Happy Election Day! Hope you are using your franchise to exercise your voting rights. I have. Feels downright American!!
While we await the results of today's election, we as a community are also awaiting the results of the State of California's determination if we are required, based on the numbers, to move to the more restrictive "PURPLE" category of coronavirus prevention and precaution.
You may have seen the article in Sunday's Davis Enterprise about this.... top of the fold, front page:
"COVID cases, hospitalizations up in Yolo County" By Anne Terns-Bellamy. Anne does a great job of laying out the reasons that we seem to be sliding into purple.... not good news for isolation weary residents or for our local businesses (read: Big part of our tax base).
So, what's going on?
That's exactly what a friend of mine who is a business owner in Davis asked me. We have been discussing the pandemic for months now and he's a bit perplexed. It seems, he says that the health department is doing the same thing but not getting good results.
Yesterday we chatted again and he asked what seem to be some right on target questions:
1. Who is in charge? He says he knows who directly regulates his business but who in Yolo County is in charge of the County's response to the coronavirus?
2. How do you report unsafe behavior? For this one, he wants to know exactly who to contact to report flagrantly out of line and risky behavior.... such as "Large social group in progress". He is not a "Karen", he just wants to know how BIG violations can be called in.
3. How is the County using data to drive decisions? And what is the plan?
So, let me put his questions out there, because I think they are what a lot of people are wondering.
I can help a bit with these questions (mindful that I have both training and experience in health services and public health including a PhD in Public Health from Berkeley) but ultimately I am informed about the pandemic but certainly not in charge.
And we have had a series of different Health Officers ..... four ..... in just the time since the pandemic started this year. The new health officer just started 8 days ago and while well credentialed, is still quite new to the job.
So, to the best of my knowledge, the person in charge is Brian Vaughn, Public Health Director:
Brian Vaughn, MPH
Public Health Director
Community Health Branch (Courier #16CH)
Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency
Phone: (530) 666-8771
Also in charge are the County Board of Supervisors currently lead by Gary Sandy and to be lead by Jim Provenza if he wins re-election. In some ways the Board of Supervisors is, in collaboration with State Government, the "ultimate authority" as everybody in county government reports to them and the BOS has considerable decision making authority. The link to their action (Board of Supervisors meetings) is: https://www.yolocounty.org/general-government/board-of-supervisors/board-meetings. Remember they work for us. :)
Then there is the Health Council, which is the advisory group to the Yolo County Health Department. They have been meeting several times a month during the pandemic and have brought in speakers and had discussions about what is going on in our County. They are volunteers but they are very knowledgeable about health services, social services, and public health. If you want to know what is going on "health wise" in the County, tune in to their meetings.... they are open to the public. The link to their action is: https://www.yolocounty.org/health-human-services/boards-committees/health-council
Now for the second question about a civilian reporting in a problem, I simply do not know. Maybe Mr. Vaughn can tell us. (Might be a great follow up article for the Enterprise, but I don't make editorial decisions there....). Let's keep in mind that responsible reporting is valuable and frivolous reporting is a SERIOUS waste of people's time, especially when we want them to be focused on managing our coronavirus response. But as Governor Cuomo said in a press conference two weeks ago: "Everybody knows what to do now. Find me a New Yorker who does not know to wear a mask and I will pay you ten bucks. The time for education is past, we are now in the time for enforcement" or something really close to that. Maybe New Yorkers are smarter than us, I don't know.... but I do know that their state CV positivity rate is lower than California's and they have the highest per capita testing program in the nation! So, let's discuss reasonable reporting and how it should be done.
Ok, final question.... what about the "data driven" element and what is "The Plan"? I can understand why EVERYONE in Yolo County would be concerned about that. Public health can and should be data driven: If properly conducted it can be called "Evidence-based Public Health". This requires across the board participation because.... well... it is PUBLIC health. So, one question that keeps coming up is "Why isn't UC Davis' CV data integrated into the Yolo County Dashboard?" You've seen the Yolo County CV Dashboard, right? It's here: https://www.yolocounty.org/health-human-services/adults/communicable-disease-investigation-and-control/novel-coronavirus-2019/dashboard-and-documents.
So, what's up with the lack of integration of the UCD info here? In fact, weirdly enough, UCD has its own dashboard with a different configuration/interface and presumably distinct data gathering protocols. That doesn't make much sense at all, since OBVIOUSLY UCD is part of Yolo County. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about University of California's so called "autonomy" but during a pandemic, park it at the door folks.... we are all in this together!).
So, is Yolo County's response "data driven"? I'm not sure. Guess we would have to see "The Plan".
And that leads me back to the Board of Supervisors and to Mr. Vaughn: Gentlemen, what is the plan? And can we see it?
Let's stick together folks and work our way out of this pandemic. We'll obviously need more testing and certainly a robust flu vaccination campaign (hey, can we give a flu shot and test for CV at the same time?).
And we will need to consistently and COMPETENTLY reach out to the Latino community and other groups that are disproportionately suffering from this disease.... we need to show our compassion and direct resources to both the greatest need and the greatest opportunity for positive impact.
About 24 hours after this election is over (let's give our electeds and their staff as well as County staff an opportunity to get a good night's sleep) ..... let's find out: "What's the Plan?"