Sunday Commentary: Locally People Are Complying, but the Bigger Picture Is Grim

G Street on Friday at noon in Davis – empty

While a place like Davis has registered a good amount of compliance with stay-at-home orders, a tweet from the Marin County Sheriff showed many attempting to take advantage of their time to go see the coast—a long line of traffic is shown on a two-lane road in that county.

The message from the sheriff: “We understand the communities’ frustrations with the large amount of people traveling to the Coast today and NOT practicing social distancing.  We are working with the Public Health Officers to address the issue.  Please stay at home!”

A similar problem appears in the NY Times today, as a report notes that Bishop was as crowded as any holiday, jammed with people climbing the Eastern Sierras.

“Climbers from around the country have descended upon Bishop as though a global pandemic were some sort of hall pass from responsibility and magnanimity,” a climbing blog reported.

“If I get corona, I get corona,” a reveler in Florida said in a widely-shared television interview. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”

The Times does point out, “Under pressure, both social and governmental, their numbers shrink by the day. Their impact on spreading the virus may never be known.”

It is part of a larger issue that there is a disconnect between how various parts of the country are experiencing the pandemic.

Ronald Brownstein’s column in the Atlantic yesterday illustrates some of the problems.

The disease is not impacting the red and blue counties the same—in part because of just how different these counties have become in terms of population and characteristics.

These differences, Mr. Brownstein argues, shape how the nation and the public is responding to this unprecedented challenge.

“Democrats consistently express much more concern about it than Republicans do, and they are much more likely to say they have changed their personal behavior as a result. A similar gap separates people who live in large metropolitan centers, which have become the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition, from those who live in the small towns and rural areas that are the modern bedrock of the GOP,” Mr. Brownstein writes.

Government has followed a similar course.

“Government responses have followed these same tracks. With a few prominent exceptions, especially Ohio, states with Republican governors have been slower, or less likely, than those run by Democrats to impose restrictions on their residents,” he continues.

These changes reflect in part the reality on the ground, because the aggressive responses have been largely in response to the threat level.

“So far, the greatest clusters of the disease, and the most aggressive responses to it, have indeed been centered in a few large, Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, including Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and Boston,” he continued.

Indeed, the White House pointed out that half of the nation’s cases are located in just ten counties.

Mr. Brownstein argues, “The outbreak’s eventual political effects may vary significantly depending on how extensively it spreads beyond these initial beachheads.

“If the virus never becomes pervasive beyond big cities, that could reinforce the sense among many Republican voters and office-holders that the threat has been overstated.”

It could also continue to fuel the kind of xenophobia we have seen by some leaders who have taken to label the disease the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus.”

A key question will be how bad of a threat this really becomes.  The answer could be a lot worse than we feared.

For instance, reports from China seemed to indicate that they had stopped the course of the virus.  That might not be true according to a report from the respected Caixan publication, which suggests that appearances that businesses are headed back to work is “just a carefully crafted ruse.”

Instead, “civil servants tell Caixan that businesses are actually faking these numbers.”

I saw a post yesterday from a 32-year-old who told everyone he had contracted coronavirus.  While he appears headed in the right direction, he spent a nerve racking night in ICU.  In fact, increasingly, while the fatality rate remains fairly low for those 20 to 56, that doesn’t diminish the severity of the illness which in many cases is leading to hospitalization.

A big concern is that those cases will result in the utilization of increasingly scarce hospital resources, already spread thin.

As of 3 am this morning, the NY Times reports at least 24,380 confirmed cases.  It is interesting to note that California’s rate of increase has slowed while New York, which reacted much later, continues to have their case totals double.

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of US Centers for Disease Control, put out a report on CNN that is quite sobering.

First of all, and there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, “The virus is much more infectious than influenza or the SARS virus, which it closely resembles.”  One of the keys is that it can live on contaminated surfaces “so it may spread, sometimes explosively, from doorknobs, elevator buttons and contaminated surfaces in hospitals and elsewhere.”  In addition, unlike SARS for example, patients become highly infectious prior to becoming seriously ill.

Further, he warns, “It’s not just older people with underlying conditions who become very ill and can die.”

Here again is the scary thing: while 80 percent of the people got only a mild disease, “it now appears that about half of these people, despite not needing hospital admission, have moderately severe pneumonia, which can take weeks or longer to recover from.”

Further, he warns, “Explosive spread will almost certainly overwhelm health care capacity in New York City and elsewhere, and lead to the inability to save patients who could otherwise have been saved. Today’s severe cases are in people infected 10 to 14 days ago who got sick five to six days ago and have steadily progressed to severe illness. That means cases will continue to skyrocket for weeks after spread stops. Not only won’t there be enough ventilators, there won’t be enough supplies for the ventilators, hospital beds to support patients — or health care workers to help patients.”

Health care workers are in peril – and protective equipment is in short supply.  He warns that “as health care becomes overwhelmed, it becomes harder to provide care safely.”

He also warns, “It’s going to get a lot worse. Not only is the global economy in free-fall but supply chains for essentials, including medicines, are disrupted.”

California has already put severe restrictions on people, but the cases of Marin and Bishop show that we will probably need more aggressive enforcement.  I would expect to see things like checkpoints put in place in the coming week.

—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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34 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Locally People Are Complying, but the Bigger Picture Is Grim”

  1. Keith Olsen

    It could also continue to fuel the kind of xenophobia we have seen by some leaders who have taken to label the disease the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus.”

    Have you ever heard of the Spanish flu, West Nile Virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, etc.  Was that ever labeled as xenophobia when those terms were used.  This is just another example of Democrats trying to make political points because Trump has used the term.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Maybe the mistake was made before – the Spanish flu for instance was named in 1918, around the same time as the rise in anti-Immigration and race riots in major cities and the re-rise of the KKK. Maybe that shouldn’t be a time to model to be culturally sensitive in a different world.

      1. Keith Olsen

        The Obama administration used the terms Ebola virus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and I never heard anyone claim that was xenophobic.

        Here’s a perfect example of how the left is trying to make political points over this.

        CNN reporter called it xenophobia when Trump used the terms Wuhan or China virus but here’s a tweet from Jim Acosta himself:

        CNN International: Authorities in Beijing have cancelled all large-scale Chinese New Year celebrations in an effort to contain the growing spread of Wuhan Coronavirus.


        5:05 AM – Jan 23, 2020


        1. David Greenwald Post author

          The person writing wasn’t a CNN reporter. However, the text you have quoted is two months old, that’s a long time ago in the life of this story.

        2. Keith Olsen

          That was a tweet from Jim Acosta himself.  So are you saying it was okay to call it the Wuhan Virus two months ago but not now?  It’s all obviously political.

        3. David Greenwald

          One reason it’s a problem is it doesn’t serve any sort of legitimate purpose.  There was an incident in my daughter’s school before it was shutdown where kids were singling out a Chinese student (or students) and saying to stay away from them or you’ll get sick.  The teacher had to explain why that was wrong.

        4. Bill Marshall

          Ironically, your link, David goes to a site that requires you to accept cookies and turn off your ad-blocker to view content… kinda’ like, “stop washing your hands, and take off your mask”… blocks “internet distancing” for your computer and/or device…

          There are more than one type of exposure to “virus”…

        5. Matt Williams

          Keith, while I understand your point that the use of insensitive terms is not limited to Republicans alone, Ebola is a disease that has never spread beyond portions of Africa to the rest of the world.  There have been a handful of cases of travelers from Africa being infected while in Africa, and then coming home where their symptoms have (1) been treated, and (2) their disease has NOT been spread.  So it is a local African disease, with the Ebola River being the initial outbreak location, which makes Ebola essentially a local African name for a local African disease.

          The information from the World Health Organization (WHO) tells a similar story for MERS. 

          People are infected from direct or indirect contact with dromedary camels. While the virus has demonstrated limited ability to transmit between people outside of hospitals, it has repeatedly caused large scale outbreaks in health care facilities with severe health, security and economic impacts, most notably in Saudi Arabia in 2014-2016 and the Republic of Korea in 2015.

          South Korea’s first imported MERS-CoV case in 2015 sparked an outbreak that spread through hospitals, sickening 186 people, 36 of them fatally. The event prompted sweeping changes throughout South Korea’s health system

          MERS-CoV is currently circulating in dromedary camels in Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia; however, most cases of human infection have been reported in the Arabian Peninsula.

          The WHO categorized cases as either secondary (human-to-human transmission) or community-acquired (presumed camel-to-human transmission).

          Of the 2,254 laboratory-confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization from 2012 through October 1, 2018 (Appendix Figure 1), 1,087 were classified as human-to-human transmssion cases and the remaining 1,167 as community-acquired cases.

          So MERS, like Ebola is a locality name for a disease that is concentrated in the localities where dromedary camels are found.

        6. Keith Olsen

          Well get busy Matt, here’s a long list of diseases named after populations or locality:

          Diseases named after populations or geographic locationsPosted on 3/19/20 at 3:25 am


          West Nile Virus
          Named after the West Nile District of Uganda discovered in 1937.

          Guinea Worm
          Named by European explorers for the Guinea coast of West Africa in the 1600s.

          Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
          Named after the mountain range spreading across western North America first recognized first in 1896 in Idaho.

          Lyme Disease
          Named after a large outbreak of the disease occurred in Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut in the 1970s.

          Ross River Fever
          Named after a mosquito found to cause the disease in the Ross River of Queensland, Australia by the 1960s. The first major outbreak occurred in 1928.

          Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever
          Named after its 1940s discovery in Omsk, Russia.

          Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
          Named in 1976 for the Ebola River in Zaire located in central Africa.

          Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
          Also known as “camel flu,” MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and all cases are linked to those who traveled to the Middle Eastern peninsula.

          Valley Fever
          Valley Fever earned its nickname from a 1930s outbreak San Joaquin Valley of California, though its first case came from Argentina.

          Marburg Virus Disease
          Named after Marburg, Germany in 1967.

          Named after Norwalk, Ohio after an outbreak in 1968.

          Zika Fever
          First discovered in 1947 and named after the Zika Forest in Uganda.

          Japanese Encephalitis
          Named after its first case in Japan in 1871.

          German Measles
          Named after the German doctors who first described it in the 18th century. The disease is also sometimes referred to as “Rubella.”

          Spanish Flu
          While the true origins of the Spanish Flu remain unknown, the disease earned its name after Spain began to report deaths from the flu in its newspapers.

          Lassa Fever
          Named after the being found in Lassa, Nigeria in 1969.

          Legionnaire’s Disease
          Named in 1976 following an outbreak of people contracting the lung infection after attending an American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

          Now: Chinese Wuhan Flu

        7. Matt Williams

          Keith, I personally would have no problem with calling it the “Wuhan coronavirus (Wuhan-CoV)”

          However, adding “Chinese” as has been done in this case would be like using the term “United States Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever” or “USA Norovirus” or “United States Legionnaire’s Disease”

          I believe you know the definition of the term pejorative.  Adding the United States or USA to any of those locale names would simply be pejorative, just like adding the word Chinese to the words Wuhan coronavirus is pejorative.

        1. Bill Marshall

          True, as far as US incidence (as near as I can tell from sources)… the GI’s brought it home from Europe… it did not originate in Kansas… no way it could spread so far or so quickly throughout the world, if it originated there.

          1/3 of the world population at that time contracted it at some level (best estimates)… Kansas folk, including GI’s from other US places, didn’t get out much in 1918-20.

    2. Edgar Wai

      When the outbreak was just surfacing in January, Hong Kong and Taiwan knew that China would downplay the seriousness of the virus. Taiwan immediately banned export of masks and closed the borders. Hong Kong people asked their government to close the border also, but their government refused, so that patients from Wuhan could take the high speed train to Hong Kong for medical treatment, or to take the airplane to anywhere in the world for treatment.

      When China locked down Wuhan to prevent the spread among itself. It let the high speed rail and airports open for people to travel out of China. This all happens while China was putting doctors in jail for telling people the virus was like SARS, and while WHO was telling the world the virus cannot spread from person to person, and that there is no reason to close borders, and rejects Taiwan in joining the council. WHO demanded the world to stop using Wuhan Virus. WHO tells you the disease should be called COVID-19.

      China asked its oversea citizens to buy masks from other countries to send to China. But those masks were stockpiled in China, not distributed to the people. China brought masks from Japan with payment, and advertised that as a donation. Japanese was angry. Italy brought masks from China and China advertised that as their donation. Italian was angry.

      US offered help in the early days. China refused.  China is accusing US of being the origin of the virus.

      If you remember this history, then it doesn’t matter what it is called.

      COVID-19, brought to you by WHO.

    3. Edgar Wai

      Dear Keith,

      CCP really wants to portrait the US being racist. So calling the virus “Chinese Virus” would help the CCP. It would save them the effort to find actors to portray a racist US. It has nothing to do with whether the intent is innocent. It has to do with tactics.

      CCP wants to create arguments and chaos in the US.

  2. Sharla Cheney

    I’ve been sheltering in place at our family home at Dillion’s Beach since last week. .  Many empty houses and few cars. It has been very quiet here until yesterday.  There were long slow lines of people trying to find parking all day. Once on the beach, groups of people could stay apart fairly well, but I’m sure the use of the public bathrooms was heavy.  Not a lot of blankets.  Just people walking on the beach and playing in the surf, lots of dogs.  The weather was beautiful- warm with a slight breeze.  We stayed in the house, venturing outside only to give the dog short walks.   All the houses around us are now filled with families.  Hopefully the day use will subside.  It’s supposed to rain, which will help.

    I think people just want to get outside and the beach seemed like a perfect idea.  I think they are trying to follow the directives on social distancing.

  3. Ron Oertel

    California has already put severe restrictions on people, but the cases of Marin and Bishop show that we will probably need more aggressive enforcement.  

    This is misleading.  Authorities are not prohibiting outdoor exercise, but are encouraging “social distancing” while doing so.  The un-referenced quote from the Marin sheriff appears to be (at least partly) related to traffic concerns, as a result of all of the people taking advantage of the opportunity.

    There are people out-and-about all over the place (including families on bicycles), exercising outdoors.

    Yosemite has been shut down, but that place is like a “city without buildings”.


  4. Bill Marshall

    This hardly seems like the most relevant or important aspect of this topic. (in response to Keith’s list)

    I disagree… I believe it is pertinent, due to what was said in the article, and the author’s subsequent posts… sure looks like the author is ‘shaming’ and/or being uber PC.

    Refutation of the author’s implications, by article and subsequent posts, is, over the top as to xenophobic implications… I’m more along the lines of an amalgam of Keith and Matt’s posts… I particularly agree with Matt’s posit,

    Keith, I personally would have no problem with calling it the “Wuhan coronavirus (Wuhan-CoV)
    However, adding “Chinese” as has been done in this case would be like using the term “United States Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever” or “USA Norovirus” or “United States Legionnaire’s Disease”

    If the virus causing covid-19 mutates (another strain), it will likely do so somewhere other than Wuhan or China… that strain would appropriately be identified with the locale of where it was identified, and spread from.

    The author (particularly subsequent posts!) is straining at gnats.  The virus, and our practical response to it is what is essential… concerns about what we call it sure sounds like a ‘Liberal Arts”, PC thing, and doesn’t move the football as to dealing with a real (if sometimes overblown) threat.  It should be a medical and practical response issue.

    I don’t think for a moment that Keith’s list was out of line, nor “off-topic”… IMNSHO.




    1. Keith Olsen

      Thanks Bill, I can somewhat agree with Matt that maybe calling it the Wuhan virus would be more appropriate.  But we also have to remember, it was China’s policies of trying to hide and downplay the outbreak, the subsequent jailing of the whistle blower doctor and claiming that the virus can’t be transmitted between humans that maybe it deserves to be called the China Virus.

      As for being not relevant then maybe David shouldn’t have brought it up in this article.

      1. Bill Marshall

        maybe it deserves to be called the China Virus.

        We’ll agree to disagree… a medical crisis/challenge is medical… not political… by your approach, one (who would be a fool) could assert it should be called the Trump virus, given his denials, and assertions that it was a Democrat/media hoax… both are just WRONG, and do nothing to deal with current reality.

        Labelling covid-19 as China virus, is as wrong as David’s assertion as to Spanish flu, and Wuhan virus terms as being racist and/or xenophobic.

        Our path forward needs to be medical/scientific, logistics (getting more masks/ventilators, test kits, etc., and ensuring they are distributed strategically), and behavioral.  “Labels” don’t move the football forward.  [oh, and if you touch the football, wash hands before and after, and/or use sanitizer – and clean the football].

  5. Ron Oertel

    How about taking this opportunity to repave the freeways?  Looks like this one (in LA) needs it:

    There is no order to shut down development projects:

    1. Bill Marshall


      First, a portion of the section shown in the picture is beyond repaving… (#1 lane) portion needs to be investigated as to serious issues as to underlying structural issues… and replaced, in any case.

      Second:  so… where is the $$$ going to come from?  Investigation, plans/specs, contract issuing, inspection… maybe from funds that could otherwise go to testing, investigation, treatment of covid-19?

      Third:  and so that is considered an “essential function”?  And those who investigate, prepare plans/specs/bids, the contractor, and inspectors, should not shelter, and expose themselves to contagion?

      As David might (and has said) say, “relevance”?


    2. Ron Oertel

      I would ask how your title (and first sentence) implies that “Davis” is complying, while other places are not. Obviously, a lot of activity is still (legally) occurring – including construction, grocery shopping, outdoor exercise, hiking, etc.

      From your article:  “While a place like Davis has registered a good amount of compliance with stay-at-home orders, a tweet from the Marin County Sheriff showed many attempting to take advantage of their time to go see the coast—a long line of traffic is shown on a two-lane road in that county.”

  6. Sharla Cheney

    Today at Dillion’s Beach, it is much less crowded.  Greater distance between groups on the beach and no parking issues or lines of waiting cars.

  7. Sharla Cheney

    Monday at Dillons Beach – I counted 15 people on the Beach.  We traveled back to Davis today.  At the turnoff toward beach from Hwy 1 there was a large electronic sign saying, “Health Order – Beach Access Limited”. Which is why the numbers dwindled starting Sunday.

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