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Resolution to combat COVID misinformation met with sparring views at Sacramento County board meeting

The resolution, which passed in a 4-1 vote, will commit the board to sharing and promoting information about COVID-19 only from credible sources based on science.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — After more than four hours of public comment and deliberations Tuesday afternoon, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a resolution which will commit the board to sharing and promoting information about COVID-19 based on science only from credible sources.

District 4 Supervisor Sue Frost was the only vote against the resolution. She was also the only supervisor not wearing a mask during the meeting, despite the county's indoor mask mandate. 

The resolution says the board will also develop and support policies and strategies that protect the health and safety of residents by promoting evidence-based interventions like face coverings and vaccinations.

Supervisor Phil Serna says this is meant to discourage the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.

"It's for the benefit of the public to just have a very clear understanding of what we hold to be true, at least to the extent that the experts and medicine and science contribute," Serna said.

Gabrielle Ingram, a community organizer for a group called 'Stand Up Sacramento County,' showed up to the meeting and asked supervisors to not pass the resolution.

"I would like to see government stay in their lane, you know. Their job is to protect our rights; their job isn't to drive a narrative on appropriate speech," Ingram said.

Richard Ropiak, another protester that came to the meeting in-person, called Supervisors Serna and Patrick Kennedy "sociopaths" for supporting this resolution during public comment. He says this violates his right to free speech.

"This is something that we cannot afford to have; we cannot afford the government to censor the population. We're the governess; we should never be censored. We have a first amendment that is there to protect exactly that," Ropiak said.

Dr. Kim Nalder, a political science professor at Sacramento State, says that free speech is not what this is about.

"We have seen just an incredible onslaught of misinformation about COVID-19 that is killing people across the country, so doubling down on codifying it actually makes some sense at this point," Nalder said. "It's imperative that people who are in positions of authority and are making decisions on behalf of the rest of us and gathering the best possible information."

The only supervisor who voted no on this resolution about making decisions based solely on credible sources was Supervisor Frost. She told the other supervisors that she had "a lot of concerns about the resolution."

"How do you define misinformation? How do we determine what is misinformation? We might learn something later that informs us and makes us think completely different about something," Frost said. "The point I'm trying to make is that the resolution seems to infer that... everything that's not in here, other sources may not be credible. But who decides what is a credible source of information? That's an individual, unalienable right."

ABC10 reached out to Sacramento County Public Health about this decision and they say they've been providing accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19 and vaccinations throughout the entire pandemic.  

This resolution comes after Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy put out a warning about the "urgent threat of health misinformation" back in July, saying that combatting misinformation is a "moral and civic responsibility" on an individual and institutional level.

Since then, San Diego and Monterey Counties have adopted similar resolutions in the fight against misinformation.


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