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On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom did something which, if anyone had predicted it five months ago, they would have been mercilessly mocked. Acting almost exactly as would a monarch, he outlined brand-new statistical standards for counties in the state to finally “reopen” which are impossible to reach, are based on a metric that isn’t reliable, and purposely do not include a theoretical category for things to ever return to “normal.”
Essentially, Newsom officially announced that the initial stated strategy of “flatten the curve” in order to get hospitals prepared has now evolved, five months later, into “fascism forever,” or at least until he were to leave office (assuming he still recognizes term limits). This may sound like hyperbolic alarmism coming from someone who has been among his harshest critics since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, but it is not a slight exaggeration.
For context, let’s go back to the beginning. In March, Newsom was the first governor to shut his state down (which had an enormous impact on all other governors, especially Democrats), he did so based on a projection, which he laid out in a letter to President Donald Trump, that 25 million Californians would get infected in the next eight weeks. I said at the time that this prediction was overtly ludicrous and that has turned out to be true as, 22 weeks later, 700,000 Californians have tested positive (obviously far more had it, whether they knew or not, and never got tested, but no one seriously believes now that anything close to 25 million Californians could have ever been infected in 8 weeks, even if we somehow tried to make that happen).
At the time, it appeared that Newsom was painting the worst possible scenario in order to justify a short shutdown to “flatten the curve” so that our hospitals might not be totally overwhelmed (it should be noted that the emergency hospital ship he requested from Trump in that letter was never even used). Even those, like me, who expressed skepticism about whether this was the correct path, were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in order to achieve that understandable goal, but his announcement on Friday made it very clear that everything he has done in this situation should be seen through a far more cynical prism, and that this all has the makings of a bait and switch.
It is impossible to overstate just how dramatically Newsom’s newest edict has moved the goalposts. Seemingly concerned that some of the many diverse counties in California may be able to finally make the 55-yard field goal he forced them to achieve to escape his grip, he has arbitrarily now turned it into a physically impossible 85-yard kick for most of the state.
As an example, a county could, for three weeks, average just ONE COVID-19 CASE per day for every 100,000 residents and still only be granted the “Orange/Moderate” level where “some business operations are open with modifications.” Not deaths, not hospitalizations, but CASES.
One per day!
This standard, which, again, is just for some meager level of reopening, is absurd on multiple levels. Based on his original projection that 56% of the state (or 56,000 out of every 100,000 people) would be infected in 56 days, he once thought that averaging 1,000 new cases per day per 100,000 residents would be commonplace.
Now, even if a county somehow magically achieves 1/1,000th of that original Newsom projection, they are still under the control of a governor who has granted himself extraordinary and seemingly permanent “emergency” powers. But that is only part of this tyrannical recklessness, which would have been totally unthinkable in the United States of America at the start of this nightmarish year.
It isn’t just the numeric standards which are totally unreasonable (for comparison, the state of Minnesota is recommending elementary schools open in counties averaging below 36 cases per day, per 100,000 residents). It is the use of the “new case” metric which is, at best, nonsensical, and at worst, scandalous.
We now know that that the majority of Covid cases are not life-threatening and are very often asymptomatic. In those situations, assuming immunity and a quarantine, a “known case” can be seen as a positive development, especially if we are ever going to create herd immunity.
But even more troubling than that, huge real-life decisions will be totally dependent on the data point which is not only the least relevant, but also completely unreliable. We now know, thanks to a shocking story in Saturday’s New York Times (which the news media, in an act of abject malpractice is largely ignoring) that the typical test for Covid is prone to providing false-positive results.
Even before this new information, expected false-positive results alone would make it effectively unmanageable for a large California county reach Newsom’s laughably tight standards. Now that we know that the test itself is under scrutiny (which, by the way, should bring into question the reported death and hospitalization rates as well), it is now a sick joke that this is the metric controlling the lives of many millions of people both here, and around the country.
As if this couldn’t get any more preposterous, it all comes on the heels of California’s health director resigning because of massive errors in our data. And, just in case Newsom has not already scored enough woke points with all this nuttiness, on Tuesday he is expected to announce that he is adding a health inequity provision to the COVID reopening standards so that counties where the virus is particularly “racist” will have an even tougher time making their way up Newsom’s slippery ladder of insanity.
Enabling all of this is a perfect storm of circumstances. California’s mostly liberal population is spread over a huge geographic area, is incredibly diverse, speaks many different languages, and is hardly served at all by the national media. Meanwhile, the incompetent local media is far more in the tank for Newsom on the virus lockdown than even Fox News normally is for Trump. My educated guess is that at least 90% of Californians have no real idea what Newsom is even doing here.
Add to this that the Republican Party is no longer a legitimate force in this state, and, thanks to his “emergency” powers (which were clearly never intended for this type of circumstance, over this extended period of time), Newsom can act like a dictator without any repercussions. Newsom and California are becoming a case study of the horrors of what happens, even in what is supposed to be America, when you have genuine one-party rule.
How Trump is not constantly using what is happening here as a warning to the rest of the country of what will occur if Democrats take total control in Washington is mystifying.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.