San Diego: The Next Flint, Michigan?
Five government officials were fired and 13 criminal cases were filed against local and state officials in Flint, Michigan, resulting from the 2014 Flint water crisis that put 100,000 residents at risk.
An investigation found that the drinking water source for the city was switched to the Flint river in 2014, and, compounding the problem, officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water. The investigation also found elected officials knowingly "dismissed and belittled attempts" to control the outbreak.
What the national media has so far not recognized, however, is a similar crisis is happening right now in San Diego.
A Hepatitis A outbreak has, according to the County Health and Human Services Agency, killed 17 people and hospitalized 315. Local elected officials are now scrambling to solve an issue that, according to newly released emails, they let spin out of control.
It is important to note that while the Flint, Michigan crisis happened 3 years ago, the consequences continue to be devastating. Similarly, San Diego could be dealing with the consequences of its Hepatitis A crisis for many years to come.
Flint Study: Fertility Rates Drop, Fetal Deaths Rise
Last week, researchers at the University of Kansas released findings of a working study that showed Flint's water crisis caused fewer babies being born there — through reduced fertility rates and higher fetal death rates — compared with other Michigan cities during that time.
Researchers found fertility rates decreased by 12 percent among Flint women, and fetal death rates increased by 58 percent. The overall health of Flint children at birth decreased, as well, compared with children from other Michigan cities.
Researcher David Slusky noted, "This represents a couple hundred fewer children born that otherwise would have been."
San Diego Public Officials Negligent?
An investigative report from the San Diego Union-Tribune shares claims that elected officials reportedly did little to control the spread of the virus.
The outbreak has been mostly contained to the homeless population downtown, but media reports have shown it might be beginning to spread.
From the Union-Tribune report, Jeff McDonald writes:
"In one email from June, an officer at St. Vincent de Paul’s charity told county leaders that the city flatly refused to install portable toilets and sinks to help control the spread of the virus, which has infected nearly 450 people in recent months and killed 16."
The email was released by county spokesman Mike Workman in response to a California Public Records Act request.
In an additional email released by Workman, he stated, “May 4 we proposed the wash stations and city said no. Two weeks later we offered to pay for them, still no.”
The report states that "the communications to and from city and county public officials, show the agencies discussing a multitude of responses to the public health threat and not implementing them broadly for months — even as the death toll mounted."
A city spokesman said they were being extremely cautious and have been taking their cue from the county since "they have the expertise on public health matters that the city does not."
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer Issues Video Response
In a video post from his official Facebook page, Mayor Kevin Faulconer along with Alpha Project President Bob McElroy, issued a statement regarding three tents that are being erected to house the homeless. The first tent is scheduled to be available for use in December.
Lawsuits Coming, Attorney General Involved?
IVN San Diego has learned a coalition of homeless advocates are calling on California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra to launch a criminal investigation of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, accusing him of "willful neglect of the health and safety of homeless San Diegans for the past 1-2 years."
The same group, that includes members touched by those directly impacted by the Hep A outbreak, has also reportedly hired an attorney to file "criminal negligence" suits against the mayor.
The group cites Flint, Michigan as the case that makes such an action appropriate.
Update: San Diego City Councilmembers Issue Statement
The crisis was the subject of a statement released by Four San Diego City Councilmembers including Council President Myrtle Cole, who issued the following statement regarding the ongoing Hep A outbreak: