Almost exactly two years ago, when terrified people were cleaning their groceries with Lysol and every store in America ran out of cleaning supplies, the Blue Ridge Poison Center at the University of Virginia Health issued a warning letter. . “Drinking bleach will not prevent COVID-19 infections and could cause serious injury,” it read.
That same week, Governor Gavin Newsom went beyond what federal guidelines recommended or what any other state had done to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. He ordered 40 million Californians to stay home except for “essential” reasons. The order did not have an end date.
Newsom also sent a letter to the White House. “We project that approximately 56% of our population – 25.5 million people – will become infected with the virus over an eight-week period,” he wrote, estimating that the state would miss 19,543 hospital beds to treat patients.
The governor declined to explain how he came up with those numbers, and it quickly became clear that the numbers were far from accurate, but that didn’t matter. The reign of terror was on. The obvious plan was to scare the public into complying with government guidelines. At one point, the California Department of Public Health even hired actors to play Californians hospitalized with COVID-19 in scary TV commercials. “It was just a meeting,” a young, crying woman said in a voiceover, “Everyone was feeling fine. But now we’re all sick. But they weren’t.
Officials hammered home the message that no one and nowhere was safe. LA County has closed bike lanes and banned beach chairs. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti tried to send the police to cut off water and electricity to homes where parties had been held. Restaurants were banned from serving customers indoors, then after building expensive outdoor dining areas, they were banned from serving customers outdoors. Government tip lines have been set up for people to report others’ perceived violations of public health orders.
Fear was the message and the goal. The lockdowns were tied to arbitrary measures, embodied in a color-coded warning system that could never turn green because it had no green. A made-up definition of “available” intensive care beds generated a daily news report suggesting hospitals were nearly overwhelmed. But they weren’t.
Fear was the tool of execution. The government told children that playing with their friends could kill their grandparents. The government has banned parties, church services, graduations, high school sports, proms, weddings, birthdays and funerals. Many people were too scared to question anything and angry at those who did.
This terror of the populace has harmed people, perhaps permanently. The California government-sponsored fear campaign has caused anxiety, depression and isolation. This has made many people afraid of normal human contact, even the air around them.
In some states and in some countries, government leaders have not done this to people. Even here in California, our own government leaders have not done this to themselves.
The scenes have become famous: Gov. Gavin Newsom without a mask at a crowded dinner with lobbyists after telling Californians to cancel Thanksgiving dinner with their families; LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl dines on the patio of her favorite bistro hours after voting to close outdoor restaurants across the county because it’s far too dangerous; LA Mayor Eric Garcetti at SoFi Stadium smiling for the camera and later saying he held his breath as his mask was off.
The masks fell a long time ago. The plastic smiles hid a thirst for power, money and control.
While other states have ended their emergencies and normalized their governments, California is making the state of emergency permanent. Newsom has invented a plan for the “endemic” phase of COVID that is eerily similar to previous lockdown measures – the government will monitor a particular number of its choice, and when that number reaches an arbitrary level, restrictions could kick in again. At various times, the “metric” has been the amount of tests, cases, contact tracers, available hospital beds, or vaccinations. In the endemic phase, the government monitors a number that end up in the sewage. Write your own joke.
Unfortunately, this is no joke. These authoritarian policies led the state to a slower recovery than in other states where freedom returned or never left.
“California continues to lag the rest of the country in recovery,” according to a January report from the California Center for Jobs and the Economy, “As measured against the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020, jobs not Agriculture is still 2.8% below the recovery in California vs. 1.7% in the rest of the states Employment is still 4.1% below, vs. just 0.7% in the rest of the states.
In ten states, jobs are now above pre-pandemic levels. The list includes Florida and Texas. Will California ever catch up? Maybe not. “Generally, the pace of recovery in California has slowed,” reports the Center for Jobs, “mostly measured by employment.”
One industry experiencing rapid economic growth in California is cronyism. The never-ending state of emergency allowed the governor to skip the trouble of competitive bidding and simply hand out contracts directly to major donors. Who said government was inefficient?
Another growing industry is fraud; California has paid out an estimated $20-30 billion for fraudulent unemployment benefit claims.
Meanwhile, honest and hardworking small business owners have been financially destroyed, school children have suffered measurable learning losses and immeasurable stress, the workforce has been disrupted, the supply chain has been hampered , family relations have been strained and fundamental constitutional freedoms have been violated .
It’s not too late for the state government to admit that the Blue Ridge Poison Center was right. Someone should tell the Governor, before he orders another bottle of bleach for the table, that we’ve had enough to drink.
Email Susan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley.