Opinion: Our leaders were repeatedly wrong about the coronavirus

OPINION

BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor

We were told that this shutdown would last three weeks. We were told that the coronavirus was 10 times more deadly than the flu.

On both counts, our leaders were wrong. The death rate is equal to the flu and the shutdown is now in its eighth week.

Remember our governor telling us that the shutdown was to flatten the curve? And that there would be a shortage of hospital beds? And we didn’t have enough respirators?

Wrong on all counts.

The news media played its role, irresponsibly scaring the hell out of people, turning a sizable portion of Americans into hypochondriacs.

One thing is true, we all gave up our constitutional rights without a fight.

Little totalitarians

In fact, the shutdown has brought out the totalitarian tendencies of many people. Look how quickly people are calling 911 to report those who get too close to one another while walking along a sidewalk. Everywhere it seems there’s a Barbecue Becky ready to call the police about somebody not wearing a mask.

And this shutdown will continue for months. Under orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom, restaurants cannot reopen dining rooms until the county has one or fewer new COVID-19 cases per 10,000 for at least two weeks.

That’s not going to happen for months because the counties are ramping up testing. Those tests will predictably find more cases. There’s no containing a virus.

The best course of action is to isolate and protect the vulnerable and reopen the rest of society. We had nearly 80,000 die during the 2017-18 flu season and no businesses were shut down, and nobody was forced to work from home.

Arbitrary decisions

There’s a capricious and arbitrary nature to the stay-at-home orders the state and counties have been issuing. Last week, all Bay Area counties except for Santa Clara entered into what Newsom calls Phase 2, where a few types of retailers can reopen, such as car dealers (got to keep that sales tax flowing), florists, shoe stores and sporting goods.

Santa Clara County didn’t explain why it was sticking with Phase 1 and taking a slower path than the other counties. Since all these government experts say their decisions are based on data and evidence, surely they can produce the data and evidence that backs up their decision?

Remember, this is the same county that couldn’t figure out whether to require people to wear masks.

A class divide

Peggy Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, noted that there is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back.

“We see the professionals on one side — those James Burnham called the managerial elite, and Michael Lind, in ‘The New Class War’ calls ‘the overclass’ — and the other people on the other side,” Noonan writes. “The overclass are highly educated and exert outside influence as managers and leaders of important institutions — hospitals, companies, state houses. The normal people aren’t connected through professional or social lines to power structures, and they have regular jobs — service worker, small-business owner.”

Noonan points out that since the beginning of the pandemic, the overclass has been in charge — scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants — calling the shots for average people.

The overclass is protected. They won’t miss a paycheck. The regular people, who have had harder lives than those who are now determining their fate, are willing to reopen the economy. They know there will be deaths from the virus either way. But reopening will mean fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures, fewer unemployed and ruined lives. They’re willing to take the risks. They’re always the ones who take the risks. Nobody sent them to Yale.

Noonan says that the regular people look at the overclass and think, “You have no idea what tough is. You don’t know what painful is. And if you don’t know, why should you have so much say?”

The overclass says, wait three months and we’ll be safe. The regular people say, based on their own experiences, that there’s no such thing as safe.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is price@padailypost.com.

Previous columns

May 14Gov. Newsom, when does this ‘moment’ end?

April 22Time to carefully reopen California

March 6This illness might just surprise you

26 Comments

  1. Newsom made bold decisions to flatten the curve so the health care system was not overwhelmed, and his approach was successful. Now you’re criticizing him for a job well done.

  2. Keep the reopening slow. I’m making more money now, thanks to unemployment checks, than I did when i was working, plus no rent is due. So lets extend the SIP. Every life counts.

  3. This column is opinion indeed. Why do you think we avoided needing all those beds and respirators? It wasn’t because of the “moderate” virus…it was because of the aggressive actions of our governor, our leaders, and our citizens. And we DON’T know the mortality rate (based on your own observation) that testing is both lagging and inaccurate. Anyone still comparing this in any way to the flu is ignorant at best.

  4. Mr. Price, nicely done. A really nice summary of reality. I am horrified that they are basing decisions on number of cases, when the recovery rate is above 99%. Government does not “allow” us to make a living, exercise self-determination, or be with our loved ones during times of celebration and grief; we have those rights every moment we are American citizens. We allow them to govern us, and we are supposed to be on our toes when they cross a line. We have never given them this much power before. Will they ever give it up? And for the first time in my lifetime, people do not all agree that our rights are valuable!! How the hell did that happen? For those that want to stay closed, even now, and until July/August, how can you ask an entire community to stop for you? Maybe you are scared, but others are not, and are willing to take the risks that go along with living life. How can you ask graduating seniors to give up their graduation ceremonies (even “covid-safer” ceremonies, with all the buzz-words included) for you? How can you ask people to let their loved ones die alone for you? To watch their aging parents wither with loneliness, for you? How can you ask every wedding to be cancelled or postponed, every funeral, every deeply human experience to be lost, for you? When you drive along a street in the coming weeks and months (hopefully not months) and see empty building after empty building, with for sale signs or for lease signs, just remember that you helped make that happen by supporting the mandate that everyone stay home for week NINE.

    • Since the death rate is below 1%, then the recovery rate is 99%.

      It works like this, Maren:

      100 – 1 = 99

      Need a source? Pull out your calculator and run the numbers yourself. Or call your second-grade teacher.

  5. Mr. Price, I’ve been reading your editorials with interest. However, in Monday’s POST (5/18/20), I’m disturbed that you are comparing apples to oranges. Please don’t compare a regular flu season (80,000 deaths without shutting down) to the COVID season, when there’s a similar death number but virtually the entire country stayed home for weeks. I remember the pundits saying it could be 2M or even more deaths, but I distinctly remember them saying: that is, unless we shelter-in-place. The reason CA has flattened the curve is because residents cooperated, not because Newsom was wrong. When our leaders make these statements, it is based on modeling that offers some valid predictions, but isn’t able to predict human behavior, the one big unknown. Yes, we’ve paid the price in businesses and workers suffering economic pain, but if we’ve had 90,000 deaths so far WITH people staying home, then just imagine what would have transpired had we not closed up. Having extra respirators and beds is a good thing, not to be mocked and disparaged. We did a great job in CA; bent it like Beckham.

  6. People who want a lengthy shutdown don’t want commentators to compare Covid-19 with the flu. While the viruses have their differences, a comparison shows that we never closed our economy for massive flu outbreaks in 1957 (230,000 dead) or 1968 (156,000 dead). A comparison will show that our Democratic governor and other Democratic governors overreacted this time. Why? Because it was a presidential election year, and all other Democrat attempts to stop Trump (the Russian investigation, Ukraine, emoluments, Andrew McCabe’s attempt to invoke the 25th Amendment) miserably failed.

  7. Once again Mr. Price hits the nail on the head. After 5 generations I pulled my family out of Kalifornia because it has become a place that doesn’t embrace discussions and respect for different opinions. The “Golden State” is enroute to an economic and social disaster. Too many still living there are either ignorant on the issues or have their heads in the ground.

    The United States was built upon the principle that the Government would exist with the consent of the governed. Once we give up our rights once due to pandemic, it will happen more frequently. Our State took a completely different approach. In our county of 165,000, our infection rate was 41 per 100,000. We didn’t shut down, however took rational precautions of social distancing and having the vulnerable stay isolated. Pretty much everything except bars are now open and we’ve seen no increase in the spread of Covid-19.

  8. You can never know the actual death rate until you know how many people are infected. Originally, researchers thought the number of people infected with the coronavirus (now known as SARS-CoV-2) was small, so death rates were higher, like 5%. Thanks to the Stanford study and the ones that followed, we now know the number of people infected is much higher. That has reduced the death rate to around 0.01%. Those who cite higher death rates are either relying on out-of-date data or they’re intentionally trying to mislead people.

    But I don’t think the death rate, as expressed as a percentage, is the most useful metric for SARS-CoV-2.

    But we need to know why the morbidity rate for SARS-CoV-2 is so high in people with preexisting conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, immune disorders and respiratory problems.

    We should also want to know why SARS-CoV-2 afflicts blacks at a higher rate than whites, and why it is rare in children.

    Arguing about the overall death rate is a distraction from getting to these important questions.

    • Maren, get yourself up to speed. After the Stanford study came out, the critics with political agendas attacked it. They stopped criticizing it when the USC study came out and it found essentially the same thing — that the number of infections was far higher than previously thought and that many people who acquired the virus were asymptomatic. The criticism completely stopped when the Miami-Dade study was released. We now have three studies telling us the number of people who acquired the virus is far larger than previously thought. So Maren, you’re parroting criticism that’s about a month old. Now nobody is criticizing the Stanford study except you. And that’s precisely how science should work. One scientist or group of scientists come out with a hypothesis and then other scientists, working independently, try to confirm or refute the original hypothesis. In this case, we’ve got three studies saying the same thing.

      • This is a dangerously misguided column. If readers take actions based on this column a substantial portion of them will die. Consider how many people have already died given the extreme public health intervention. Consider the mortality rate in communities that have acted like Mr. Price suggests. A conservative mortality rate from Lombardy, Italy was 1% for a delayed (not absent) intervention. There are 10,000 Palo Alto residents older than 65. A similar outbreak and response would produce more deaths in just PA than the entire county so far. Mr. Price claims there is no containing a virus.” That is simply not true. In fact the lives of many readers have been saved by this public health intervention. I’m stir crazy too but this is just irresponsible. There is an editorial responsibility to vet columns related to public safety. Even under the cover of “opinion” this should not have been published.

        • Wow, “N” says, “Consider how many people have already died given the extreme public health intervention.”

          Are you saying there shouldn’t have been any intervention, such as SIP?

          Price says, “The best course of action is to isolate and protect the vulnerable and reopen the rest of society.”

          Yeah, “N”, that sounds like “dangerously misguided” advice alright.

          I don’t always agree with Price, but I think “N” is a kook. He ought to crawl back into the hole he came from.

  9. If the people clamoring to keep us locked down were so concerned about deaths from disease, why weren’t they advocating for the shutdown of schools and businesses in 2017 when 61,000 people died from the flu. If you want a long lockdown now, why didn’t you want it then?

      • That doesn’t answer my question. The flu vaccine’s effectiveness varies greatly from 18% to 40% a year. But that’s not the issue. Why were you willing to let people die just a couple of years ago, and now saving lives through social distancing and the like it’s so much more important? What changed in your philosophy between then and now? Answer the question, don’t offer a “whatabout” distraction response.

  10. One of the most disappointing things about this pandemic is that healthcare professionals are becoming politicians. It’s like the two parties are so desperate to trick people that they’ll push any doctor out there who takes their side in this. Reminds me of the time when Obama hired a bunch of people to wear white coats to stand behind him at some announcement to make it seem as if doctors supported Obamacare.

  11. Back in April, the pro-shutdown people were warning, “In a week, California will be just like Italy.” Like Chicken Little saying the sky was falling.

  12. Being used to businesses where few percent profit margin is what one tries to control, I have now seen ORDERS of MAGNITUDE (x10 – x100) wrong estimates by people in power which led to trillions of dollars lost in business, millons of people losing jobs, millions of people losing health care.
    I thank Mr. Price for his view, which is contrarian to most published ones.
    I would appreciate knowing how to democratically vote for/against Santa Clara country healty supervisor who is making billion dollar power decision for the county. I do not recall voting for that person in recent years. Perhaps not an elected office. Then it would be good to know who appointed that person. Thanks.

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