On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health released a new “equity metric,” making it more difficult for counties to reopen from lockdowns to stop the spread of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. The state is raising the bar for reopening the economy even higher, this time effectively basing pandemic response on Marxist critical race theory.
“Our entire state has come together to redouble our efforts to reduce the devastating toll COVID-19 has had on our Latino, Black and Pacific Islander communities,” Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan said in a statement. “This isn’t just a matter of higher cases in these communities – it is an issue of life and death that is hurting all Californians.”
“An all-community, cross-sector approach to work together to slow the transmission of COVID in all populations will help ensure we reopen our economy safely, protect our essential workers, and support our local partners,” Pan added.
What does “equity” in terms of race have to do with slowing the spread of a pandemic? Shouldn’t the government and public health agencies focus on the virus, rather than whether patients are black, white, or Asian? Shouldn’t counties be able to lift lockdown restrictions as quickly as it is safely possible in order to facilitate economic recovery?
Rather than moving California closer to reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) has added even more red tape to the process.
According to the health department website, counties with a population greater than 106,000 must “Ensure that the test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods, as defined as being in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index census tracts, do not significantly lag behind its overall county test positivity rate.”
The Equity Metric requires counties to “submit a plan that (1) defines its disproportionately impacted populations, (2) specifies the percent of its COVID-19 cases in these populations, and (3) shows that it plans to invest Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases… grant funds at least at that percentage to interrupt disease transmission in these populations.”
The new policy also announces that California “is committed to partnering with counties to improve the collection of race and ethnicity data associated with testing and cases. To date, approximately a third of cases and up to half of test results reported to the state so do not have required race/ethnicity data. The state will partner with counties to determine milestones in improving the collection of this data.”
“The state will provide county-level data on the completeness of race/ethnicity for COVID-19 tests and cases, and will continue to track and publicly post county level data on testing, case rates and deaths by race and ethnicity,” the health department promises.
In other words, California is willing to embark on a massive bureaucratic project to trace racial disparities amid coronavirus cases and to force counties to target resources based on COVID disparities, redirecting its focus from the general mission of limiting the spread of the disease in general.
While infection and death rates are worse for racial minorities, it seems rather odd that California would focus on race more just fighting the virus. Yet the racial emphasis echoes the current cultural rise of Marxist critical race theory with The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” the riots, and the widespread embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement (the official organization is run by self-described Marxists).
This new project is only likely to extend California’s lockdowns at a time when Californians are suing for the right to worship in person.
Americans voluntarily adopted social distancing restrictions on the premise of “14 days to slow the spread.” Health officials feared that a spike in cases would overwhelm hospitals, but that did not happen. Instead, health clinics have found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy because people stopped coming in for non-coronavirus-related health care. Since the initial lockdowns in March and April, governments have slow-walked the reopening.
Meanwhile, many Americans are struggling with depression. Fentanyl-related overdose rates increased by more than 60 percent since March. Coronavirus anxiety may cost more in terms of years of life than the lockdowns can possibly save, according to a study from Just Facts.
Many governments have also applied the lockdowns selectively. As New York City cops let protesters and rioters run rampant in June, they booted Jewish families from a playground for violating lockdown rules. While Los Angeles County has turned a blind eye to Black Lives Matter protests, it has cracked down on churches like John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church.
It seems this latest requirement — pushing “equity” as understood in terms of race — is Newsom’s most recent pro-BLM move exercising lockdown power to push his political goals.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.