•   
  •   
  •   

US Crushing COVID left California with scars as it exits controversial shutdown

13:40  02 may  2021
13:40  02 may  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Emma Stone Goes on a Coffee Run in L.A., Plus Nicky and Kathy Hilton, Rachel Brosnahan and More

  Emma Stone Goes on a Coffee Run in L.A., Plus Nicky and Kathy Hilton, Rachel Brosnahan and More Emma Stone Goes on a Coffee Run in L.A., Plus Nicky and Kathy Hilton, Rachel Brosnahan and More

Rachel Moore can't help but feel excited.

a train is on the side of a road: In this Friday, March 20, 2020, file photo, extremely light traffic moves along the 110 Harbor Freeway toward downtown Los Angeles in the mid-afternoon. Traffic would normally be bumper-to-bumper during this time of day on a Friday. New calculations released on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, show the world's carbon dioxide emissions plunged 7% in 2020 because of the pandemic lockdowns. © Mark J. Terrill, AP In this Friday, March 20, 2020, file photo, extremely light traffic moves along the 110 Harbor Freeway toward downtown Los Angeles in the mid-afternoon. Traffic would normally be bumper-to-bumper during this time of day on a Friday. New calculations released on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, show the world's carbon dioxide emissions plunged 7% in 2020 because of the pandemic lockdowns.

The calendar of events at The Music Center, a performing arts center in Los Angeles that she leads, had been blank for months. But now it is slowly filling up with ballets, dance performances and operas.

Steven van Zandt, casino shots, dance fever: News from around our 50 states

  Steven van Zandt, casino shots, dance fever: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

After a year of some of the strongest pandemic restrictions in the nation, the rate of COVID-19 cases in California has plummeted to be among the lowest in the U.S. Now the state plans to fully reopen by mid-June. Californians and the state’s leaders are celebrating the low infections and reopening plan, with Gov. Gavin Newsom touting it on Twitter as he's toured the state.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Businesses that have been hamstrung by restrictions for a year or more are seeing regulations loosen, some outdoor sports have resumed and theme parks, including Disneyland, reopened to excited guests.

Many like Moore are eager to welcome back normalcy, with hopes of recovering from the severe financial losses from pandemic closures.

Virus-sniffing dog, Vegas boom, vaccine hecklers: News from around our 50 states

  Virus-sniffing dog, Vegas boom, vaccine hecklers: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

"There's incredible pent up demand for our offerings," said Moore, the president and CEO of The Music Center. "I actually think that people are going to rush back when they feel safe because they've had this hole in their heart."

But had The Music Center been based in another state, it may have reopened months ago.

Rachel Moore posing for the camera: Rachel Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center in Los Angeles © The Music Center Rachel Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center in Los Angeles

California's path through the pandemic has been filled with frustrations and heartbreak for many Californians. The state started out as a national leader in combatting COVID-19, promising to follow the science in how it handled the virus and garnering praise from public health experts who say the state’s approach saved saves.

But months of shifting restrictions confused many struggling business owners who saw their livelihoods ripped away, even as the regulations didn't stop the state's ICUs from filling with patients.

'Horrible' weeks ahead as India's virus catastrophe worsens

  'Horrible' weeks ahead as India's virus catastrophe worsens NEW DELHI (AP) — COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.” India's official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system.

The tensions have left the state’s governor battling a recall election.

a man and a woman walking down a street next to a fence: The Music Center, a performing arts center, is readying to reopen in Los Angeles as the state of California relaxes its COVID-19 restrictions and aims for a full reopening of the state in June. © The Music Center The Music Center, a performing arts center, is readying to reopen in Los Angeles as the state of California relaxes its COVID-19 restrictions and aims for a full reopening of the state in June.

Restrictions slow virus, but couldn’t stop deadly surge

California became the first state to lockdown — a watershed moment in the nation's response to COVID-19.

The move garnered widespread praise from public health experts, and Newsom’s coronavirus briefings offered a reassuring, nonpartisan message to those in and outside California, even drawing praise from former President Donald Trump.

But it didn't last.

The state started reopening efforts several times only to pull back the reins as cases grew.

Restrictions would ease, allowing businesses to reopen and spend the money needed to restock and rehire — only for restrictions to be reinstated again. Public schools remained shuttered for the majority of the pandemic and still have yet to fully reopen. Theme parks, outdoor sports, museums, hiking trails and beaches were all subject to closure.

Burning Man, motel vaccinations, eviction law help: News from around our 50 states

  Burning Man, motel vaccinations, eviction law help: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

For awhile, it seemed to work. Cases stayed relatively low as attention focused on places like New York or the Dakotas that were weathering unfathomable infection rates, with hospitals and morgues filling up.

The success changed in the late fall and early winter as an intense surge hit California. The state became epicenter of the pandemic for a time. The virus filled the state's ICUs and mystified experts, many of whom still struggle to rationalize why California's precautions weren't enough to stop the surge, even as more lax states saw fewer cases.

“The fact is that we really cannot fully explain why we see this virus explode in certain areas, and at the same time, relatively quiescent in others,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious diseases and vaccinology professor emeritus at University of California-Berkeley. “There are lots of things we've learned about this pandemic. But I would say that there's still an enormous amount of a lack of understanding about its behavior.”

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health © Robert Kim-Farley / UCLA Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles' public health school who previously worked at the CDC and World Health Organization, noted some of the differences that set California apart, including homelessness, overcrowding  and the state's large share of agricultural and essential workers.

Nick Saban explains why he is against College Football Playoff expansion

  Nick Saban explains why he is against College Football Playoff expansion Nick Saban is against an expansion of the College Football Playoff format and has his reasons. © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports The Alabama Crimson Tide head coach was a guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Tuesday and reiterated his belief that an expansion would further detract from the significance of the bowl system. "I think there's only so many games in these guys. They're student-athletes. They're not just football players." Nick Saban talks to @finebaum about expanding the College Football Playoff: pic.twitter.

“California does have some unique aspects of what they call a vulnerability index,” he said. “So it's kind of hard sometimes to make those direct comparisons as to what would have happened had we done some more relaxation of measures.”

He added that if the state did relax some precautions, it’s possible the surges may have just occurred quicker or been far worse.

Even so, multiple reports have found the rate of death from COVID in California isn’t much better than the national average.

Economic damage mounts as pandemic continues

Critics of California’s strategy say the state’s approach did a more effective job at crushing the economy than crushing the virus.

Dustin Lancaster, who operates about a dozen restaurants and hotels across Los Angeles, said he feels a sense of relief knowing the state is reopening but it's hard to look back and not hold some resentment and question decisions made by elected leaders.

Over the months of closures, he lost millions along with a music venue and a brand new hotel that he'd opened just months before the pandemic. He still owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent.

Lancaster can't help but look at other states that didn't spend the majority of the year shutdown, like Florida, and questions why the outbreak wasn’t worse there.

“Did any of what we did really do anything to actually stop it? Or was it sort of dumb luck?” he said. “It's a tough one to understand and I guess we'll kind of be unpacking this for years to come.”

Many complained the messaging coming from elected leaders was confusing and sometimes contradictory. The rationale for certain areas, businesses and entities being closed while others were open often wasn't clear or intuitive, critics said.

Firefly lottery, vaccine exemptions, data breach: News from around our 50 states

  Firefly lottery, vaccine exemptions, data breach: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

“There were frustrations when certain sectors seemed to get to reopen faster than our sector and not understanding the logic behind why certain things were allowed to be open,” said Moore. “Why was retail allowed to be open and the retail shop in a museum not? Those inconsistencies were very frustrating.”

a person posing for the camera: Dustin Lancaster, who owns several restaurants and hotels in LA, lost several businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic © Dustin Lancaster Dustin Lancaster, who owns several restaurants and hotels in LA, lost several businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Amid death and heartache, the state also saw a massive economic downfall: California has lost about 1.5 million jobs. Unemployment, currently at 8.3 percent, remains at one of the highest rates in the country.

Simmering frustrations reached new levels in the late fall and early winter surge. As ICUs filled up, a new set of lockdown measures were announced, including the halting of outdoor dining – once billed as a low-risk lifeline for restaurateurs.

Emil Eyvazoff, who owns two restaurants in L.A. –  71Above and Takami – said there was an almost instant shift in the demeanor of restaurant owners.

“I saw business owners that I know go from being supportive of everything that had happened in the past to resentful,” he said, arguing the second set of closures was more hurtful than the first.

Eyvazoff noted the lengths it takes to reopen a business from rehiring, retraining, new safety measures, restocking supplies. “It can take several weeks to reopen a restaurant,” he said. “It’s not like flipping a switch.”

California saw the highest number of businesses that shuttered both temporarily and permanently by a significant margin, according to Yelp data compiled in the company’s Economic Impact Report released in September. The state of Hawaii, which relies heavily on tourism, was the only to surpass it when examining the data per 1,000 businesses.

California saw nearly 20,000 businesses temporarily close and another 20,000 close permanently from March to September. The next highest was Texas with 8,900 temporary and 5,300 permanent closures.

Fact check: Biden's speech had an estimated 26.9 million viewers

  Fact check: Biden's speech had an estimated 26.9 million viewers The president’s first address to Congress had 26.9 million viewers, not 11.6 million as claimed in a social media post.An April 29 Facebook post from James T. Harris, a conservative radio host and social media personality, lists television ratings for five past presidential addresses — four from former President Donald Trump and one from Biden. The post says Biden’s address to Congress had only 11.6 million viewers, compared to 37.2 million viewers for Trump’s 2020 State of the Union speech.

Along with funds and the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program, which offered small businesses loan that can be forgivable, by the federal government, the state of California also offered grants and just last week, Gov. Newsom signed legislation that's set to offer $6.2 billion in tax cuts for over the next six years.

"It's been a hell of a year, the stress, the anxiety. The fear that so many people have had to struggle with," Newsom said during a news conference last week signing the legislation. "That said, the state is coming back, the state is roaring back."

Eyvazoff says he knows he’s one of the lucky ones to make it on the other side of this pandemic.

"I think I'm definitely in the thankful chapter now and grateful chapter right now. It was a long book and it was a very painful read,” he said. “I can't really complain right now. I'm very fortunate. If I had not been so fortunate, and the businesses were not able to survive, I think I really would be feeling very differently."

a bicycle parked in a parking lot: A man wearing a mask looks out over a road closed to auto traffic near the pier in Manhattan Beach, California, where beaches are closed due to a spike in COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, on July 4, 2020. © ROBYN BECK, AFP via Getty Images A man wearing a mask looks out over a road closed to auto traffic near the pier in Manhattan Beach, California, where beaches are closed due to a spike in COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, on July 4, 2020.

Were California’s ‘extreme measures’ worth it? Experts say time will tell.

Public health experts say California will likely be judged favorably in the future, because the state generally followed the advice of health professionals. Even if the measures were criticized as overly burdensome, the mandates saved lives.

Understanding how successful the state was in fighting the virus will be a question for the history books — it will require a deeper understanding of the virus as well as the economic impacts of lockdown measures, experts say.

Zev Yaroslavsky, the director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and a former L.A. County Supervisor and City Councilman, said when you ask the question: “Were all the strict mandates worth it?” you are ultimately asking whether saving even one additional life was worth it.

"How many people are you willing to sacrifice to death? How important is it to save lives?" he said. "Losing your business is an existential event, it's a brutal price to pay. But you can rebuild your business. You can't do that with your life."

For those most impacted by the state's regulations, comparisons to other states are easy to make, but scientifically problematic.

"Comparing California to Texas or California to Florida is really apples to oranges,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious-disease expert. “They are totally different places with different issues and variables."

The severity of the restrictions is one thing — how they were presented to the public is another concern.

“There were a lot of extreme measures taken, sure, but right now, California does have the lowest case rate in the country,” said Jessica Lall, who leads the Central City Association, an advocacy organization representing 300 businesses in the Los Angeles area.

Yaroslavsky noted the mixed messaging throughout the pandemic coupled with the hypocrisy of Newsom attending a dinner party at The French Laundry — one of the world's most exclusive restaurants — at a time when he was discouraging Californians from traveling to see family during the holidays, hurt public trust at a moment when it was sorely needed.

"You really only have one shot at the public, to get the public on your side, to get the public in lockstep. Once the public senses that there is inconsistency, not only do they become inconsistent, but they lose confidence in the people who are making these recommendations," he said. "You have to explain why there are differences and why decisions are being made very clearly and transparently."

For Newsom, the question over his managing of the pandemic might be answered later this year when he faces a recall election. Opponents of the first-term governor were able to gather enough signatures to force the issue on the ballot, likely this fall. Yaroslavsky said the criticisms against Newsom have been fairly common amid the pandemic but the state's long history with recalls helped fuel the effort.

"They've all paid a price, everybody in government. Any politician today has taken a hit politically because this has been an unprecedented societal disaster," he said. "But there have definitely been some who are paying a bigger price than others."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crushing COVID left California with scars as it exits controversial shutdown

Fact check: Biden's speech had an estimated 26.9 million viewers .
The president’s first address to Congress had 26.9 million viewers, not 11.6 million as claimed in a social media post.An April 29 Facebook post from James T. Harris, a conservative radio host and social media personality, lists television ratings for five past presidential addresses — four from former President Donald Trump and one from Biden. The post says Biden’s address to Congress had only 11.6 million viewers, compared to 37.2 million viewers for Trump’s 2020 State of the Union speech.

usr: 1
This is interesting!