Sierra Health Foundation - The Center at

Response, Recovery and Sustainability

May 2020 Update

A message from Chet Hewitt

Over the past eight weeks, COVID-19 has gone from a little-known disease to the leading cause of death in the United States, exceeding cancer or heart disease in some communities. Its ascent to the top of mortality charts has shattered the imperfect social norms we’ve grown accustomed to. And our delayed and chaotic response has laid bare the fragility of numerous systems we expected to be better prepared to respond to the health and economic devastation it has caused.

However, in the midst of all of this, heroes have emerged. They didn’t ride into battle as armed men or women; they are clothed in protective medical gowns and blue-collar work clothes. They are on the front lines of efforts to save those who become ill, provide support to newly unemployed individuals struggling to keep their families housed and fed, prepare school meals for children unable to attend class, staff the restaurants and grocery stores that sustain us, and pick and package food in fields and factories across our country.

As a health foundation, we have raised more than $5 million and rapidly distributed funds to support relief efforts, with a focus on communities and populations that have been most heavily impacted. We have been inspired by the numerous donors, large and small, and trusted community organizations that have partnered with us to ensure we are responding to the immediate needs of vulnerable community members during these unprecedented times.

We now know that COVID-19 community spread, morbidity and mortality rates are heavily influenced by the interplay between race and socioeconomic status. So we should be alarmed, not surprised, to learn that Black, Latinx and Native American populations are disproportionately more likely to contract the virus and to die from it. The connection between people of color, poverty and poor health status is a downstream by-product of unresolved racism and exclusion in our country. The pandemic has placed a spotlight on the ultimate consequence of our failure to untangle this connection — social and economic vulnerability and a higher likelihood of premature death. This is not some vague concept. Racism and exclusion play out in real life as dense housing and work environments; lower quality education; food insecurity; little, if any, savings; low-wage employment; fewer opportunities to work from home; and disproportionate rates of preventable pre-existing conditions such as hypertension and obesity.

As we contemplate opening our economic and social systems and move from response to recovery to sustainability, there is an essential commitment we must first make. Let us all commit to the creation of a new social baseline, where everyone — regardless of race, economic status or immigration status — has access to healthy food, fair wages, great schools, quality housing, health care, and clean water delivered from a tap. These goals are essential to the creation of a just and equitable society, and, ultimately, a more resilient one.

Going forward, we need to ensure we don’t go back to what may now seem like the good old days, or stumble toward a new normal where the primary difference between what came before and where we are heading are the precautions we take to preserve our personal health. If we have learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that we need to wage war on racism, inequity and exclusion with the same urgency as our quest to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a national effort should not be undertaken as an act of benevolence or charity, but as homage to the valor of ordinary, essential people who have disproportionately taken risks and contributed to the preservation of the health and well-being of our nation.

Chet P. Hewitt
President and CEO
Sierra Health Foundation
The Center at Sierra Health Foundation

Regional response funds now total $5,250,000

Our deep appreciation continues for all of our many partners, funders, local leaders and community members who have joined us to support nonprofit organizations, small businesses and vulnerable populations in Northern California, Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley through our three regional COVID-19 response funds.

Combined donations and pledges = $5,249,770.

Combined distribution to nonprofit partners = $3,346,901.

We disburse additional funds as pledged funds are received.

Learn more and donate!

Northern California COVID-19 Response Fund

Donate4Sacramento COVID-19 Regional Response Fund

San Joaquin Valley Health Fund COVID-19 Response Cluster


We are posting resources on the Sierra Health Foundation web site and The Center web site. We encourage our partners and community members to access these resources and share them widely.

COVID-19 and Boys and Men of Color discussion series for funders and organizers

The California Funders for Boys and Men of Color and the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color have partnered to present this discussion series as an ongoing look at how the global pandemic is impacting boys and men of color, their families and communities. Topics to date have included youth justice and health disparities. The calls and webinars are recorded and posted on the California Funders for Boys and Men of Color web site.

Sierra Health Foundation
1321 Garden Highway, Sacramento, CA 95833 · (916) 922-4755