San Diego Declares COVID-19 Misinformation a Public Health Crisis
San Diego has become the first county in the United States to declare COVID-19 misinformation a public health crisis. The 3-2 decision followed another tense Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 2 where anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters spewed misinformation, recognizing not one iota of irony.
Supervisors Jim Desmond and Joel Anderson opposed the measure. The group Reopen San Diego also opposed the resolution and organized a large response to the Sept. 2 meeting. Opponents expressed concerns that the declaration would be used to restrict their speech.
The resolution, introduced by Chairman Nathan Fletcher, makes the unfalsifiable claim that “health misinformation now presents a greater threat to public health than a variant of COVID-19,” primarily by promoting vaccine hesitancy. It says the board “commits to developing strategies to actively combat health misinformation.” The county will do this by devoting resources to the identification and labeling of health misinformation; developing targeted engagement strategies with the community; expanding research into the spread of misinformation; and investing in efforts to counter that misinformation online.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called San Diego's declaration “the kind of bold action we need.” Similar declarations will soon be passed by other counties. The State Assembly passed its own declaration Friday.
COVID-19 misinformation has been circulating since the outset of the pandemic, but its impact has become most evident and detrimental since the introduction of vaccines. According to a report from county health officials last month, the COVID-19 hospitalization for the unvaccinated is 32 times higher than for those who have received vaccines.