By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media
As more Californians get vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases are on the decline, there’s an argument to be made that the state has rounded the corner from the worst stages of the global crisis.
As of June 6, 53.1% of Californians had been vaccinated and there were 757 new COVID-19 cases, down from the 40,423 new cases on Jan. 7.
However, the worst numbers remain stark. Some 63,544 Californians have died of the disease since the beginning of the pandemic.
Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego), who was sworn in to represent the 79th District in April, has co-authored her first bill in the lower house of the state Legislature. It aims to ensure that California is more pandemic-ready than it was when the COVID-19 crisis began in 2020.
Weber won a special election earlier this year to replace her mom and former Black Caucus chair, Dr. Shirley Weber, in the Assembly after Gov. Newsom appointed the elder Weber late last year as California’s 33rd Secretary of State.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1207 would establish the Pathways Through Pandemics Task Force in the California Health and Human Services Agency as a vehicle to prepare the state for the eventuality of a pandemic.
“The bill would require the task force to convene various entities to engage in discussions on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, develop and recommend best practices for an equitable response to future pandemics, and determine the impact of state laws on coordinating the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as specified,” the bill reads.
Weber, who is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, stressed the importance of this bill for California’s future.
“We must learn from the mistakes of our past in order to improve the possibilities for our future,” Weber stated. “This is what establishing a Pandemic Taskforce through the passage of AB 1207 will do. The COVID-19 pandemic touched the lives of every Californian and impacted every business within our great State.”
Weber went on to discuss the way the pandemic has pulled the curtain back on some of the vital systems on which all Californians rely.
“[COVID-19] changed the way we learn, the way we interact with each other and the way we live our lives. It also exposed some deep gaps in our society with regards to equity, access and our level of preparedness for a public health crisis,” Weber stated.
Weber specified who she believes suffered from these “deep gaps” during the pandemic in a Facebook post.
“California’s response to the pandemic highlighted existing inequities for people of color and low-income neighborhoods,” Weber wrote.
The bill passed on the assembly floor with 78 votes in favor and zero votes against.
Weber, who unpacked the bill before her colleagues on the Assembly floor June 3, tweeted that AB 1207 is her first authored bill. She also thanked her partner on the bill Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-North Hollywood).
“Today I presented my first authored bill, AB 1207 on the Asm floor. [AB 1207] creates a taskforce that will research and develop strategies for future pandemics. Thank you [Assemblymember Luz Rivas] for partnering with me on this bill. Together we are ensuring California prioritizes health for all,” Weber tweeted.
Rivas expressed her support for the bill in response to this tweet.
“Congrats! You’re the right author that will bring public health expertise to this issue. Onward,” Rivas tweeted.
Weber also received praise from Mayor Catherine Blakespear of Encinitas.
“Great start to your illustrious career in SAC and good choice of a partner in [Rivas],” Blakespear tweeted.
Weber spoke about the inevitability of another public health crisis and asserted that AB 1207 would help Californians be prepared for it.
“The next pandemic is not a matter of ‘if’ but rather a matter of ‘when,'” Weber warned. “AB 1207 makes a modest investment to ensure
California has a roadmap for the future public health crises so that we can address the deficiencies we saw in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and allow us to be better prepared for the future.”
According to the text of the bill, AB 1207 would require the established task force to report their conclusions about pandemic readiness to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2024.
In a Facebook post, Weber again stated why she believes this bill is necessary.
“Together, we are ensuring we do everything we can to invest in sustainable plans that value the life and health of all Californians during a pandemic,” Weber wrote. “Now, on to the Senate!”