If you walked around town yesterday, it felt like the dead of winter, the heart of Christmas vacation—not just the overall climate, but even the weather. No one was around. Parking was plentiful. But it was different—businesses closed, people few and scattered, streets basically deserted.
I lived through 9/11. I remember going to the gym that morning like any other morning on that warm September day in 2001. I remember the call from Cecilia—we wouldn’t even be married until the following July. I remember looking up at the TV, trying to reconcile what she was telling me by what I saw on the TV.
I will never forget driving back from the old 24 Hour Fitness on Second Street; the town was empty, deserted, everyone home and bunkered down.
Even in the face of those moments of anger and uncertainty, it didn’t feel like this. In the days before smart phones and social media, it was a frightening moment in time, with people transfixed to the TV, the world shut down—but it was short term. This is different.
The enemy is an invisible microbe. In a way, the enemy is ourselves—our social networks, our daily lives, our habits, our very community. Trying to unite in a time of social distancing is a bit like lighting a Roman candle in the face of hurricane.
The speed of this advance is frightening. The number of cases keep going up. The death toll will climb.
We have gone from travel advisories and entertainment cancellations to voluntary stay-at-home guidelines to mandatory orders.
Mandatory. The announcement came at midday yesterday, “The Yolo County Public Health Officer issued a countywide health order for residents to shelter in place from March 19, 2020, to April 7, 2020, unless extended by the Public Health Officer.”
We know it will be extended. Extended to May, to June, to beyond?
The order applies to the city of Davis, and it became effective at midnight this morning.
“The order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs and is intended to slow the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), protect those most vulnerable to the disease, and preserve local healthcare capacity,” the release says.
I have heard some people in other communities suggest that they will resist these orders. But they risk not only themselves but those around them and all of us if we don’t halt the spread and preserve our health care system.
Make no mistake. This is an order. It is mandatory. It has the force of law.
“We are hoping that people will voluntarily comply with the order,” said Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel. “The order does carry the weight of law, but the goal really is to educate our community about how important it is to take these measures seriously,” he added.
If this doesn’t work—martial law. The National Guard gets called out. They patrol the streets. They enforce curfews. They curtail what is left of our freedom, our liberty.
This tiny virus has done what our great enemies and their armies could not do—grind life to a halt, curtail our cherished freedom and liberty.
Will we ever recover? I keep telling myself, this too shall pass. It is relatively short term even if it extends into the summer, into August, into next fall.
What happens to our economy if this goes much longer? So far our civil authority has held. Our government has functioned.
This all about flattening the curve to give us a fighting chance.
As Dana Carey, the OES Coordinator for the Yolo County Office of Emergency Services, said yesterday, “we’re really trying to take that peak of that epidemiological curve – most every virus follows this pattern – if we can lower that peak then our health care system in the United State has a much better chance of responding to it. Because we are stretching those cases out over time, rather than hitting the health care system with one fell swoop.”
But there is a downside to this strategy. We see it in the stock market. And soon we are going to start seeing it around town as the empty streets and open parking spaces of yesterday turn into vacant stores.
Froggy’s Bar & Grill owner Adam Andrews told the Enterprise, “I’ve got the feeling it’s gonna be a very different landscape here in 10 months.
“You’re looking at a spring quarter without how many tens of thousands of students and all the support staff on campus,” Mr. Andrews said. “It’s gonna have ripple effects.”
There are plans by the federal government to help. Emergency loans of up to $2 million.
California workers whose hours have been cut due to the coronavirus can file an unemployment insurance claim, which provides partial wage replacement.
Congress is going to likely approve $850 billion in stimulus. There is talk that people will get $1000 checks. I don’t want to wax partisan at this moment, but $1000 won’t even last my family a week. It’s nice to have for sure, better than nothing perhaps, but in a month it won’t matter.
I saw another proposal from the Senate—$4500 per person. That could help. That could buy us six months.
There have been debates—will this be better or worse than 9/11 or than the 2008 financial crisis? Some are arguing, well, the fundamentals of the economy are good, this is simply an exogenous shock.
That may be true. But we are looking at a prolonged shut down. We are looking at 20 percent unemployment. And we are starting to get a sense for how long—maybe we will see things open back up in June. But I can’t really imagine that. I think this is going to the fall.
I keep asking myself, will our downtown survive this? Will we? These are hard times. We are not likely to emerge from them unscathed and unchanged. We will see what the future brings.
—David M. Greenwald reporting