“I’ve said before that additional rollbacks or closures must remain on the table,” said Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer on Monday. “But at this stage in the pandemic, we believe we have a lot of tools available that if fully utilized should allow us to slow the spread without going back to the more stringent Safer-At-Home orders that were in place earlier in the pandemic.”
Ferrer acknowledged the frustration expressed by some residents at the changing nature of health restrictions as the pandemic has progressed, but said adjustments were made as more was learned about the new virus.
“I’m the first one to admit, you know, how wrong we were when we thought there wasn’t a lot of asymptomatic spread, and how wrong we were when we didn’t think that masking up, wearing cloth face coverings, was going to afford a lot of protection,” she said. “As we move through, I keep top of mind as we continue to learn more about this virus we have to make other adjustments in the future, and that’s just the path that we’re on.”
Many have questioned if the county and state reopened too early. They wondered if decisions were made not due to good scientific data, but because of political pressure. One of them was Democratic California State Senator Steve Glazer.
“Based on testing and hospitalization data,” wrote Glazer in May, “it appears there are more COVID 19 infections today than when sheltering in place began on March 20. If so, why are we loosening restrictions?”
An opinion piece in Monday’s Sacramento Bee asked a similar question about Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to reopen the state in May.
It’s still not clear why Newsom reversed course. Polls showed strong voter support for the shutdown. Yet he rapidly reopened the state in violation of his own guidelines. His shift coincided with the rise of a small but intense protest movement against the shutdown.
Newsom appeared to be “caving in to the vocal minority,” said Elizabeth Ashford, who advised both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown.
“Once you sort of let that … hole in the dam open, it’s going to burst,” Ashford said.
Newsom, Ferrer and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti have each manintained their decisions to reopen were data-driven. Ferrer made a similar evidence-based argument on Monday.
“Right now we’re laser-focused on making sure that people understand that we have some tools at hand that allow us to slow the spread,” she said. “We also know now without a doubt that wearing face coverings really helps protect other people and may in fact protect the wearer.
“We’ve learned. The science is catching up to being able to help us as we produce directives and guidance and as we move forward, we have to take every opportunity to take whatever tools we have right now, use them to our full capacity to slow the spread,” said Ferrer. “There will be more tools in the future and that will change what we’re able to do or not able to do. I am hopeful around changes that will happen around testing…and I’m very hopeful about there being therapeutics and a vaccine.”
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