Now that employees in more sectors of the economy are returning to their desks and businesses can reopen without mask restrictions for those vaccinated, the scale of the problem is magnified.
All workers deserve to know whether the potentially deadly virus is spreading on their construction sites. All consumers, for example in restaurants, grocery stores or bowling alleys, should be able to determine if there has been a recent outbreak in businesses they may frequent.
About half of the state’s population has been fully immunized. But even those who have been vaccinated do not enjoy absolute protection. Additionally, children under 12 still cannot get the vaccine, and a significant subset of others cannot due to pre-existing medical conditions.
And there remains a sizeable segment of the population who continue to put their lives and the lives of others at risk by refusing to be vaccinated. All of this at a time when a new, more contagious variant is infecting parts of our nation.
For all of these reasons, it’s time for state and county health officials to end the unacceptable secrecy over COVID-19 workplace information.
Fortunately, some of California’s 58 counties recognize the importance of providing basic information to help people make informed decisions about workplace and grocery safety.
In response to requests for registration from Bay Area News Group reporter Fiona Kelliher, about a third of counties recently provided lists of businesses with outbreaks, number of cases and dates.
This is how we know, for example, about 171 cases reported to the Richmond HelloFresh last July, 187 cases in a new Amazon facility in the town of Beaumont, Riverside County, in January, and 50 cases in an air conditioning company in Vacaville. And that the number of cases in Amazon establishments exceeds 1,700 in just five counties: Riverside, Solano, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Kern.
This is information that workers should have had access to when they report to work. Not weeks and months later. In many cases, it turns out that employers had hidden information from their employees.
Contra Costa and San Mateo County turned the files over to Kelliher. Santa Clara County Director Jeff Smith said Friday his county expected to release the data this weekend. Alameda County refused, citing a confidentiality argument similar to one previously rejected by the court, in a case brought by the news organization that forced the disclosure of infection numbers of more than 400 to l Tesla factory in Fremont.
Going forward, if the legislature and governor really cared about consumers and workers, especially critical workers who are often poor and people of color most vulnerable to the virus, they would ensure that those responsible for the State and county provide timely data that would allow for an informed decision. manufacturing. It should be readily available on the websites of each county.
Indeed, the release of these documents was the clear goal of AB 685, from San Bernardino County Democrat MP Eloise Reyes, which passed last year. But many counties that are reluctant to release data are falling back on an absurd interpretation of the bill, saying they don’t have to disclose company names.
For the avoidance of doubt, Reyes introduced a clean-up bill, AB 654. But so far, she has been unable to muster the two-thirds support in the Assembly needed for the emergency legislation. . In the Assembly’s first vote on June 1, not only did Republicans fail to support him, but also 10 Democrats, including Bay Area MPs Jim Frazier of Discovery Bay and Tim Grayson of Concord.
When workers and consumers want to know who doesn’t care about their well-being, all they have to do is look at lawmakers who voted no or simply abstained.Californians should ask them why, more than 15 months after the state’s response to the pandemic began, they think it’s okay for the Newsom administration and two-thirds of California counties to delay or outright block the provision of basic information on the safety of companies and workplaces?
It’s time to end the secrecy.