Board of Supervisors vote 3-2 to make ‘COVID-19 misinformation’ a public health crisis

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A partisan San Diego County Board of Supervisors has voted to adopt what is believed to be a first-in-the-nation policy of declaring COVID-19 misinformation a public health crisis and adopt a series of recommendations to actively combat it.

“Combating health misinformation needs to start on the ground, in counties and cities across our nation,” said Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher, who authored the policy. “San Diego County took the first step by becoming the first local jurisdiction in the country to align its policies with the U.S. surgeon general’s recommendations to fight health misinformation. Health misinformation is a national crisis and it requires all of us to fight against it together.”

Tuesday night’s vote was 3-2, with Supervisors Jim Desmond and Joel Anderson voting no. All three Democrats, Nathan Fletcher, Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer voted yes.

The vote makes San Diego County the first county in the country to declare “COVID-19 misinformation” a public health crisis.

Fletcher COVID19 misinformation a public health crisis

The final result came after hours of debate featuring testimony from hundreds of residents, many who opposed the measure. Fletcher and Vargas unfairly stereotyped them as “mostly right-wing, anti-vaxxers.”

Addressing opponents during the meeting, Fletcher claimed: “Nothing in this measure will take away anyone’s right to free speech. But this will empower medical experts to lend their knowledge to provide people with info about what they may be hearing. Our efforts today are to help us in the cause to get beyond COVID-19. I can promise you that no one ever ran for public office saying, `I want to close businesses, I want to wear masks.’ We want to get out of this pandemic without any closures or further mandates.”

Opponents from all sides say this was a direct attack by Fletcher to silence those opposed to his policies, adding that is an attempt to take away their constitutionally protected right to free speech.

“You can believe in science and also ask questions. In fact, science is all about asking questions,” San Diego nurse Ciana King told the board “Science is a constant discovery and we know that the evidence is always changing. You can follow the science and know that there is bias in research. Understanding this is the key of being an intelligent consumer of information. What does this entity have to gain from presenting this information? If the answer is more money, you may want to dig in a little more.

“You can be a medical professional and respect a patient’s right to choose. In fact, you must: This is called autonomy, and it’s the first principal in the nursing code of ethics,” King continued. “As nurses who have dedicated our lives to caring for patients, respecting their autonomy and advocating for their well-being, that’s all we’re asking for in return: The right to choose.”

Prior to the public comment period, representatives from San Diego- area hospitals spoke out in support of the measure, saying that hospital resources are being stretched thin by a surge of COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated people.

“Misinformation is a poison to our communities,” said Amber Ter- Vrugt, Scripps Health senior director of government relations.

Ter-Vrugt said Scripps has experienced staff shortages and that some patients have delayed critical health care needs due to the latest rise in cases.

UCSD Health’s Dr. Longhurst, told San Diego that “the best way to get back to a free society” is to stop transmissions. Obviously, this angered many in the crowd, as we are a free country, we do not need to do anything to “get back to a free society.”

RELATED STORY: San Diegans speak out against Nathan Fletcher’s resolution to declare ‘misinformation’ a public health crisis’

KUSI’s Hunter Sowards was live from the County Administration Building with more details as the meeting unfolds.

Most of the public hearing from the Board of Supervisors meeting can be seen below:

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