Prioritize public health over financial well-being

STATE AFFAIRS: Science and safety should decide when CA reopens, not public appeasement

Illustration of a street with people seen through the windows of buildings and COVID-19 viruses outside
Lily Callender/Staff

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There is no current vaccine for the coronavirus; there is a deficit of personal protective equipment and a well-known limit on testing nationwide, so reopening the state in the coming week is premature.

In light of pressure to alleviate the economic turmoil stemming from extended shelter-in-place orders, California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a detailed four-part plan to eventually reopen the state, with schools and retail businesses possibly opening to some capacity as soon as July. Although California’s swift and broad measures, including the strict shelter-in-place orders, successfully flattened hospitalization and intensive care admission rates, Newsom’s plan could jeopardize the state’s progress.

New research has unearthed concerning symptoms in children and young adults with no underlying health conditions, including skin rashes in the form of pseudo-frostbites and blisters on children. Young adults are suffering from blood clotting and severe strokes. The coronavirus’ total number of symptoms is still unknown, and opening public spaces so soon will put more people at risk of the unexpected.

As research continues to reveal new information, the government must remain vigilant in its response, and citizens must adhere to social distancing measures until we have more clarity on how the population will be affected.

It is up to our elected officials to make decisions that will protect the population, and it is up to the rest of us to listen. Opening schools and retail businesses to encourage a return to normalcy is fruitless without the tools necessary to maintain public safety, and that includes a holistic view of all possible information about the virus.

Shelter-in-place orders can mitigate the effects of this public health crisis, but it is no secret that economic hardship is a natural consequence. Instead of reopening the economy, however, state officials should be advocating for increased federal assistance to help small business owners. Indefinite closure is understandably troubling, but a pandemic of this scale is more than enough reason for the federal government to financially support those who need it.

As the present and future effects of the coronavirus permeate every aspect of normalcy, California must not cave in to public demands and reopen too early. Public health should be at the forefront of this decision.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2020 opinion editor, Simmy Khetpal.