Inequity could slow California's COVID-19 reopening process; Here's why some think it should

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We could see a new standard to help determine when counties in California can reopen. It's called the "equity metric."

Counties in California are placed in one of four colored-coded "community disease transmission" risk tiers.

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Right now, in order to determine how and when a county can reopen, California uses two primary indicators to determine how and when a county can reopen:

1. Average number of COVID-19 cases per day

2. Average percentage of positive test results

California's Department of Public Health is still finalizing details, but a third metric, called the "equity metric," is in the works.

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Dr. Mike Reid, who helps run San Francisco's contact tracing program, explains what it is, "a ratio of the COVID test positivity in low-income neighborhoods, compared to high-income neighborhoods in any given county."

As of September 21, San Francisco's overall positivity rate is 2, according to SFDPH.

In August, a UCSF study in the Mission District found a 9% positivity rate, among the people tested.

The equity metric could mean the difference, between the 2% and 9% positivity rates, would have to decrease in order to further reopen the San Francisco.

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"This gives it teeth. This is not just me making a morally compelling argument. This is the state and local cities telling you, 'if you don't care, things will remain where they are.' If not, they'll regress," said Jon Jacobo, the health chair of the Latino Task Force.

When asked if San Francisco was doing enough to help city's Latino community, Jacobo, said, "at this present moment, I don't feel that they are. I think that it behooves the entire city to ensure that the city itself is acting to help the Latino community if we want to get out of the mess that we're in."

Dr. Reid thinks the equity metric would a positive step, but explains why to some people it's controversial.

"If you're in a wealthy, protected neighborhood where your community has done a good job of protecting yourselves against COVID-19, you could be, in theory, held back by your poorer neighbors."

Dr. Reid says in order to address the pandemic, "we have to address the drivers of inequity in our society."

"We have an opportunity right now to really rethink what we want society to look like. How do we want to the most vulnerable, marginalized members of our society, and how can COVID be a catalyst for that?"

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