Equity metric focused on Latino communities COVID-19 case rates fails in Sonoma County

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- As California continues to reopen its economy, state officials are now implementing 'the equity metric' in order to bring down COVID-19 rates in disadvantaged communities, hardest hit by the pandemic.

Sonoma County is the only Bay Area County still in the most restrictive purple tier, and on Tuesday, the county failed the equity metric.

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The California Department of Public Health will now require larger counties to focus on reducing COVID-19 rates in disadvantaged communities, including Black, Latino, and Pacific Islander neighborhoods that have been harder hit by the pandemic.



County and community leaders are strategizing about how to help the Latino community, and in turn all of Sonoma County, decrease COVID cases.

KBBF radio in Santa Rosa is on the frontline of the fight. The station, 89.1FM, was the first public bilingual radio station in the country at its founding in 1973. KBBF is volunteer and donation-based, and yet it's responsible for giving critical information to Sonoma County's Latino community, which accounts for 54% of the county's COVID cases.

"Going into a 24/7, news around the clock format anytime there's an emergency, which we've had several wildfires, floodings, we've had COVID," said Edgar Avila, KBBF's volunteer director of programming.

RELATED: Coronavirus case rate in Sonoma County unparalleled in the Bay Area

Avila says the broadcasters have spent a lot of time battling misinformation during the pandemic. "Medical misinformation, rumors and conspiracies that are spread in the community," said Avila, who also explained the longstanding tension between the Latino community and law enforcement is problematic. "As soon as an ordinance happens, or as soon as the government says something, we struggle to get on the air to say to people yes, this is actually true, even though you have no reason to trust these people. We're here to tell you as advocates of the community, please follow these rules because it's for our health."

"If they're undocumented people, there's a trust issue there. They're not necessarily going to turn to government," said David Rabbitt, a Sonoma County Supervisor. He's says they are lagging behind the rest of Bay Area for a number of reasons. "The gatherings, the fires with the congregate shelters, Labor Day, the tourist economy that we have and people rolling through Sonoma County."

"We've made progress, but were just not there yet," admitted Rabbitt.

RELATED: Coronavirus California: SF expands COVID-19 outreach, funding to Latino communities

Over the summer, Sonoma County created a new equity department, and Rabbitt says the supervisors are holding a special meeting on Friday to strategize about how reduce COVID in their Latino community.

Avila has his own ideas about where the Sonoma County should put its COVID resources. "We could be funding translators for teachers, we could be funding KBBF, we could be funding people to stay home from their essential work."

See the map below to find out where your county stands and keep reading to learn what can and can't open in each color-coded category.
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