COVID19 and Equal Treatment Under the Law

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Guest Commentary
by El Cajon Deputy Mayor Phil Ortiz

“You must always be willing to truly consider evidence that contradicts your beliefs, and admit the possibility that you may be wrong. Intelligence isn’t knowing everything. It’s the ability to challenge everything you know.”

I am compelled to speak for those who are not being represented, or are underrepresented at this time.

Our government has taken abounding control over our lives, jobs and businesses and it has failed to apply these laws fairly and equally. There are businesses that are permitted to open and others that are not. This is not justified based on the lack of COVID19 patients in our San Diego hospitals.

The question we must ask is, “are extended, sweeping closures of our communities justified BEYOND what is necessary to avoid overwhelming our hospitals?” I would submit that it is not justified.

Based on unemployment numbers and CA Dept of Labor numbers, we can safely say about 50 percent of people are still going to work. We have been able to manage the influx of COVID19 patients in our hospitals even with 50 percent of people working. Interactions with people are even higher, as people are regularly not obeying the stay at home order. It is reasonable and safe to open the rest of our businesses. Right now, we have large gatherings of people at every big box store in San Diego. We have hundreds of people passing each other in aisles within six feet. If Target can be open using precautions, why can’t a furniture store using those same precautions? Public health and economic activity can co-exist.

Here is how well the curve has been managed here in San Diego. Our hospitals have been around 60 percent capacity for almost the entire COVID19 situation. Overflow hospital facilities that were created were virtually unused. One at UCSD campus and the other at Palomar Hospital.

The ONLY intent for the restrictive lock down policies was to ensure our hospitals were not overwhelmed. This has not happened. This still is not happening. So, the burden of proof to continue the lockdown is on the government. Currently, the numbers are not providing any proof for the need to continue the lockdown. Hospitals are now prepared and have gained valuable knowledge on how to more efficiently administer care for patients. Our hospital staff are our heroes and they are showing it every day. Businesses are better prepared with a list of measures to deploy in order to keep employees and customers safe.

Additionally, of all the deaths recorded as “COVID19” in San Diego, fewer than 10 individuals didn’t have preexisting conditions. Every other death had preexisting conditions. These deaths are tragic and the loss of life is devastating. However, those with preexisting conditions are always on the alert regarding disease and viruses. We should protect those who are most vulnerable and encourage them to take all precautions needed to ensure their health.

Small businesses, their families and their employees are being pushed into poverty. Pantries are close to being empty. Recently, I spoke to an apartment complex manager that told me he and other assistant managers were pooling their money together so they could buy their residents “a couple of cans of food every couple of days.” I have another friend who has three young children and they are forced to drive to their parents house three times a day for their meals because they don’t have money for groceries because of reduced hours and eventually being laid off.

People are barely hanging on. A desire to provide for your family is not irresponsible or selfish. It’s human nature.

Poverty makes no distinction between essential and non-essential business. Hunger makes no distinction between essential and non-essential businesses. Bankruptcy makes no distinction between essential or non-essential businesses.

With bad data comes bad decisions. In the beginning of this crisis, we had bad data. We heard reports of this virus ravaging countries abroad like Italy and China. Because of that, everyone was ok with sheltering and shutting down because we didn’t know what this was. Emotions were high, fear and uncertainty real. We understood and were willing to sacrifice our future for people’s lives. However, we now have the data to make good decisions. And now the data is showing that we have room to open our businesses to avoid further food insecurity and people entering poverty.

We must carefully evaluate the consequences of these shutdown orders beyond our line of sight. With the economy to move into a recession or depression, the likelihood of starvation in poor countries will skyrocket. The government cannot financially support the population. The State of California was the first state in the nation to take out a loan to pay for the unemployment benefits of residents. $348 million. The current course we are on is not sustainable. We must also ask, “why are we assuming that our hospitals will be unaffected by a crashing economy?” Already our local hospitals are experiencing devastating financial consequences from not carrying our elective surgeries. As stated before, our State is out of money, so we cannot expect them to bail out the hospitals. We are being told we must shut down the economy to fight the virus, but we cannot fight the virus without the economy.

Targeted precautions to protect the most vulnerable are more appropriate than a false choice between saving lives and a recession or perhaps depression. The idea that I am proposing is what has been occurring during this entire crisis, with little widespread death. We are not New York or Italy, suffering mass casualties.

COVID19 is not going away anytime soon, short of a vaccine, which could be years away. If we were weeks or even months away from a vaccine, keeping the shutdown orders in place may be justified. However, we are far from it and therefore an indefinite shutdown is unjustified. I will also add that the Governor’s reopening plan makes it effectively impossible to move through to future stages within any reasonable time frame. Before COVID19 and well after, we will continue to carry viruses and diseases that can mean a death sentence to anyone with a compromised immune system.

People that don’t feel safe going out in public will stay indoors exercising their freedom of abundance of caution. Others will venture out responsibly knowing the risks. It will not be a flood of people as each person will be guided by their own reason and conviction; enabled by their freedom to choose.

It’s time we started to address and manage the damage that COVID19 has had on our society. The first step is to have equal treatment under the law for all businesses.

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Comments 2

  1. “COVID19 is not going away anytime soon, short of a vaccine, which could be years away. If we were weeks or even months away from a vaccine, keeping the shutdown orders in place may be justified. However, we are far from it and therefore an indefinite shutdown is unjustified.”

    Best line of a very well-written and well-reasoned argument.

    My only small criticism would be the focus on pre-existing conditions. Up to 50% (probably somewhat less) of our non-elderly population have a “pre-existing condition.” Add to this the number of elderly and there are certainly at least 50% of our population that is at greater risk of this virus.

  2. Thank you Councilman for attempting to conserve our principles. I know of no other path to peace and prosperity and freedom.

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