California county declares Covid misinformation a public health crisis

San Diego County becomes first to state ‘health misinformation is causing a health crisis’ after US surgeon general warning

Anti-vaxxer chants 'heil Fauci' at San Diego local government meeting
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A California county has become the first in the US to declare Covid-19 misinformation a public health crisis.

San Diego County made the decision to label it as a health problem at a passionate Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday evening, ending with a vote of 3 to 2. The successful resolution states “using health misinformation is causing a public health crisis” in the area.

Nathan Fletcher, who chairs the board and proposed the ruling, said it was important to tackle the problem “on the ground, in counties and cities across the nation” and explained that he took inspiration from federal health officials from the Biden administration, according to NBC San Diego.

“San Diego County took the first step by becoming the first local jurisdiction in the country to align its policies with the US Surgeon General’s recommendation to fight misinformation,” Mr Fletcher said. “Health misinformation is a national crisis and it requires all of us to fight against it together.”

In July, Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general, advocated for a nationwide push to tackle misinformation surrounding Covid. In an effort to do, he produced a 22 page advisory on the topic. In it he wrote, “limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort”.

Mr Murthy urged institutions, such as social media companies, to act to stop the spread of misinformation. According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate report, there are 12 accounts on Facebook responsible for most Covid misinformation. The World Health Organisation has also labelled the covid misinformation as an “infodemic”.

The San Diego County decision was discussed for hours during the 31 August meeting. Members of the public gave their opinions on the matter, including those who disagreed. The passed motion promotes reducing the area’s high Covid cases through officially recognising the detrimental impacts to public health due to misinformation.

“At a pivotal time in our history, with a FDA-approved vaccine available to all San Diegans free of charge and booster shots recommended later this year, health misinformation now presents a greater threat to public health than a variant of Covid-19,” the introduction letter to the proposal read. Hesitancy about taking the vaccine “stands in the way of the county moving beyond the Covid-19 pandemic”, the letter continued.

Last month, a meeting of the San Diego Board of Supervisors gained infamy after video footage emerged of it descending into chaos as people provided testimony against proposed vaccine mandates.

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