For Immediate Release
Sonoma County COVID response transitions to new phase
SANTA ROSA, CA | June 29, 2022
With federal relief funding set to decline at the start of July, Sonoma County is completing preparations for transitioning its COVID-19 response to a new phase, one focused on providing critical resources for vulnerable communities.
Leaders of the county’s COVID response team, including Tina Rivera, director of the Department of Health Services, Gabriel Kaplan, director of the Public Health division, and Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase, presented details of the county’s transition plan during a live-streamed webinar today. Recordings of the webinar are available at the county’s Facebook page.
The transition moves the county’s COVID work from an emergency response to a long-term disease control initiative within the county’s Department of Health Services. Several functions of the county’s COVID response unit, which will contract from 60 to 40 workers, will be housed within the Department of Health Services.
Clinical consultants, who have worked tirelessly for the county during the pandemic, will be leaving after June 30. These include Dr. Urmila Shende, vaccine chief; Dr. Leslie Kimura, COVID section deputy health officer; and Dr. Mark Lobato, disease control medical contractor.
As with every step of Sonoma County’s COVID response, this transition will continue to focus on equity.
“Our commitment to equity and serving the most vulnerable in the community is unwavering and, indeed, is renewed,” said Rivera, “Our department will absorb the COVID work and continue to provide services to those most at need, including the elderly, the immunocompromised, the unsheltered and the uninsured.”
Although an overwhelming majority of the county’s total population (86%) has received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, Sonoma County’s fixed clinic at the Roseland Community Center will remain open at least through September. Vaccines also will be provided through primary care providers, health centers and pharmacies.
“As long as COVID is still with us, we will continue to respond to keep the community safe,” said Supervisor Jame Gore, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “Our response is becoming more strategic as we plan for the next phase of living with this virus.”
COVID testing will be incorporated within the county’s disease control unit. Community-based organizations wishing to set up testing sites can continue to request rapid antigen tests through the Department of Health Services. Testing is also available through health care providers and pharmacies.
The COVID-19 Urgent Response and Aid, or CURA, Project, which has been a critical county partner throughout the pandemic, will be forging a new partnership with the county’s Human Services Department. The county’s Health Equity manager will become a permanent position within the Department of Health Services, and a new Community Outreach and Engagement team consisting of seven bilingual health workers will communicate with our most vulnerable communities and match resources to needs.
“I would like to thank all of the dedicated health workers who kept this community safe for more than two years,” Rivera said. “COVID has become endemic and is now part of our health landscape. As such, we are planning for a sustainable, long-term response to this disease.”
Editor’s Note: This press release was emended on July 7, 2022 to clarify that federal funding for COVID response began declining on July 1, not expiring.