As Californians awoke Monday morning to a new set of restrictions on public gatherings, and to bad news from Wall Street, President Donald Trump tweeted “God Bless the USA!” This just two days after he declared a “National Day of Prayer for all Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic.”
Yes, the nation could use some blessings and some prayers about now. But it will take more than that to stop the spread of a dangerous microbe that has infected people in almost every state amid dithering and bumbling from the White House. Epidemiological modeling predicts that the U.S. is on a course to reach the level of COVID-19 infections currently seen in Italy soon unless we undertake rapid and robust interventions. There’s a real risk that more people will need treatment than our healthcare system can handle.
That’s why we are grateful that, in the absence of a coherent national strategy, Gov. Gavin Newson has stepped forward. On Sunday afternoon, Newsom called on bars and nightclubs to close immediately and asked restaurants to exercise “extreme social distancing.” He also said that the state’s 5.3 million people 65 years and older or with chronic conditions should remain in “home isolation” for the immediate future, and he promised more guidance for the school districts in the state that have opted to remain open so far.
But what the governor did not do — and has generally refrained from doing since COVID-19 turned up in California — is use his authority to impose closures and social distancing statewide as some other governors have done. Instead, he is putting his faith in citizens and local governments doing the right thing.
We hope his faith is not misplaced. Confirmed COVID-19 infections are growing rapidly in California and the rest of the nation.
Yet too many people seem blithely unconcerned about the danger posed by the novel coronavirus that has killed thousands of people globally and is still spreading at a frightening pace. U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), for example, told viewers on Fox News Sunday that it was a “great time to go out” and that they should “go to your local pub.” That’s shockingly bad advice.
To their credit, others leaders are appropriately concerned. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti responded to the governor’s appeal quickly, announcing Sunday night that he was using his executive power to order bars and nightclubs to temporarily shut down at midnight. Garcetti’s order went even further by requiring restaurants limit service to take out, delivery and drive-through patrons and ordering theaters, gyms, bowling alley and other entertainment venues to close. Garcetti didn’t, however, impose stay-at-home restrictions for people over 65, as the governor suggested; he did not say why.
In any case, we need more details about what “home isolation” means. (Can seniors take neighborhood walks or drive to the ATM for cash?) And we need plan to ensure that older people and those with health conditions stuck at home have access to food and adequate support.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES