Why the virus is resurging in the US

This article describes how California went from being lauded for the way it controlled the outbreak to now being one of the states where there is a resurgence.

The Newsom administration’s four-phase plan to reopen slowly, while encouraging Californians to remain vigilant about wearing face coverings and maintaining distance to stop the spread of disease seemed “perfectly good and smart”, [Dr Bob Wachter, who chairs the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco] said.

“But what I think we didn’t get right was the national political scene,” he said. California, despite its reputation as a progressive state, wasn’t immune to a growing conservative movement that rejects face masks as muzzles on independence and vilifies public health officials as enemies of the people.

In Orange county, where more than 15,000 people have been infected, health director Nichole Quick resigned in mid-June after being confronted with a banner depicting her as a Nazi, protests outside her house and personal threats. Quick had issued an order requiring residents to wear masks in public, which the county sheriff insisted he wouldn’t enforce. After she became the third high-level health official in Orange county to quit, the county quickly reversed Quick’s order – recommending, but not insisting that residents wear masks.

By the Memorial Day holiday Californians “thought they were safe to just have parties, go to overcrowded beaches, to get close to other people and take off their masks”, said Lee Riley, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “People began to fixate on individual liberties without understanding that one of the most fundamental civil liberties in the US is the right to health – the right to stay alive.”

Demographic data suggests that younger people, between the ages of 18 and 50, are fueling the current wave of infections, accounting for nearly 60% of cases statewide. “Maybe they feel invincible, so they go out to bars, they gather in big groups,” Riley said. “But then they can spread the virus to their grandmas and grandpas, their parents, their buddies with asthma or diabetes, who are more vulnerable.”

Among the hardest-hit regions are rural counties in the south and the Central Valley, where farmworkers have been toiling through each stage of this pandemic. California is referred to “the breadbasket of the world” for good reason: it is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food and agricultural commodities.

One can hardly blame the farmworkers who have been deemed to be essential though it is a a scandal that their employers have not provided them with sufficient safety measures to prevent the spread.

It appears that the greatest risk is when you are indoors with others. If you are out in the open, then the risk of the virus spreading is reduced, provided you still wear masks and try and maintain some distance from others. There is apparently a saying in the public health community that “The solution to pollution is dilution”, and when you are outside where there is plenty of air circulating, the virus concentration gets reduced quickly.

Of course there are limits even there. Companies used that saying to justify them dumping their industrial waste into rivers and lakes and oceans as being a safe thing to do but they did it in such great quantities that the waters became highly polluted and even sometimes caught fire. So one still needs to take precautions even if outside. What is inexcusable is to refuse to take even the most minimal precautions in order to make a political statement.


  1. seachange says

    You are new to California, but farms here have always treated their workers very poorly. The University of California is constitutionally the fourth branch of government here, and since California became independent with some very large tracts of land “already owned” in the western sense, it’s agricultural extensions have always been not for the small farmer but for the huge ones and involve factory-style work and exploitation.
    Very little of the price of what you pay for California produce is going to the farmer or the supermarket. If the distributors like the Yucaipa Companies paid the farmers more and cost the supermarkets less, they’d both be able to treat their workers better and still make a nice profit even if the price us consumers paid didn’t change. Maybe.

    It’s a sad fact that if consumers pay more for certain kinds of things that they particularly want not much of it is added directly onto what the farmer or supermarket get.

    There’s a reason there are four California holidays celebrating union organizers. This is nothing new. If you have a farmer’s market there in the central coast consider going there instead.

  2. DrVanNostrand says

    Vox has a similar article about CA. The NYT Daily podcast also discussed some recent research about outdoor spreading this morning. The recent studies suggest the risk indoors is about 20x compared to outdoors. It definitely makes me feel good about my walks in the woods.

    As an aside, I second the farmers market recommendation. When I lived in the Bay Area, they had the best farmer’s markets. They were open 12 months a year, and there was always plenty of local produce in season. Now I’m in the northeast and the farmer’s market runs about 3.5 months. Very sad.

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