Last week, despite COVID-19’s continued prevalence across the state, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted California’s stay-at-home orders, allowing for outdoor dining and beauty salons, among many other services, to resume operations. It’s no doubt that many Californians are likely eager to return to a remote sense of normalcy, given that the state has been on lockdown since last December due to low ICU capacity.
However, if the goal is to reopen safely, then this is simply not the right time to do so. With ICU capacity at just 7 percent in both Los Angeles and San Diego and total deaths in the state creeping toward 40,000, regaining the ability to go out for brunch seems a little menial, if not tone-deaf.
If Californians want a chance at climbing out of the deep hole they’ve fallen into, they should continue to minimize nonessential outings until vaccines are distributed at higher volumes, instead of adding to the already growing problem.
The state has begun to roll out vaccines on a tier-based system, prioritizing health care workers and the elderly. With roughly 120,000 Californians getting vaccinated each day, it would seem as though the state is in much better shape than it was when the stay-at-home order was initially mandated back in December. However, it seems as though we shouldn’t let our guard down yet, when you take into consideration that one does not begin to develop immunity until roughly 12 days after receiving the first dose, and full immunity does not take effect until 28 days after.
Governor Newsom did acknowledge this in his announcement of state re-openings on Monday, stating that, “We are not out of the woods. We are seeing a flattening of the curve.” However, his failure to disclose the scientific evidence that he consulted in coming to the decision to reopen the state has put him under public scrutiny this past week. If we’re not out of the woods, then what makes it safe to open up?
Especially considering the increasing severity of the virus, it seems a lot safer to continue avoiding unnecessary outings. Many experts have begun recommending layering two face masks over each other when leaving the house for maximum protection, in light of the discovery of highly transmissible COVID-19 variants. Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated on the “Today” show this past Monday that wearing two masks “just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.”
The fact that despite all we, as a nation, have been through in the past year, medical professionals are only coming forward with the recommendation of wearing two masks now just goes to show how grave the situation is, even if Newsom’s new order contradicts that.
Furthermore, Los Angeles, which was deemed the most dangerous place in the U.S. just a few weeks ago, had to alter their air quality regulations to keep up with COVID-19-related deaths. The emergency order calling for the suspension of cremation limits was implemented on Jan. 17, and has since been expanded to Orange County as well.
It’s astounding that this reopening of the state is dependent on ICU projections rather than what is actually happening right now. To put things in perspective, last April, California had an average of roughly 1,100 new COVID-19 cases per week. As of January 2021, that number has been slowly declining from around 30,000.
While it’s true that we are gradually flattening the curve, the magnitude of cases now compared to back in April is shocking, especially when you compare public behavior at both times. In April, very few people left their homes for non-essential purposes, and instead, most followed guidelines and stayed home. Now, when the rates are nearly 30 times worse than back then, we’ve had the complete opposite reaction.
The difference, quite frankly, is that people are sick and tired, which is understandable after almost a year of this “half life.” But is a few more months of strict lockdown not better than another year?
Think of countries like Australia and Japan — who implemented some of the strictest stay at home orders at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, although there are still a few cases here and there, they have returned to a level of normalcy that the U.S. hasn’t seen in almost a year. People are able to go to restaurants and even concerts without second thought, because they eradicated the large-scale spread of the virus with such strict lockdowns, and they continued to wear masks.
The bottom line is yes, with increased vaccine production, it seems as though we are nearly out of the woods. However, that does not at all mean that we should let our guard down in the slightest. At the end of the day, the decision ultimately falls upon the individual, as it often has, to protect themself and others.
We can’t undo Newsoms decision to reopen California, but we can help to make sure that it doesn’t worsen our already bad condition by continuing to avoid nonessential outings and wearing masks at all times. I get it, going out for brunch sounds like a dream right now, especially after being cooped up at home for so long. But trust me, the wait will be well worth it if we can avoid having to continue this endless cycle of shutting down and reopening our cities.