Jul 13, 2020
The caseload of coronavirus in California has exploded. In the two-week period between June 23 and July 6, close to 100,000 people tested positive for the disease. Hospitalizations increased by 43% in that same two-week period.
California, however, is not yet in the same crisis as other states, such as Arizona and Florida. While the rate at which coronavirus tests are confirming infections in California is 7%, in Arizona it’s 24%, and in Florida it’s 16%. California’s lower rate of infection is due to measures that the state took in the first stages of the epidemic.
California had been one of the first states to get hit by the virus. Silicon Valley, south of San Francisco, was a major hot spot, seeded by travelers arriving from China. In response, counties across the Bay Area announced the nation’s first stay-at-home order on March 16. Three days later, Governor Gavin Newsom extended that order statewide.
Early action allowed infection rates to stabilize at levels well below experts’ dire predictions. Military field hospitals and sports arenas and auditoriums that had been mobilized in case of a shortage of hospital beds were unnecessary.
But by early May, despite the warnings of public health officials that an early and wide re-opening would fuel a much bigger outbreak, big hotels, resorts, restaurant chains, and big farm growers, hungry to make a profit, as well as Trump supporters and their allies, who always opposed the shutdown, pushed for an early reopening. Members of the Republican National Committee filed more than a dozen lawsuits challenging the lockdown. So did many churches.
Leading this campaign was Elon Musk, the head of Tesla Motors. Musk railed against his Bay Area car factory shut down and threatened to move the company’s headquarters out of California. He became a high-profile purveyor of misinformation about the virus, regularly promoting false messaging to his more than 34 million Twitter followers, lending his voice to far-right fringe political movements equating public health measures with government oppression, referring to shelter-in-place orders as “fascist” and tweeting messages such as, “FREE AMERICA NOW.”
Local governments, under the direct pressure of big employers and churches, ordered reopenings, in defiance of state rules. Musk defied health officials and opened the Tesla assembly plant. Meanwhile, sheriffs in Riverside and Orange counties announced they wouldn’t enforce social-distancing regulations, showing how little control elected officials had on them.
In response to this ever-widening chaotic and dangerous reopening, Newsom caved. On May 7, he announced a system for counties to reopen one-by-one, ceding control of much of the timing of reopening to local officials, similar to what Trump had done in relation to the states. The result was a disastrous, decentralized, haphazard process that sowed confusion and gave residents a false sense that they were in the clear.
Thus, as predicted by health officials, the virus quietly spread. Within a matter of weeks infection rates creeped upward. Large indoor gatherings triggered multi-generational COVID-19 outbreaks.
So, the effect of many of the sacrifices that people made during the early months to contain the spread of the disease has been lost. And more shutdowns are in the works.
In California, just as in most of the rest of the U.S., the capitalist drive for the profit of a few leads to anarchy and chaos, paving the way for the worsening pandemic.