By David M. Greenwald
I caught a story on KCRA where a salon owner was interviewed about the likelihood that her salon will have to shut down again.
“I feel defeated. I feel lost. I feel scared,” the owner said. “Not only do I have myself and my family to think about, but I have all of the people that work for me, work in my salon, to consider.”
While I sympathize with small business owners, from Wednesday to Friday in the US, nearly 9000 people died of COVID. I can imagine that their loved ones felt lost, scared and ultimately defeated.
Even more so because we know how to slow the spread of this disease, and if people would simply take the reasonable precautions of wearing a mask, social distancing, and avoiding social interaction we could contain the spread of this disease until we get the vaccine—which is just around the corner.
Instead, we are headed for something potentially catastrophic. Deaths are now at a record high level. And while people can argue that the actual death rate is relatively low, that analysis misses the law of high numbers. When you are approaching 15 million cases, even a low death rate will produce a lot of deaths. People’s loved ones, family members, people that we cannot bring back.
But while many have focused on death—and understandably so—there is little we know about the long term health implications of this.
And now the looming crisis is the lack of ICU space. That is what the current round of stay-at-home orders is based on. Governor Newsom’s order takes effect today. There is controversy here in that they are doing it by region, rather than county. And so some counties relatively lightly hit will have to lock down even though they have excess capacity at the ICUs.
Regional stay-at-home orders “will require Californians to stay at home as much as possible, close operations for certain sectors and require 100 percent masking and physical distancing in all others.
“Residents are required to stay at home as much as possible and minimize mixing to reduce unnecessary exposure, while still being able to do important things like go to the doctor, buy groceries, pick up take out, go on a hike, or worship outdoors. K-12 schools that are already open can remain open and retailers can operate indoors at no more than 20 percent capacity to reduce exposure risk.”
Greater Sacramento: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba.
Regions will remain in the Regional Stay at Home Order status for at least three weeks once triggered.
Counties are eligible to come off the Regional Stay at Home Order after three weeks if their hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15 percent.
“We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus and we need to take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” said Governor Newsom.
He said, “We know what a struggle this pandemic has been for so many California families, but our actions have saved countless lives,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Secretary. “This targeted action will preserve vital ICU beds for people who need them — whether they’re COVID-19 patients or someone who has suffered a heart attack or a stroke.”
As of Thursday here was the ICU capacity in the five regions:
- Northern California 18.6%
- Bay Area 25.3%
- Greater Sacramento 22.2%
- San Joaquin Valley 19.7%
- Southern California 20.6%
One report calculated that Greater Sacramento would hit 15 percent within the week. The danger of low ICU capacity is that there would be a lack of resources to treat people in need of potentially life-saving medical attention. That presents a danger not just to people with severe cases of COVID but also other potentially serious health ailments.
In the end this has been a failure of our public health system—but particularly at the top—to contain the virus. Defenders of the president have pointed to two policies—one, his shutdown of the borders and banning travel from China in late January and second, the prioritization of research to push forward a vaccine in record time.
But research that emerged this week, in a study published on Monday, found evidence that COVID was in the US as early as mid-December of 2019.
The study, published on Monday, examined blood donations to the Red Cross in nine states and found evidence of the virus in 106 of 7,389 collected between December 13, 2019, and January 17, 2020.
That means COVID was already in the US at this point and shutting down the border had little effect.
You can debate of course over the role the administration may or may not have played in the development of the vaccine, but the fact remains that the president has minimized in public statements the severity of this crisis, he shirked the use of masks—and even ridiculed them, and hosted large events where people were not wearing masks.
Moreover, in the time since the election, he has done next to nothing about COVID even as he continues to throw out wild allegations of election fraud.
This week, for the first time, the CDC recommended the “universal use of face masks” as a key step to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, warning the U.S. has “entered a phase of high-level transmission.”
They recommend that state and local levels “issue policies or directives mandating universal use of face masks in indoor (nonhousehold) settings” as one strategy to combat the virus.
On Thursday, Senator Mitt Romney, a critic of the president called the president’s rhetoric on the COVID a “great human tragedy.
“Well, this hasn’t been the focus of his rhetoric, apparently, and I think it’s a great human tragedy, without question,” Senator Romney said.
The senator added that the “extraordinary loss of life is heartbreaking—and in some respects unnecessary.”
And so here we go again, headed back into another lockdown. One segment of society is complaining about the loss of economic livelihood while another laments the unnecessary continued loss of human life.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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