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County supervisors to hear update on COVID-related stimulus funds

REGION – County supervisors voted unanimously March 2 to direct the chief administrative officer to present guidance on how to spend future federal or state money to help those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief administrative officer Helen Robbins-Meyer will also commission an independent review on how services are provided those impacted by the pandemic currently staying in hotels as part of a temporary housing program. She will update the board at a future meeting, although no date was set.

Supervisors voted after hearing a regular update on the county’s efforts to combat the virus.

If Congress passes the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the county could receive up to $652 million, said Andy Pease, executive finance director with the Health and Human Services Agency.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, public health officer, said although the county remains in the most-restrictive purple tier of the state’s coronavirus reopening system, overall numbers are encouraging since the most recent stay-at-home order was lifted.

“As cases are declining and more people are being vaccinated, we are very optimistic about the future, but we cannot let our guard down,” said Wooten, who encouraged residents to continue common-sense methods — including hand-washing and social distancing — to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

On Monday, the county reported 269 new COVID-19 infections and no deaths. However, a vaccine shortage kept Petco Park’s COVID-19 superstation closed.

Wooten told supervisors that the county’s total positive case rate is 260,625, with hospitalizations making up 5% of that number.

Nick Macchione, HHSA director, said the county has achieved almost 4 million tests, with emphasis on reaching the most vulnerable residents.

“We’ve continued to build out our regional capacity,” on vaccination sites, Macchione told the board.

There are 130 pharmacies in the region offering vaccinations to those in eligible groups, 12 county-hosted vaccine sites, six superstations, five hospital-county partnership sites and mobile vaccination teams, he added.

Supervisor Nora Vargas expressed concern that many people of color are still not eligible for vaccines under the tiered system, and wanted to make sure that the county strengthens vaccination structure. She added that the county needs to find “new mechanisms to ensure our educators return to the classroom.”

Vargas said that in terms of federal funding, one recent study found that top priorities for impacted communities include access to food, rental assistance, utility assistance and help with unemployment and funeral costs, care for those suffering long-term health effects from COVID-19 and more protective gear for social workers.

“I really believe that providing direct monetary assistance to families may be the best approach,” said Vargas, who asked Helen-Robbins Meyer to conduct a workshop with community leaders on funding uses.

Supervisor Jim Desmond said he was happy to support the board’s actions on Tuesday, but was concerned about whether youth sports will be allowed indoors.

David Smith, acting county counsel, said that all youth sports activities are subject to the same requirements as college and professional teams.