Commentary: Will We Ever Recover?

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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


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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42 thoughts on “Commentary: Will We Ever Recover?”

  1. Keith Olsen

    Make no mistake.  This is an order.  It is mandatory.  It has the force of law.

    It won’t take long before there’s civil unrest and people take to the streets.
    And what’s the law going to do, jail people when they are letting criminals go free now?

    Britain has entertained the idea of herd immunity.  In other words let people live their lives, let the economy survive as the virus runs its course while the elderly and those with medical issues quarantine themselves until it has passed.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “It won’t take long before there’s civil unrest and people take to the streets.”

      I see a few scattered people talking that way, but not many. Most people seem legitimately concerned about the state of affairs.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Maybe for now, but it’s only been a week of isolation, talk to those same people in a month or two who have seen their jobs and wealth disappear.

        1. Matt Williams

          Keith, my better half and I spoke via Skype with friends who live in Turin, Italy.  Their shelter-in-place order is much more stringent than ours.  They need to apply for a pass to go to the grocery store or pharmacy.  If someone is found out without a pass, they are assessed a hefty fine.  They are a working couple with two children, have adjusted to working from home, and don’t see any signs of civil unrest.

          Johns Hopkins University’s latest figures released yesterday report  nearly 220,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally, and more than 8,800 have died.  Your reliance on the very early stage numbers in the US is being a bit of an ostrich.  Yesterday Italy reported 475 deaths in one 24-hour period.  Spain reported 209 fatalities in the same 24-hour period.

          The graphic below shows comparative growth of cases on a country by country basis. The US is tracking very similarly to the other earlier outbreak countries.

          https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Screen-Shot-2020-03-19-at-8.35.15-AM.png

          Regarding our ability to bounce back, the US experienced similar societal shutdowns during the polio epidemics until Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin came up with a vaccine.  Our economy not only recovered after those societal shutdowns, but flourished.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Matt, you’re citing the the countries with the worst numbers.

          Compare those countries with Germany, 13,979 cases with 42 deaths and a 0.3% death rate and South Korea with 8565 cases with 91 deaths and a 1% death rate.

          They are a working couple with two children, have adjusted to working from home

          Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to work from home.  We are looking at a possible 20% unemployment rate.  Recession for sure and maybe a depression if we keep up with the current polices in place for too long.  The ripple effect will be catastrophic.

           

        3. Richard McCann

          It looks like in the graphic that Germany and the US are following similar trajectories. Another website shows that the mortality and new case rates appear to be rising in tandem so the mortality rate doesn’t appear to be dropping as new cases are added. A 1.5% mortality rate would be pretty stunning, given that the typical influenza rate is a tenth of that. See: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

          Keith, your argument that some should die so that you can be comfortable seems quite crass. We may have to figure out an intermediate solution after we level off the new infection rate, but throwing caution to the wind and just saying “you’re on your own” to the most vulnerable would be the single best way to unglue society.

  2. Keith Olsen

    There are some vaccines being tested as well as some drugs already in circulation in Asia which help in lessening the effects of the virus.  The FDA is a slow and arduous process, it might be time to speed things up.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ironically, it may be fear of the unknown effectiveness of vaccines/other medications to slow FDA approvals to combat a virus that we still don’t know a lot about…

      I agree it is time to take some risk on the vaccine/medication side of the equation… speed up trials and implementation…

    2. Tia Will

      Keith

      The vaccines and known drugs more accurately may help in lessening the effects. It is simply too soon to know. If we can believe information from the WH, the FDA is “fast-tracking” these testing processes already as per today’s conference. I was, however, a bit disturbed by the absence of Dr. Fauci from today’s conference.

      1. John Hobbs

        ” It is simply too soon to know. If we can believe information from the WH”

        We both (all) know that the illegitimate president is a compulsive liar. What bothers me are the medical “professionals” at his side who stand quietly by as he intentionally prevaricates. Is there some interdisciplinary function of the AMA or other organization to sanction or censure those professionals who knowingly propagate his deception?

  3. Keith Olsen

    Currently there have been 9415 cases of Coronavirus reported with 142 deaths in the United States.

    That’s a morality rate of 1.5%.

    We know there are thousands of cases that go unreported so the actual death rate is lower.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s not a mortality rate of 1.5% because you don’t know how many of those current cases will result in mortality.  That’s a snapshot.

  4. Jim Frame

    I’m curious about the PD enforcement concept.  The order allows walking, use of parks for exercise and recreation, trips to the gas station, grocery store, medical appointments, delivery of food and supplies to shut-ins, and to the workplace for the many people delivering essential services (which run the gamut from staffing the ER to fixing leaky faucets).  Are they going to be pulling people over to find out where they’re going?  Will they know that even though my job doesn’t qualify as an essential service I’m doing it anyway because it doesn’t involve contact with other people or surfaces that they’ve recently touched, and if I don’t work I don’t get paid? IMWTK.

    1. Alan Miller

      Are they going to be pulling people over to find out where they’re going?

      They can’t even stop one in every 10,000 bicycles from not stopping at a stop sign.  So, doubt it.

  5. PhilColeman

    All plagues in human history eventually burn themselves out. The Bubonic Plague, which went unchecked for many years and was immune to any effective human counter efforts, did disappear. Locust hordes, mass fires, floods, do go away. This epidemic too shall pass, but it will certainly take its toll in human life.

    COVID-19 is going to rapidly accelerate trends that are now in their formative stage. Tens of millions of students in every age bracket are receiving an education without the necessity of gathering in a large box called a classroom or an auditorium. While we who are “old school” (literally) say there is no effective substitute for giving and sharing information face-to-face, that is a myth. If face-to-face conversation is so great, why is it that our most recent generations are addicted to their smartphones and don’t know how to look at a stranger in the eye? Let’s be real, today’s kids know much more than we ever did at the same stage in life.

    One prediction especially relevant to this university culture: In the post COVID-19 world, the many classrooms and lecture halls on schools and campuses will be greatly reduced. People in the educational formative years will have their classroom in their lap and instead gather together in these same sites to recreate, socialize, and to eat and drink. Think back to your college days, probably one of the most joyful stages in life. You don’t fondly remember sitting in a classroom, you remember the many other things that happened outside the classroom. The time of the class or the walk across campus in bad weather to get there was a major incentive to “skip.” Online classes take all that away.

    It’s going to be long time we’re continuing to be under house arrest. Chew on this one for a while, then we can go to the disappearance of the mail system, home delivery of just about everything, and the disappearance of privately owned vehicles.

     

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      COVID-19 is going to rapidly accelerate trends that are now in their formative stage. Tens of millions of students in every age bracket are receiving an education without the necessity of gathering in a large box called a classroom or an auditorium. While we who are “old school” (literally) say there is no effective substitute for giving and sharing information face-to-face, that is a myth. 

      I made a similar point yesterday, regarding working from home.  Before one of the “resident commenters” on here attempted to ridicule it, as usual.

    2. Richard McCann

      “Let’s be real, today’s kids know much more than we ever did at the same stage in life.”

      Working with kids as a volunteer mentor in a large educational setting, today’s kids know more about some things (technology) and less about others (how social interactions works, civil processes.) There’s clearly a tradeoff.

    3. Alan Miller

      PC – I agree that online classrooms will make huge and permanent inroads.  This will be devastating to UC Davis, and even more so to campus’ that don’t have necessary in-person functions like med & vet.  This will lead to many students staying at home with parents in the new unconomy, and never living in Davis, just commuting in occasionally.  Many students are leaving for spring quarter — I have no idea the percentage, but I hear this from students.

      This will lead to a higher vacancy rate, and the rent increases may finally cease.  Lincoln 40, under construction, will it have enough tenants — will Nishi ever or even need to be built?  With money drying up and international travel ceasing, the spigot of foreign student money will nearly vanish.  If Trackside is built, the luxury tenants may never appear to finance the profits.  The City may take it over and fill it with homeless people, like they are trying to do in San Francisco with unsold condos.

      then we can go to the disappearance of the mail system, home delivery of just about everything, and the disappearance of privately owned vehicles.

      These, not so much.  Home delivery means fewer hands on the goods, less interaction than at public stores.  Privately owned vehicle use is increasing as people are afraid to take public transit (leaving an entire Capitol Corridor car to me this morning – and Capitol Corridor service being reduced from 15 to 5 round trips starting Saturday).  This fear of others in close proximity will remain in society for generations.  The private car offers social distancing like nothing else.  Public transit is in serious trouble.  That is my profession, so I do not say that lightly.  But if as I suspect greatly increased telecommuting is the result of this, the need for more commercial space and crowded public transit at commute times will give way to home offices, telecommuting, and vacant offices.

      While I greatly believe in transit as a transport solution — if people don’t crush the highway system at rush hours, isn’t that an ever better solution (not commuting at all), with less air emissions?

  6. John Hobbs

    “We know there are thousands of cases that go unreported so the actual death rate is lower.”

    That’s the kind of defective reasoning that got us here in the first place. We don’t know enough about who has it and who’s died from it to make such assumptions and the reason we don’t know is that your president got rid of all the experts. Those former government scientists are saying that it will likely be July before the infection curve starts to flatten in the US, if currently recommended measures are followed.

    “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 have survived world wars, serious pandemics and financial collapse before. All you’re being asked to do is stay home and sit on your couch. Of course we will be changed and some of us will not come out alive or unscathed but unless we allow the dark forces of ignorance and greed to prevail, we will come out.

    1. Tia Will

      John

      We are not likely to emerge from them unscathed and unchanged.”

      I sincerely hope we do not go through all of this only to come out unscathed and unchanged. I hope we will come out with a kinder, more compassionate view of life. I hope we come out less materialistic and less luxury obsessed. I hope we come out more willing to share our own bounty with others. I hope we emerge with a greater sense of contribution to the well being of our society, not just ourselves. I hope.

       

      1. John Hobbs

        I hope you are right, but frankly I see little encouraging evidence of compassion and even less of the native intelligence necessary to survive as a species.

    2. Alan Miller

      We have survived world wars, serious pandemics and financial collapse before. All you’re being asked to do is stay home and sit on your couch. Of course we will be changed and some of us will not come out alive or unscathed but unless we allow the dark forces of ignorance and greed to prevail, we will come out.

      Never agreed so much with a comment of JHs.  Though probably better to exercise and get some sunshine in addition to mass couch-potato-ing.

  7. Ron Glick

    “Britain has entertained the idea of herd immunity.”

    Reminds me of that scene in the movie Erin Brockowitz where Julia Roberts offers the PG&E people a glass of water from Hinckley. Herd immunity is good but I remember how my friend used to joke about the Herd philosophy of education. He would say “We are going to get the herd to Abilene we’ll lose a few head along the way but we will get them there.”

    I’ll go with shelter in place.

    1. Bill Marshall

      No, just the “19” who, may be experiencing, as Keith pointed out, a “morality rate of 1.5%”…

      The rest of the corvids should be assumed to be moral.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Also, there’s this:

       ‘Well-connected’ go first on coronavirus tests, Trump acknowledges: ‘That’s been the story of life’

      https://news.yahoo.com/wellconnected-go-first-on-coronavirus-tests-trump-acknowledges-thats-been-the-story-of-life-190254978.html

      “Wealthy flock to private jets as pandemic spreads and airlines tank”

      https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/wealthy-flock-to-private-jets-airlines-covid-19-pandemic-spreads-12555228
      I also recall a claim that a respirator manufacturer had been directly contacted/solicited by wealthy individuals, but cannot find an article to back that up.

  8. Alan Miller

    “It won’t take long before there’s civil unrest and people take to the streets.”

    Probably a good idea for everybody in Davis to get a gun :-O

    1. Bill Marshall

      I don’t plan to buy a gun (actually, guns seldom kill people, but ammo does)…

      But I may still declare a state of Marshall law… as David says could be the next step, if folk don’t step in line to the “orders”…

      I’m being good, (so far), but the Henny-Penny’s seem to rule the roost.  Prudent is one thing… panic is fully different…

  9. Alan Miller

    Does anyone know if G Street pub was still open last night?  It was open late Tuesday night, two days after the governor announced the shuttering of all bars.  Will it be open tonight?  Does anyone care?

    1. Mark West

      AM: “two days after the governor announced the shuttering of all bars”

      The Governor’s declaration excluded restaurants from the shutdown so alcohol establishments that also served food were allowed to remain open selling both food and alcohol. The County declaration closing restaurants (except for takeout) changes that situation.

  10. Sharla Cheney

    I lived in Berkeley and worked in SF during the time period where we had multiple community crippling events.  The Earthquake, Gulf War riots, People’s Park riots, the the Oakland/Berkeley Hills Fire – all in what seemed to be over a short time.   Communities around us have suffered damn failure, wild fire and economic devastation.  Davis has been able  to watch things from afar and commiserate and empathize. However, it’s nothing like actually living through it.  This is new for Davis.

    And yes, it gets better.

  11. John Hobbs

    Anecdotally, I have been testing the theory that quinine is effective in mitigating the symptoms and spread of the virus by prophylactic use of tonic water combined with 40% grain alcohol (gin) t.i.d. and feel fine. (2:5 gin to tonic)

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