Today's Law As Amended

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AB-93 Pandemic response practices.(2021-2022)

As Amends the Law Today

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) From March to December 2020, the national media highlighted the scientific data that ethnic and racial minorities were disproportionately represented in positive cases and deaths caused by COVID-19. Despite this media coverage, little concrete action resulted that measurably improved these trends.
(b) The lack of transparency and allocation of vital equipment and supplies caused the positive rates of COVID-19 to increase to unprecedented levels, and resulted in loss of life throughout the nation.
(c) States pursued their supply chains of protective medical equipment, including masks and respirators, often competing with one another in securing supply chains of this vital equipment.
(d) California has the most comprehensive and well-funded public health and health care infrastructure in the nation. County health care systems, hospitals, county public health systems, and community health centers all serve the California public. These care systems can provide an integrated model that can handle any public health and natural disaster crisis appropriately.
(e) The State of California, like the federal government, did not create a uniform, disciplined infrastructure to handle the pandemic.
(f) The California health care infrastructure’s full and comprehensive capacity did not function collectively and collaboratively, but rather competitively. This undermines state objectives and did not serve the public well, particularly ethnic and racial minority communities.
(g) Complicating the response and efforts in ethnic and racial minority communities was the complete omission of the state and county public health care systems to integrate the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in their local actions. Despite having the United States Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response designating FQHCs and community health centers as first responders in a public health crisis, this fact, and potential contributions, were wholly ignored. There were many instances in which health centers’ participation and role could have significantly improved the state’s most impacted communities.
(h) Prime examples of where these problems were experienced most acutely were in farmworker communities throughout the state and African American and Latino communities in urban centers. Significant numbers of “essential workers” reside in these two principal areas, and the incidence of positive virus cases was the highest. Substantial outbreaks occurred in the central valley, along the United States-Mexico border, coastal valleys, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Oakland, and other urban centers.
(i) Exacerbating these problems was the lack of oversight and monitoring of how counties were using and distributing protective medical equipment, allocating and locating COVID-19 testing, protecting essential workers, and distributing and targeting vaccine application.
(j) The data gathered and provided by the State Department of Public Health reveals that on March 3, 2021, the percentage of Latinos with positive COVID-19 cases was 56.4 percent, and deaths were 49 percent, while the Latino population in the state is 38.9 percent. In July 2020, Latinos accounted for 57 percent of COVID-19 cases and 46 percent of deaths. This data confirms that little improvement was made from July 2020 to March 2021.
(k) On February 4, 2021, APM Research Lab reported that “of the more than 444,000 U.S. deaths catalogued in this Color of Coronavirus update, these are the numbers of lives lost by group: Asian (14,019), Black (63,207), Indigenous (4,506), Latino (72,291), Pacific Islander (706), and White (241,440).” These numbers tell us that Latinos are 2.4 times more likely to have died of COVID-19 than White Americans. Similarly, Blacks are 2.1 times more likely, Indigenous people 2.2 times more likely, and Pacific Islanders 2.7 more likely, to have died from the virus than Whites.”
(l) Consequences of the lack of uniform policies and of structural and operational failures have made prevention, protection, and compliance with COVID-19 precautions more challenging to bring about. These errors have also caused a lack of confidence and trust that vaccines will be effectively and efficiently distributed to the most vulnerable populations, especially those identified as priorities that have been underserved.

SEC. 2.

 Part 7.2 (commencing with Section 122445) is added to Division 105 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:

PART 7.2. State Pandemic Response and Vaccine Guidelines

 (a) The Legislative Analyst’s Office shall conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of issues related to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to, the following:
(1) Whether local public health departments were sufficiently staffed and funded to handle all responsibilities they were entrusted to perform related to the pandemic.
(2) Whether local public health departments incorporated local hospitals and community health centers in their plans for dealing with the full array of responsibilities they were assigned, including the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing supplies, selection of testing sites, and outreach, and education to the general population, particularly communities with high health disparities.
(3) Whether the State Department of Public Health, the State Department of Health Care Services, or county health departments reached out to community health centers and communities identified as having health disparities and high rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths, to build partnerships in providing PPE, testing supplies, and organized outreach and education campaigns to most impacted communities.
(4) Whether the state consulted with relevant federal government agencies or representatives of community health centers regarding involvement of federally funded community health centers in pandemic activities as first responders.
(5) The specific measures of accountability the state applied to monitor and confirm that local public health departments were following state directives related to any dedicated COVID-19 funds allocated to counties, distributing supplies to health care providers in their jurisdictions, improving services, and providing outreach to the most impacted communities.
(6) Why the state did not take a leadership role in creating a supply chain of PPE and other related medical equipment to local public health departments, how quickly and effectively local public health departments were able to develop their supply chains, and whether the state’s decision resulted in any negative consequences for local public health departments dealing with the pandemic.
(7) How the state developed its process for establishing priorities for vaccinating California residents, including the policy and operational issues considered, and the steps taken to respond to the needs of communities with a high rate of health disparities and a disproportionate number of positive cases and deaths.
(b) (1) The office shall commence the review by January 31, 2022, and provide a final report to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the health committees of both houses of the Legislature by June 30, 2022.
(2) A report submitted pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.
 (a) During a viral pandemic or similar health care emergency, the state shall include multiple community health centers as a part of its organizational response structure. Community health centers, including federally qualified health centers, shall serve as points of contact for the State Department of Public Health and the State Department of Health Care Services at the local and regional level, as appropriate, in the same manner as local health departments.
(b) The state shall provide for an ongoing supply chain of medical supplies and equipment necessary to address the level of need established by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inventory of this supply shall be conducted every other year, beginning two years after the supply levels are initially established. For purposes of this subdivision, the state may provide economic incentives to help relocate manufacturers of medical supplies, as required to address a public health crisis.
 (a) The State Department of Public Health and the State Department of Health Care Services shall collaborate to develop a statewide, comprehensive plan to conduct an outreach and education campaign for implementation during a viral pandemic or health care emergency. The campaign shall continue for at least three fiscal years.
(b) The campaign shall focus on those communities in each county with the highest rates of health disparities, and shall include outreach and education materials in the non-English languages prevalent in each county. Materials shall be culturally sensitive to populations that experienced a high rate of health disparities that contributed to greater susceptibility to COVID-19.
(c) The campaign shall provide communities with a high rate of health disparities with information addressing issues, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(1) The health and economic consequences of health disparities.
(2) Initiatives those communities can undertake to combat and change disparity trends.
(3) Eating habits that contribute to health disparities.
(4) The effect of housing overcrowding and low wages on health disparities.
(d) Funds shall be allocated for the outreach and education campaign subject to an appropriation in the annual Budget Act.
 (a) In order to maximize protection of the public, priority tiers for rapid testing and vaccination during a pandemic shall be determined in accordance with this section.
(b) (1) Tier I priority shall include the following populations:
(A) Health care workers.
(B) First responders.
(2) Tier II priority shall include the following populations:
(A) Education and childcare workers.
(B) Food supply workers. For purposes of this section, “food supply worker” includes both of the following:
(i) Workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and other retail locations that sell food or beverage products. The department shall, by regulation, create subcategories within this group, based on frequency and level of food contact.
(ii) Farm and ranch workers, support service workers, and their supplier employees producing food supply domestically and for export to include those engaged in raising, cultivating, harvesting, packing, storing, or delivering to storage or to market or to a carrier for transportation to market any agricultural or horticultural commodity for human consumption .
(c) (1) The State Department of Public Health shall adopt and enforce all regulations necessary to implement this section, and provide technical assistance to local health departments as needed.
(2) This section does not preclude the department from taking any action within the scope of its authority to address immediate circumstances relative to the pandemic, including, but not limited to, vaccine availability.
 (a) This part shall be implemented to the extent permitted by federal law.
(b) The provisions of this part are severable. If any provision of this part or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.