The impact of Covid-19 in California
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
by Anthony Boynton
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area which has imposed the strictest public health measures of any place in the United States. The public health officers of Six Bay Area counties, now 10 Bay Area counties, imposed strict regulations closing all bars, movie theaters, conventions, schools, and non-essential businesses. Non-essential travel is prohibited as well. Grocery and drug stores remain open, public transportation continues (although less BART trains are running). Social distancing, by which is meant staying a distance of 6 feet or two meters from the nearest person, is strongly encouraged.
People had been told by authoritative figures in the local and national media to avoid buying and wearing garden variety surgical masks allegedly because they do no good, but really because they were in short supply. (They reduce but do not eliminate the risk of infection.)
These measures have been taken because the United States, including this area, does not have the capacity for massive testing and tracking down the histories of people who are found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.
China combined the type of measures implemented here with massive testing and epidemiological tracking throughout Hubei, and they added travel domestic and international travel restrictions.
South Korea was able to used massive testing because its pharmaceutical industry began stock-piling test kits before the epidemic hit that country. It devoted the resources to use epidemiological tracking combined with social distancing and massive use of other measures such as the wearing of surgical masks which were given away free to bring the first wave of contagion under control.
Unfortunately, places like the United States reacted slowly and have not yet developed the capacity for massive testing. Trump’s announcement of a massive testing program in his declaration of a national emergency has yet to materialize and has no real date set for it to be implemented.
Here in the Bay Area, Kaiser hospitals – the most important HMO in the USA, has set up drive through testing centers. Sounds great, but they are by appointment only, and tests are being rationed because they have so few testing kits. Only people who have serious symptoms and to people who have been in contact with a person who is already known to be infected are given appointments.
The point of the measures taken in the Bay Area is not to treat the virus, not to prevent deaths, and not to reduce the number of people infected. It is to delay and slow down the spread of the infection to prevent the hospitals, particularly the Intensive Care Units, from being overwhelmed by a massive influx of acutely ill patients.
In the absence of medical capacity, the Bay Area’s public health measures make sense. They should be supported.
At the same time, the absence of capacity to test, to track, to provide surgical masks, and above all to provide ICU care to large numbers of people is a scandal and an indictment of the for-profit medical care system not to mention the Democrats who lead California and the jackasses in Washington.
Afterword, by David Walters
The California is unique because we were the first recipients of travelers from China. It is also unique that we have the largest Asian population in the country. Asians include mostly Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans and make up 13% of the state. In the larger metropolitan areas it is up to 30%. Anti-Asian hatred has increased, but not in a very serious way as of yet. As is typical in the US, and with the help of the Trump administration, making this Virus the "Chinese Virus" is especially hurtful. Fortunately few have picked up on this and like most of Trump’s missives, are rejected even by his supporters.
Lastly, the U.S. has shrunk it’s stable of hospital beds tremendously. It has gone down by ½ since the 1970s. As many as several million American residents could possibly die from this virus, but the numbers are too early to tell right now. Stay tuned ...
Anthony Boynton is a Marxist historian and David Walters is one of the administrators of the Marxists Internet Archive. Both of them live in the San Francisco area.