In summary

California is leading the way by taking major measures to protect our health and our economy, and we must stay the course because the virus is still out there.

By Robert K. Ross and Anthony Iton, Special to Calmatters

Dr. Robert K. Ross is president and chief executive officer for The California Endowment, a health foundation, bob@robertkross.com. Dr. Anthony Iton is senior vice president of the California Endowment for Healthy Communities, tony@tonyiton.com.

There is little doubt that the COVID-19 restrictions in place now have caused major disruptions in our daily life and have had negative economic impacts on California families, especially the working poor. But consider how much worse it would be if we in California hadn’t moved quickly to “flatten the curve.”

An out-of-control pandemic would rage through our state at numbers unimaginable and would have much more severe consequences on the health of Californians, as well as the economy.

Thankfully, California is once again leading the way by taking major measures such as shelter in place, physical distancing, orders to close schools, all done to protect our health and our economy. Contrast the progressive policies being undertaken in the Golden State with the slow responses to the virus in some other states in which their leaders don’t follow the guidance of the experts. 

Georgia, for example, was slow to adopt sheltering restrictions, with Gov. Brian Kemp saying as recently as April 4 that he had just learned that the “virus is now transmitting before people see signs.” Where has the governor been? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been saying that for more than eight weeks.

Clearly, it makes a difference who your leaders are, especially during a public health crisis. We are seeing the curve flatten a bit more in California because of calls from brave and smart forward-thinking Bay Area public health officials, who started the “shelter within” call early on, followed by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s crucial declarations for the entire state.

In California, we have seen business and schools close, sporting events and concerts postponed and local and regional governments stepping up with actions aimed at keeping everyone safe. Most individuals are doing everything they can to fight this virus. This collective action for the greater good is very encouraging.

As medical doctors and former public health officials, we have been looking at the data that confirm we are on the right course in California. The rate of doubling of cases and deaths appears to be about every three to four days. This doubling rate has been stable and possibly even slowing which is a good sign at this stage of the epidemic and suggests solid evidence of flattening of the curve.

But while we appear to be headed in the right direction, we also are concerned that we don’t have any slippage in our commitment to remain vigilant in our efforts. 

If we are fortunate, we are experiencing the peak of the pandemic in California now and in the days to come. It had to get worse before it got better, so we are in the “worse” phase now. If we can flatten the curve into the month of May, there is some chance that the warm weather months — starting in June and into the summer — will be an ally in slowing viral spread, like it is with the flu. However, we can all see that the virus is spreading in other parts of the world that are experiencing warm weather right now.

We must stay the course because the virus is still out there, compromising people’s health, and in too many cases, continuing to take lives.

So, keep it up, California. Shelter within, maintain physical distance when you must venture out, wear protective masks and regularly wash your hands.  We are in this together and staying united will ensure health for all.

So, stay strong, stay healthy, stay positive and stay home.  We will get through this.

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Dr. Robert K. Ross is president and chief executive officer for The California Endowment, a health foundation, bob@robertkross.com. Dr. Anthony Iton is senior vice president of the California Endowment for Healthy Communities, tony@tonyiton.com.

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