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News > U.S.

San Diego Declares COVID-19 Misinformation Public Health Crisis

  • Woman shows she got a COVID-19 vaccine, San Diego, California, U.S., Sept. 2021.

    Woman shows she got a COVID-19 vaccine, San Diego, California, U.S., Sept. 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @SanDiegoCounty

Published 3 September 2021

Health workers were strongly in favor of the San Diego measure and warned that hospital resources were stretched too thin by the surge of COVID-19 cases.

After hours of vigorous, often contentious debate, San Diego County became the first in the United States to declare COVID-19 misinformation "a public health crisis."


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"Health misinformation is a national crisis and it requires all of us to fight against it together. It's time to trust science, doctors and public health experts," San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, the author of the policy, tweeted.

"Combating health misinformation needs to start on the ground, in counties and cities across our nation," he added, characterizing the vocal nay-sayers who opposed the vote as "mostly right-wing, anti-vaxxers."

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 2 in favor of the policy on Tuesday evening. The vote reflects the divisive nature of COVID-19 in America, which has resulted in more than 662,000 lives lost in the country. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy praised the measure in a tweet later, saying "it's the kind of bold action we need to ensure we all have accurate, science-based information to inform our health."

A tweet from Brooker for Congress, labeled a Democratic Libertarian on its Twitter page, replied to Murthy and Fletcher demanding similar action on the federal level.

"Why haven't you? Why have you refused to protect Americans from COVID disinformation & the antivaxxer terrorists pushing it. It's not a county's responsibility. It is literally your god damn job to declare COVID disinformation a national health crisis & save American lives," the tweet read.

San Diego healthcare workers and hospital representatives working on the frontlines of the pandemic were strongly in favor of the San Diego measure and warned that hospital and public health resources were already stretched too thin by the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

"We still don't have a mask mandate in San Diego County or a vaccine mandate for indoor drinking & dining and indoor concerts," said Twitter user Anna Karem. "Several hospital associations and local doctors have asked the county for a mask mandate and they refuse to take action."

Fletcher's resolution directed the County's Chief Administrative Officer to implement necessary strategies to combat COVID-19 misinformation, including tracking and identifying misinformation, understanding its sources, and tracing its costs and negative impacts.

The local authority will partner with trusted messengers to develop strategies to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and work with government agencies on the state and federal level to provide training, resources and educational programs to healthcare providers and the public to help communities distinguish evidence-based information from opinion and personal stories.

In July, Murthy described in the first surgeon general's advisory during his time serving in the current U.S. administration that the rise of false information around COVID-19 was an "urgent threat" and continued to put "lives at risk" and prolong the pandemic.

Murthy said Americans must do their part to fight misinformation, noting in some cases the simplest way to stop the spread was to not share something questionable read online. But since malicious actors capitalize on confusion, fear and sorrow online for profit and political gain by intentionally spreading falsehoods and conspiracy, the problem of COVID-19 disinformation seems intractable.

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