Santa Rosa, CA – March 16, 2022 – The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and public health leaders recognized the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic today by paying tribute to health care workers, the county’s partners and the community for crucial work that saved lives, reduced hospitalizations and slowed transmission of the deadly virus.
Two years ago this week, the county Health Officer issued a shelter-in-place order to protect the public as the virus spread in the Bay Area. While COVID-19 would take a heartbreaking toll — particularly on seniors, communities of color and essential workers — Sonoma County weathered the pandemic far better than most places in the United States and is emerging from it even stronger because of the collaborative relationships forged during the crisis, said James Gore, chair of the Board of Supervisors.
“Countless lives have been saved by the tireless efforts of our local health care workers, who worked around the clock to care for more than 2,700 Sonoma County residents who became hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19 over the last two years,” Gore said. “We are grateful for their dedication and professionalism during the most challenging public health emergency the county has ever faced.”
“Equally important is the work by the county’s public health team and our partners. They vaccinated more than 380,000 people over the last 15 months, created places for vulnerable populations to quarantine and shelter, and distributed essential aid. Their efforts saved untold lives by keeping people out of the hospital and slowing the spread of the virus,” Gore said. “The community stepped up, too, particularly front-line workers, schools, local businesses and nonprofits who kept our county moving through the crisis. We owe them all a debt of thanks.”
As a result of the work by the county, its partners and the community, Sonoma County remained safer and healthier than most places in California and the United States. Among the key metrics:
- 81 percent of Sonoma County residents age 5 and older are now fully vaccinated, compare to 74 percent of Californians and 69 percent of Americans.
- 64 percent of the county’s eligible population is now boosted, compared to 57 percent of Californians and 46 percent of Americans.
- Death rates are significantly lower in Sonoma County, where 97 people per 100,000 residents died from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, compared to 222 deaths per 100,000 in California and 291 deaths per 100,000 in the United States.
The county Department of Health Services thanked the county’s many partners, including local hospitals and federally qualified health centers, home health medical teams, community-based organizations, the Sonoma County Medical Association, education leaders, promotoras and the volunteers who have worked tirelessly for the past two years to educate and vaccinate the public. The department also saluted the county health staff, epidemiology and logistics teams and the COVID-19 Urgent Response and Aid team, known as the CURA Project, which includes groups such as Latino Service Providers, Corazón Healdsburg, IsoCare Network, La Luz Center and many others. Other community-based groups, including La Familia Sana, Raizes Collective, River to Coast, NAACP, Sonoma County Black Forum and Pacific Islanders Task Force played pivotal roles by distributing information and resources to the most vulnerable members of the community.
“The pandemic forced organizations across the county to break down silos and collaborate for the common good. The bonds that emerged during the pandemic will last long after it is over, helping Public Health address an array of other problems that threaten the health of our communities in the present and the future,” Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said.
Tina Rivera, director of Health Services, said the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged communities underscored the need for developing equitable solutions that prioritize resources for the people most negatively impacted. The pandemic helped lead to a focus on equity in Health Services and across county government, led by the county Office of Equity, she said.
“We now have a structure that will allow us to have a sustained effort to address inequities. It is integrated in everything we do,” Rivera said. “But we still have work ahead to rectify systemic imbalances that unfairly place a heavier burden on the shoulders of a few.”
Latinos, for example, account for 27 percent of the county’s population but half of COVID-19 cases, 40 percent of hospitalizations and 31 percent of deaths. The disproportionate impact reflects the Latino population’s exposure to risk, including its outsized role in the essential workforce and, for many, poor access to health insurance and insufficient space to self-isolate at home.
More than 83,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Sonoma County since the first case was detected on March 2, 2020. The virus has killed 481 people in Sonoma County, with nearly 43 percent occurring before the vaccine became widely available in January 2021. Since then, 77 percent of deaths have occurred among people who were not fully vaccinated. People who are unvaccinated are 2.5 times more likely to contract the virus, 15 times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly 11 times more likely to die.