nearness of elections whether they are primary, general or recall.
Reach out to Governor Newsom and ask him to reinstate data reporting on these key COVID measures. You can email him here or call (916) 445-2841.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.
Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. She is a longtime champion for civil rights and justice in all its forms. She is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. She has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments, or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.