Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

No More Haircuts; Entrance Screening at Shops - ICU Drops Below 15% in Southern California, Triggering State's Stay Home Order

Barbara Ferrer, the County's Non-medical doctor public health director, claims we can prevent more suffering if we do 'what we know how to do'

December 6 - Over the weekend, ICU remaining capacity at hospitals in the Southern California region dipped below 15%, triggering a new set of of closures in various sectors of the community. The new restrictions will take effect Sunday, December 6 at 11:59 pm.

Governor Newsom had warned last week that if ICU capacity at hospitals in a designated area, such as Southern California, dropped below 15% remaining capacity, the state's Regional Stay Home Order would kick in. On December 5, Southern California's remaining ICU capacity had fallen to 12.5%.

The state's order, to which the LA County Department of Public Health will align, will now close hair salons, barber shops and personal care services. So if you wanted your hair cut, you'd better do it today. It also calls for entrance metering at retail stores and setting aside special hours for seniors and those with chronic conditions. Hotels are only allowed to operate for critical infrastructure support.

Additional closures include:

• Indoor and outdoor playgrounds

• Indoor recreational facilities

• Hair salons and barbershops

• Personal care services

• Museums, zoos, and aquariums

• Movie theaters

• Wineries

• Bars, breweries, and distilleries

• Family entertainment centers

• Cardrooms and satellite wagering

• Limited services as defined by the state

• Live audience sports

• Amusement parks

If this list looks confusing, it is. Most of these sectors have already been closed or have never been opened since March. But providing the long list makes it look like officials are doing something. The infection rates and hospitalization statistics are creating new all-time highs every day. The county's health department reported yesterday 8,948 new cases of COVID-19, with a 3-day average of 8,467 new cases per day. 23% of these people are in the hospital, more people hospitalized for the novel coronavirus than at any time so far in the pandemic. It was the fifth consecutive day the number of hospitalizations surpassed an all-time high. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health, predicted on Saturday that 10% of the newly affected will end up requiring hospitalization two weeks from now. If even 20% of these hospitalizations require ICU care, that would result in the need for 1,000 staffed ICU beds.

Ferrer went on to blame the public for the surge and to claim that it was possible for residents to stem this cascade. "And if we all can't get behind the existing directives to stay home as much as possible and avoid all non-essential activities and places where you are likely to be in contact with non-household members, we are likely to bear witness to one of the worst healthcare crises our county has seen in our lifetime. The reality is we can still prevent the continued increases in people suffering and dying if we focus all of our collective will on doing what we know how to do."

The public is not to blame for the surge. It was a seasonal and predicted reality. LA County has been operating on a severely limited regimen for almost nine months now. Masks have been required in public for every day of that time, as has social distancing. Alleged irresponsible behavior on the part of the people who pay Ferrer's high salary is not to blame here.

It is also patently false that the public can in any way stem this tide. The 30,000 or more patients currently suffering from COVID-19 in LA County have already infected that many and more. The horses have already been let out of the barn, and there is no getting them back at this point. Can we make matters worse? Probably. But we can in no way make matters any better.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly infectious and appears to transmit primarily via the air. Since humanity has never before encountered this virus there is no immunity to it. Until the virus is completely extinguished, it will continue to travel through the population. Unless a viable vaccine becomes widely administered or until everyone already contracts the disease, it will continue to move through the population, at varying rates of speed depending on how much person-to-person contact occurs. But since we live in a highly interdependent society, and since we have powerful, biological social needs, it is impossible, for all practical purposes, to wipe the virus out by preventing social contact. Attempting to do so will result - and has already resulted, in even further damage to the population, through unemployment, poverty, despair, and other untreated diseases.


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