California Governor Gavin Newsom decided to lift the stay at home order which was hastily set in place after the Thanksgiving holiday led to an increase in COVID cases. After being the first state in the country to implement a stay at home order and maintaining the COVID cases at a manageable number for most of 2020, California quickly became the New York of the earlier months of the pandemic. Gov. Newsom has praised himself and his administration for being data driven and efficient when it comes to protecting the population of California. But the latest decision to lift the order came as a surprise to everyone, even those who were hoping for it to be lifted! The state offered no clear explanation for this decision other than their “projections of ICU capacity.” The reality is that how the government reached the conclusion to first implement and now lift the stay at home order has remained a mystery to the population at large and even to health experts.
There are multiple metrics which states use to determine when hospitals are at risk of becoming overwhelmed and shelter in place orders are needed to prevent further spread of the virus. None of them have proven to be completely effective so far. California has relied on the ICU metric: if ICU’s capacity fall under 15% then things needed to be closed down. But many experts have their doubts about whether or not this is the best determinant for these decisions. Some argue it would be best to base it on the amount of COVID infections at any given time, given that not all of those hospitalized due to COVID end up in the ICU.
But more concerning that how faulty their science might be is the fact that government officials don’t feel any obligation to share with the rest of us how they reach these conclusions. California state officials have openly stated that sharing these calculations with the public would likely just cause more confusion. This is both insulting and the worst approach they could take. Since the beginning of the pandemic, government officials have done a terrible job at transmitting information to the population, causing confusion, anger, and mistrust.
These decisions have a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and to deny people the most accurate and honest information about how these decisions are made can only further people’s distrust in not just government but science as a whole. What we need is as much information as we can to make conscious collective decisions.