Weren’t we told we needed to go into an economic lockdown so that the hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed?
And didn’t we all agree and obey? And haven’t we accomplished that goal spectacularly well? According the news coverage lately, including this issue of the Business Journal, hospitals are not being overrun. In fact, they’re seeing fewer patients than normal. The chief executive at Adventist Simi Valley Hospital, for example, reported her overall admissions are down 35 percent.
So why are Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom easing the economic restrictions so very grudgingly and now resetting the goal posts?
Let’s remember that all the talk a couple months ago about “bending the curve” wasn’t about you and me forever avoiding exposure to the coronavirus. Sadly, that’s not likely for anyone who has even a teensy bit more social contact than Ted Kaczynski. It was about us delaying any exposure to it. The big fear was that if we all got COVID-19 at once, hospitals would be overrun by patients, there wouldn’t be enough ventilators for everyone and an outsized number of deaths would follow.
So, the thought was, let’s stop going to work for a while to slow the quick spread of the coronavirus. We can’t stop it; that’s not reasonable. But we can slow it down so that more of us will get COVID-19 later rather than sooner. Bending the curve meant creating more COVID-19 patients in May, June and July so everyone wouldn’t show up at the emergency room in early April. It was all about managing the flow at hospitals.
But now that we have successfully bent the curve and the frantic worry about hospitals and ventilators has abated, the goal has changed. Completely. Now, our political leaders are saying they won’t reopen the economy until… well, they won’t say. They’ve come up with all manner of vague markers. Oh, sure, they say they’ll definitely allow businesses to reopen when there’s a vaccine, but that could be a year away, if ever. In the meantime, they claim they’ll ease restrictions when there’s a sustained decrease of COVID-19 patients. But that won’t happen for a long time because we were so successful at bending that curve, which means a sustained flow of patients probably for months. We sacrificed to achieve their bending-the-curve goal, and now the mayor and governor are punishing us for it.
If you want another example of new, vague markers, just look at the governor’s four-step plan to reopen the economy, which on its face is remarkable for having absolutely no timetable. One part says the “modifications” to his stay-at-home order – not even the end of it – will be “guided by health risk and a commitment to equity.” No, I don’t know what that means. I think it means whenever the governor wants to. Maybe never. Or at least not until the November elections.
Because of this utter lack of clarity, there’s no way to know when the economy will reopen. It’s bad enough to move the goalposts on us, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Governor. But gee, couldn’t you tell us where you put them?
The really big problem is the economic annihilation that is resulting from the extended lockdown. The loss of jobs, the lack of investment, the crushed dreams, bankrupt businesses and destroyed savings are becoming devastating. And those problems get exponentially worse, life altering, the longer this lockdown lingers.
Many political types stand in front of cameras and say they appreciate those concerns, but they clearly don’t. Our political leaders know about running an economy as much as those guys on “Tiger King” know about Verdi opera.
I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Economic despair breeds alcoholism, domestic abuse, drug use and suicide. Who knows how many deaths will accrue in the coming years? Some have tried to make the case that the lockdowns eventually may cost more lives than the coronavirus.
I can only speak for myself, but I gladly signed up to help bend the curve. It made sense. We needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. We have accomplished that goal. I did not sign up for a lingering economic lockdown with no end date and no clear purpose.