A year later, frontline Covid-19 organizers and docs discuss inequity and how to move forward

At the panel, "Covid-19: The Path Forward" deputy director of health Dr. Naveena Bobba, Alameda Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss, director of community engagement at the UCSF cancer center Dr. Kim Rhoads, the chair of UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and co-founder of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, assistant professor of medicine at UCSF Dr. Carina Marquez, and health chair of Latino Task Force Jon Jacobo.

Though it’s a popular time to reflect on where or what you were doing when you found out about Covid-19 a year ago, doctors have decided to ask a more specific question: when did it become apparent that the virus would have a disproportionate impact on certain groups of people? 

At the second part of The Path Forward: The COVID-19 Mandate for Equity panel, doctors and community organizers on the front lines of the Bay Area pandemic response took a 

break from their continued efforts to share their thoughts on the virus’s anniversary on Tuesday. 

“The pandemic exposed the many vulnerabilities in our society, our inequities along age lines, along economic lines, along racial and ethnic lines,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the moderator of Tuesday’s discussion, the chair of UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and co-founder of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations.

“These were all factors that fueled the spread of the virus, and then [these] led to disproportionate harms to these same communities that also were experiencing the effects of the economic crisis that coexisted,” Bibbins-Domingo said. 

So when did the intuition about inequality first kick in for the panelists, Bibbins-Domingo wondered?

For Dr. Carina Marquez, an assistant professor of medicine at UCSF and associate director of education in the Division of HIV and Infectious Diseases at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, it was painstakingly obvious. ZSFGH, where she worked, was filling up with Latinx and essential workers diagnosed with Covid-19. 

“We at the General are used to seeing a lot of health disparity, [but] this was more than we had been used to seeing.” Marquez recalled. “It was striking.”

Marquez and Dr. Diane Havlir, UCSF professor of medicine, quickly organized the first major mass testing study in San Francisco with