It’s time to end the state of emergency over COVID-19

Did you see the size of the funeral for George Floyd—the church was packed.  Notice the demonstrations and riots, thousands of people shoulder to shoulder.  A month before folks waving American flags held rallies across the nation, with thousands in attendance—please note the attendees did not have an epidemic of the virus.  In fact, not a single news story about the lack of the virus among the Americans in those rallies.

“Because of the uncertainty and unpreparedness and the anticipated need for local mutual aid, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4.  This declaration gave unlimited powers to health officers, both locally and at the state level, to slow the virus. The orders requiring Californians to stay at home and shutting schools and businesses relied on these rare and unchecked public health powers. Under a state of emergency, no one can overrule a health officer’s orders, not their bosses, not the legislatures and not the governor. 

After months of living with COVID-19, we have more certainty. The virus is 10 times less fatal than we first thought. The vast majority who catch it will have mild or no symptoms. Children are largely spared.

California counties have not needed mutual health aid. Hospitals retooled quickly for a tsunami that never came. California hospitals have about 40% of their beds empty. Re-opening in steps is safe if we carefully watch new hospitalizations. If another wave comes, hospitals are prepared”

If shelter in place was going to save us, why did the Supreme Leader allow the demonstrations and riots of the past week?  The policy was not for our safety—it was to see who gullible we would be to believe him and his experts—we now know they were wrong.

It’s time to end the state of emergency over COVID-19

By Rajiv Bhatia and Jeffrey Klausner, Special to CalMatters, 6/9/20  

In March, Californians needed a state of emergency on COVID-19 because the virus was unfamiliar and our health system was unprepared. California is now prepared. It’s time to end the emergency, return the decisions to the people, and bring in more perspectives, more questions and more oversight.

COVID-19 was not an earthquake. It was an emergency only of uncertainty and unpreparedness. When it arrived, we didn’t know how fatal it was or how quickly it would spread, and we feared that it would overwhelm our hospitals. 

Because of the uncertainty and unpreparedness and the anticipated need for local mutual aid, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4.  This declaration gave unlimited powers to health officers, both locally and at the state level, to slow the virus. The orders requiring Californians to stay at home and shutting schools and businesses relied on these rare and unchecked public health powers. Under a state of emergency, no one can overrule a health officer’s orders, not their bosses, not the legislatures and not the governor. 

After months of living with COVID-19, we have more certainty. The virus is 10 times less fatal than we first thought. The vast majority who catch it will have mild or no symptoms. Children are largely spared.

California counties have not needed mutual health aid. Hospitals retooled quickly for a tsunami that never came. California hospitals have about 40% of their beds empty. Re-opening in steps is safe if we carefully watch new hospitalizations. If another wave comes, hospitals are prepared. 

Infections will smolder along whether we reopen or not. The spread is a natural progression of the epidemic across California geographies. The virus does not land everywhere at once; it finds a susceptible group, moves from person to person within limited transmission networks often extinguishing itself on its own.  Our epidemic curve does not look substantially different than most other states. We have a stable share of tests turning positive. Medical visits for respiratory infections are lower today than at the same time last year. 

Public health is better prepared with testing centers and contact tracing. Good hygiene and bread and butter public health can control COVID-19. South Korea brought their epidemic under control with scaled-up testing and public awareness alone. 

We should be thankful that we have the breathing room. Making decisions about our livelihoods, our schools and our freedoms is too important to be made by a small circle of people. 

The collateral damage from the emergency public health orders has hit every aspect of our lives. Our children are out of school with no clear prospect of returning; businesses are declaring bankruptcy; millions of workers are unemployed; and with extra unemployment assistance ending, thousands may be facing hunger and homelessness. 

In most states, public health officials do not have unchecked powers but play an advisory role, bringing scientific evidence to the table. If we need to extend economic restrictions or bring them back, the officers can still bring their expertise to the sunlight of our legislative chambers. We should have the economists have a say and know what’s happening to our budgets and other social programs. We should hear from the pediatricians and teachers on how children will fare. We should have a public record of science and facts.

The governor can end the emergency today with a stroke of the pen. The Legislature could do this with resolutions passed by the state Senate and the Assembly. If there are reasons to extend the emergency, we the people should be told.

In democracies, emergencies that give extraordinary powers to a few people should never be prolonged. We declared an emergency to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s June and California is prepared. So, isn’t it time to end the emergency? Or, if not now, when?

_____

Dr. Rajiv Bhatia is an affiliated assistant clinical professor of Medicine at Stanford University. He is a former deputy health officer for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, [email protected]. Dr. Jeffrey Klausner is a professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a former medical officer for the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and a former deputy health officer at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, [email protected]. Klausner has also written about California’s shelter-at-home-policy and the sexually transmitted disease crisis. They wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. Really??? says

    OH now end the shut down??????!!!!!!!!!

    But that will take away the power and control of the Confederate State Slick Newsom!

    That will make the closing down of streets and transportation routes away from them. Never let a crisis go to waste.

    That will take away the bully pulpit, that keeps the truth from being broadcast on TV and radio.

    End it with a stroke of a pen? Does that mean the Legislature is unnecessary? Does that mean dictatorship is the future??????? Sure it is if you vot Democrat.

  2. Otis Needleman says

    This was all political after two weeks – enough time to see the hot spots, than quarantine the hot spots and buffer zones and let everyone else go back to work/school/whatever, using reasonable precautions. But, NOOO….turned into a power play by a bunch of little Hitlers.

    Good thing out of this – we now know just how far these little Hitlers will go to keep their boots on our necks. NO cooperation next time. And recall Newsom.

  3. I see it much differently since I am in the medical field and can see/hear through what has been called for and info reported.

    Unfortunately, the President was banboozeled by Fauci and Birx from the start, even though he thought the virus was of little concern. He could not fire either, having a high position for so long, and he is not a doctor. Just the President when it comes to medicine.

    It was known from a week into the virus that Hydroxychloroquin was very effective, along with Z-Pak and Zinc, as proven and reported on by the study from France and many American physicians, as well.

    But the nation had to listen to the “experts” who discounted Hydroxychloroquin all along, especially after the President announced his confidence in the potential of this drug. It became a political issue, not a medical one. So, 110,000 Americans to date have died needlessly.

    The Americans are still not being given the truth and the correct information on this virus.

    Going into quarantine for 14 days is a death sentence for many, young and old. Those are the ones that end up needing hospitalization and ventilators. This is still being advised by the CDC and California Health Department. NO!!!!

    Americans should be advised clearly that treating this virus EARLY is the key. Spreading it is not the issue. Once you have a fever, you should see your doctor. Testing at this point would be appropriate with all the testing equipment available. In any case, one would need to expect and demand treatment immediately with Hydroxychloroquin and Z-Pak and Zinc. The virus will disappear as quickly as it would have killed you. It is all about the inflammationl process. Waiting for any longer than two days will allow inflammation to become an inflammatory syndrome, thereby taking a strong hold on anyone. Those weaker cannot bounce back easily or quickly. But if acted on in one or two days, this virus is treatable, unlike the regular “flu”, which is not and many die from it each year. That fact is being ignored.

    All pharmacies now can fill prescriptions for Hydroxychloroquin for two weeks from your doctor without a problem. That is all you need to do. That is all you need to know. No problem. No fear.

    Period. End of virus and end of pandemic story.
    Now take that stupid mask off unless you need to rob a bank and get back to work!

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