2020 being the dumpster fire it was, there are more healthcare heroes than we could name in this section if we tried. Across the country, health professionals and everyday do-gooders stepped up as Covid-19 ravaged a country with an ill-adapted private healthcare system, highlighting the countless injustices of the pandemic along the way.
In the North Bay, a variety of volunteer groups organized to fill the void of need by providing aid. Whether that meant delivering food and necessities to families in need, providing face masks to activists supporting a nationwide racial justice campaign and people living in vulnerable conditions on the streets, or supporting people during wildfires, countless volunteers demonstrated compassion throughout the pandemic. If there’s anything that will get us through, it’s that beautiful spark of human compassion.
The situation came to a historic head last summer when local law enforcement locked up over 100 protesters for staying on the streets during a short-lived curfew order. Despite the fact that 8.1% of the Santa Rosa police officers had recently tested positive for Covid-19, a rate much higher than the .12% of the county’s total population, many law enforcement officers went maskless during the mass-arrest.
The event seemed to typify a lack of caution by the authorities within the county during the pandemic.
The day after the arrest, H-PEACE (Health Professional for Equality and Community Empowerment) and Mask Sonoma distributed a press release outlining their concerns about the mass-arrest.
The groups described the shocking conditions detainees were held in, including packed cells, a lack of response from jail officials to complaints and plenty more.
“We call on law enforcement and the public health department to initiate outreach for COVID-19 testing, contract tracing, and assessment for isolation and quarantine in individuals who have been exposed to unsafe law enforcement practices, including follow up mental health support,” the release stated in part.
The campaign did not result in all of the changes H-PEACE wanted, but it did draw attention from the North Bay Bohemian and the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights.
Consultants hired by the city of Santa Rosa are still reviewing the events of this summer. The consultants and police officials are expected to present the report publicly—at a date which has been pushed back more times than we care to count.
In this case and many others, it is very unclear if justice will ever come. But, thanks to the volunteers, we can reckon with the truth of these injustices while working towards a better future. These days, that seems like the most one can hope for.—WC