The scope of the response by the city has been largely unprecedented. Businesses are closed. The downtown, even during peak hours, is almost empty. Schools are canceled. UC Davis canceled finals and is going to a distance-learning model. The public has been ordered to shelter in place.
Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida did not see this coming.
“I did not,” she said. “I didn’t think that we were going to be this restricted.”
She saw a warning for people not to go to work when sick. But she said, “I was surprised when it was this restricted.”
The Vanguard talked to the mayor pro tem earlier this week about the COVID-19 outbreak and the city and regional responses.
“Overall it’s a little overwhelming,” she told the Vanguard. “I feel like it is doable. If we are all on board, and everyone is thinking about all the possible contingencies, it’s something that we can get through.”
She sees the biggest threat to the community at this point as economic.
“The people that are the most vulnerable always suffer the most in any sort of a crisis,” she said.
She also is worried about providing education for the school-aged children.
“I also worry about making sure that all of our children are supported equally,” she said. “That’s going to be a big challenge.”
On March 18, Ron Chapman, the Yolo County Public Health Officer issued a countywide health order for residents to shelter in place from March 19 to April 7. The order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs and is intended to slow the spread of novel coronavirus.
From the city’s perspective, they have been in constant communication with the county. One official last week made a presentation to the council about the threat and the response when the council decided to impose its own stay-at-home order in advance of the county’s.
“Obviously no one is sitting down with anyone,” Gloria Partida explained, though they are having virtual meetings on a consistent basis. “We do have people who are directly communicating with the health officials on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
“The lines of communication have been really good,” she said. “I’ve been very pleased with how much information has been coming through.”
Last week the pace of that information was incredible, with information changing on a constant basis.
“It really was all hands on deck,” she said. “If everyone is on board, it could be done well.”
Gloria Partida is concerned with how seriously the public is taking these warnings. She is in frequent communication with many in the community, and expressed some concern about what she hears.
“I’m hearing a lot of that people are not taking this as seriously as they should,” she said. “I think that people are very frustrated with the varying levels of responses from their neighbors.”
There are those who believe there needs to be more enforcement of the stay-at-home orders.
Gloria Partida said some believe “there should be consequences for people who are not following the rules.” She said, “That comes from valid places. Davis has always been a very engaged community.
“One of the things I am hearing is that we are reporting more people than any other community,” she said. “That makes a lot of sense.
“People are worried,” she said. “I have a son who is a high risk—he’s disabled. So I’m being very very careful with my procedures.”
But not everyone is, although she thinks they should be. “I think if you’re healthy and you’re young, it’s hard to take something like this serious,” she added.
Gloria Partida noted that once people start having more in their circle affected by this, once those degrees of separation get shorter, they will start to take this more seriously.
“Right now I don’t know anyone who is young and ended up in the ICU, but I think once it starts happening more… someone’s co-worker, someone’s cousin, someone close to people that this is happening to, I think that people will come home for them,” she said.
One of the key questions is that, given the health authority is vested at the county level—what is the city’s role?
“I think the role is to keep things going,” she said. “To make sure that the city is functioning, is our number one task.
“An equally important task is to keep people feeling that we are going to come out of this okay,” she said. She believes we need to be supportive of the business community. Also supportive of our seniors who will tend to be more vulnerable to this sort of threat.
Many of them, she said, “are now very very isolated.” And they rely heavily on things like Meals on Wheels. With that isolation, she said, “mental health is something very important to keep track of as people are isolated.”
Gloria Partida is a very social person and has acknowledged, “I have a very hard time not being in contact with other people. So it’s very wearing on me. There are people in the community who are already suffering with isolation.
“It’s going to be really important to make sure that all of the safety nets stay intact,” she said.
It is one thing to shut things down. It is another thing to not know for how long. And we really have no idea.
Gloria Partida said that she is watching China and sees that they are finally at the point where the number of new cases is falling.
“Of course they’re an authoritarian government—they’re really able to get people to do the things that they are supposed to,” she said. “For them, I think it was four months from the start to the time when they didn’t get any new cases.
“For us, it will be a little longer, because we tend to be more hard-headed here,” she said.
—David M. Greenwald reporting