The local community leaders at OpenCalNow are dedicated to a science-based approach to safely reopening the state. We wish Gov. Gavin Newsom would join us because the science says we can reopen safely and now.
What does it mean to follow science?
We know much more about the disease now than we did when the pandemic started. Science shows that children are much less likely to catch the disease, spread the disease, or die from the disease than are the elderly and the sick. Science has taught us that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities. Science has taught us that those with significant underlying conditions are more likely to suffer severe complications from COVID, including death than are generally healthy. Skilled nursing homes and other congregate living facilities in dense, urban settings are more likely hotspots for the disease than are more rural or open living areas.
And we have learned much more.
We have learned that physical distancing, mask-wearing when spacing is difficult, and increased sanitation can slow the spread. We have learned that certain demographic groups are sadly more susceptible to the worst effects of COVID. Finally, we now know that shutting down the economy creates a fear-fueled society. We see the emotional, physical, mental, and financial pain when children cannot go to school. Or when people cannot put food on their tables, provide for their families or plan their future. Our government should not turn the American dreams turn to ashes.
Science tells us those things, and frankly more about COVID. So what does it really mean to “follow” that science? It means that society’s policymakers must use the information science has taught us in making policy decisions. At best, science gives us information; it does not itself direct us with such information. Scientific research can tell us what might happen, depending on what we do. It is up to policymakers to decide, with that information in mind, the appropriate policy choices.
The governor has failed to follow the science.
If he were to use what science taught him, in other words, to “follow the science”, he would allow children back in school. Instead of the government spending staggering amounts of money to prop up a closed economy, it should spend some on sanitizing the schools, keep them safe from COVID, and let the children go back to class. Children were allowed in classrooms throughout the pandemic but only when used as a daycare. Science tells us the virus does not know the difference when the same classroom is used for education.
If the governor were to follow the science, he would know that the virus cannot tell the difference between a government-operated gym in San Francisco and a private gym anywhere else in the state. Yet those government gyms have been open for months, we now learn, while private gyms can only partially reopen when a county meets specific new, wholly made-up metrics imposed by the state.
If the governor were to follow the science, he would know that the virus does not recognize artificial political lines. Yet businesses in rural San Clemente in south Orange County must abide by rules applicable to urban Santa Ana, thirty miles to the north, rather than the rules literally across the city border in San Diego County.
If he were to follow the science, he would know that the virus does not spread easier on an Orange County beach than on any other beach in California. He does not follow the science to close only Orange County beaches. He does not follow science to close malls but allow big box stores to flourish through the pandemic.
All of this is arbitrary. It cannot, in any way, be said to be driven by science.
Following the science means learning from science and then applying it. There is no reason science gives us to impose the same rules on the healthy as on the sick or different government gyms and Costco’s than on private gyms and mom-and-pop stores.
Instead of paying people not to work, spend the money helping the elderly and immuno-compromised among us with groceries, medicine, telehealth, safe transit to essential places, and other necessaries to protect them while they distance. We would spend a lot less money doing so, and the rest of us could get back to work.
Instead of pretending that children don’t need in-person education and that distance learning is “learning,” we should use resources to get kids safely back in their classes while protecting at-risk teachers and students. Any parent unwilling to return a child to the classroom can opt-out and be given assistance to bridge the digital divide.
Instead of imposing misery on everyone, we follow science by focusing on resources where science teaches us those resources are best spent. California can safely and smartly open now — if the governor would follow the science. If you follow the science and want to reopen safely, please sign the petition at OpenCalNow.com
Donald Wagner is a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.