Commentary: A Growing Disconnect Again on COVID As Regulations Lift Perhaps Too Fast

By David M. Greenwald

It was interesting juxtaposing the language that emerged Sunday night at the school board meeting.  Local officials were talking about how they were hopeful that we would locally go from the orange tier into the yellow tier in the next few weeks right around the time that schools re-open.

Don’t get me wrong, so long as we are able to do things safely, I don’t have a problem going to five days in-class for the hybrid model.  What I do worry about is that each time we have lowered the warnings, we have also lowered our guard and COVID is so pernicious that it creeps right back, stronger than ever.

On a national level yesterday, the number of cases crept up to 70,000—a far cry from the days just two months ago when cases routinely topped 200,000 … but that did mark a nearly 20 percent increase over just two weeks ago.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, meanwhile, was near tears on Monday warning of dire warning and “impending doom” over rising COVID cases.

She warned that, despite the rapid roll out of vaccines, another surge is likely as people let their guards down.

“I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I’m scared,” she said.  “We do not have the luxury of inaction.”

It is a small uptick in cases—last week averaged 60,000 cases per day, lower for sure than January but an increase of ten percent over the previous week.

“When we see that uptick in cases, what we have seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge, and surge big,” Walensky said.

The US trends, officials explained, are mirroring what has happened in Europe where nations are again locking down.

This is not over yet.  But you wouldn’t know it from the discussion locally and that’s exactly what concerns me.  The thing is, Yolo has been hit less hard than other areas in the region and the country, but what has happened there, comes here.  We were back to shelter-in-place as recently as December.  We were in purple in January.  If we are not careful, we will end up having to shut things down again, even now, even with more than one-third of the public vaccinated.

One difference from last year is the current White House is going to take these rises—right now confined mainly to the Northeast—much more seriously than the predecessor did.  Michigan, which has been an interesting contrast between the caution of their governor and the opposition to masks and lockdowns of the state legislature, saw the biggest increase with a 133 percent rise in cases.

The NY Times reports: “Michigan’s increase has not been traced to any one event, but epidemiologists have noted that cases started to rise after the state eased restrictions for indoor dining on Feb. 1 and lifted other restrictions in January.”

That should be a caution, as an increasing number of states are following suit, that letting down the guard now isn’t helpful.

On Monday, Biden agreed with the CDC director who urged Americans to “hold on a little while longer.”

“Please, this is not politics—reinstate the mandate,” President Biden said, adding, “The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.”

In fact, the issue is more serious than a lot are letting on.

On Monday officials warned that the nation is in a race between the aggressive vaccination campaign and the spread of new, more worrisome variants of the virus.

Experts suggest that the virus will finally begin to slow when about 70 to 90 percent of the public are immune to it.  States are letting down their guard but they are also expanding access to the vaccine as the quantities increase.

On Monday, at least six states—Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma—made all adults eligible for vaccination.  New York will follow suit on April 6.

Complacency and pandemic fatigue are a huge factor here.  As will resistance to getting vaccinated.

“As we get a really, really low level of infection, you’re going to start seeing a pulling back on some of those restrictions,” Dr. Fauci warned.

We are moving in the right direction in terms of vaccinations, but we have to remain vigilant until we reach those critical numbers—otherwise we are going to see a huge rise in cases, more death and suffering, and more regulations.

—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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4 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    During this last year, I have frequently been near Dr. Walensky’s close to tears status.

    On the local level, after the first outbreak and lockdown, we had 22 deaths. After two premature “openings”, as I write, we have had 196 deaths. While all of these could not have been prevented, I am certain that many could have been had we taken a more conservative approach.

    We are now facing the same decision again, and again, IMO our reopening is untimely. Some, but not all of our leaders do not seem to have a firm grasp on cause and effect. Currently, approximately 30% of Californias are immunized. Herd immunity is not achieved until the immune proportion is at least 70%. Another spike is what we are gambling for less than two full months of instruction. What is being missed is that each time we follow this pattern, we prolong the return to anything resembling our past lives, and pay for that prolongation with the lives of our citizens. And it is not just those who die. It is those who suffer long-term side effects having their careers and future lives compromised. It is those who lose a parent, perhaps the breadwinner for their family thus forever impacting their lives adversely.

    Much of this could be prevented by the simple steps of distancing, masking, sanitation, and vaccinating instead of pretending all is well.

    1. Alan Miller

      What TW said.

      I was praising Czechia at the beginning of this, for spreading the masking video around the world.  Then, after half-a-year, their citizens got restless, and a faction similar to our anti-mask factions started rebelling as an election approached.  Their curve is nearly flat until Fall, when cases spike and they ignore the science of always being weeks behind the curve due to the nature of transmission.  In Fall, they lost control, and there have now been 26,000 deaths out of 11 million population.   Meanwhile, Autstralia, with 26 million people, has had NO deaths in 2021.  When they had a spike in 2020, they clamped down and cooperated, and stamped the virus out.  It makes a difference.

      Too bad we aren’t remotely like Australia.

  2. Kristine Gual

    Thanks, Tia! We have gone through the thought process to decide whether we will send our children back to school on 4/12 and we have decided that they will return to in-person classes as much as the District is willing to provide. Every family’s situation is different and our family decided that the benefits outweighed the risks. These are the factors that were important in our decision:

    – Our world-class testing program in Healthy Davis Together, that integrates a weekly testing schedule into the school week. If there are positive cases in Davis as a result of returning to school we have all the tools to catch them quickly and act. This was the single biggest factor in our decision to return to in-person classes.

    – The excellent culture of compliance in Davis around masks, social distancing, and risk reduction measures, which I have confidence the community will not abandon despite our recently lowered caseload.

    – Teachers and staff have all had the opportunity to be vaccinated, and there has been widespread uptake on vaccination.

    – There has been a lot of learning across the US about best practices for opening safely, and neighboring districts and private schools have been able to re-open safely. I feel comfortable with the scientific community’s recommendations on best practices for re-opening safely.

    – My husband and I are both lucky enough to be healthy, insured, and working from home, and we can minimize our own exposures while our kids are going to in-person classes. If our situation was different we would probably make a different choice.

    – The mental health of everyone in our family – children and adults – will benefit greatly from in-person learning, even if it’s just for 2 months.

    I know this is a controversial topic and the last thing I want to do is post my views in a way that is toxic or feels judgmental. I have a lot of compassion for every family who is making a decision about returning to in-person classes, and also for our teachers, administrators and Board who are providing leadership under incredibly difficult circumstances.

     

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