Opinion by County Supervisor Jim Desmond: Enough is Enough, Governor
Enough is Enough, Governor by San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond
On March 4th, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a State of Emergency for California. The announcement was made for two reasons. One, to slow the spread to protect our vulnerable population. The second was to maintain hospital capacity, to ensure a sufficient supply of beds for those who need them. A key element of the state of emergency was the closure of all but “essential” businesses.
The Governor is now beginning to open some businesses. This is a small, but good step. But much more needs to be done.
Yesterday, Newsom announced his intent to begin phase two, allowing some retail including, clothing stores, florists, bookstores, sporting goods, manufacturing and flower shops to open with curbside pickup. Earlier in the week, the Governor mentioned that some Counties may be able to move past phase two, should they meet specified criteria. We were hopeful with San Diego Counties success to date, we could safely allow even more businesses to open. We learned yesterday, though, that Governor Newsom has established criteria that are almost certainly unachievable anytime in the near future.
San Diego County has a population of 3.3 million. Under the new guidelines, San Diego County would need to have fewer than 330 new cases over 14 days, and also be able to administer 5,000 tests per day. With a countywide population of 3.3 million people, that means if only .01% of the county’s population tests positive, businesses such as restaurants and fitness centers would not be able to open.
Throughout this public health crisis, I have been determined to be guided by the facts. And the facts of public health threat of the novel coronavirus are very real and have been deadly. The steps we have taken have made a difference, and reduced the spread of the disease and provided our health care professionals the tools and facilities they need to combat the virus.
But, there are other important facts that we have learned. For example, in the past seven weeks, 4.1 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits. In San Diego County, businesses are closing and our unemployment rate is now 26%. And that number does not include the many self-employed, facing dramatically declining income, who have not yet filed. An unemployment rate of 26% is a staggering number. The last time our nation has seen such a number was during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
Unemployment and closed businesses are also facts.
As we work to control and eradicate this virus, each person must evaluate the level of risk they will accept. Indeed, we must do that each time we get into our car, or fly in an airplane or even walk on the sidewalk. There is always some small amount of risk in everything we do. For anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable to go outside, or go back to work, they shouldn’t. We should support those who believe they must stay quarantined for the time being and protect those most vulnerable, such as group homes. But we should also recognize that many San Diegans know they must be able to re-open their businesses or else they will never financially recover.