Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at a press conference in July. Image from White House video

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday called San Diego County’s declaration that COVID-19 misinformation is a public health crisis “the kind of bold action we need.”

The endorsement came in a tweet that also praised Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher for his role in the effort.

The board voted 3-2 on Tuesday night, with both Republican members opposed, to declare pandemic misinformation a public health crisis and fund efforts to counter falsehoods.

The declaration specifically authorizes the county to “devote resources to identify and label health misinformation and disseminate timely health information to counter misinformation that is impeding the county’s ability to keep the community safe.”

Opponents of the measure argued that it amounted to restricting free speech about alternative treatments for COVID-19, a stance that Fletcher attributed to “right-wing anti-vaxxers” during the hours-long meeting.

In his tweet, Murthy said San Diego took “the kind of bold action we need to ensure we all have accurate, science-based information to inform our health.”

The new policy comes as local hospital administrators said their staffs were stretched thin amid a surge in cases of COVID-19 among unvaccinated individuals, many of whom cite misinformation for their refusal to be vaccinated.

A misinformation example discussed during the Board of Supervisors meeting was the use of livestock dewormer as a treatment because of misinformation on right-wing social media.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.