Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California has been one of the strictest governors when it comes to lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. California’s economy has been shackled by Newsom’s leadership for months, though on Monday, Newsom relented somewhat, suddenly lifting his state’s stay-at-home order.
“All counties will return to the colored tier system that assigns local risk levels based on case numbers and rates of positive test results for coronavirus infections,” the Los Angeles Times reported this week.
But the move comes amid questions about how transparent Newsom was being with crucial virus data.
Late last year, Newsom began only looking at data regarding ICU capacity when determining if regions of the state should be in lockdown.
“Rather than a county-by-county approach, he created five regions and established a single measurement — ICU capacity — as the determination for whether a region was placed under a stay-at-home order. In short order, four regions — about 98% of the state’s population — were under the restrictions after their capacity fell below the 15% threshold,” The Associated Press reported Jan. 22
“Four of the regions fell under the new order and three remained there until Monday, when state health officials announced that four-week projections showed them rising above the 15% threshold and Newsom said the order was lifted,” the AP added on Tuesday.
.@GavinNewsom lifted California’s emergency stay at home orders with 50% less ICU beds available now than the day he implemented it.
To all the people who have been damaged by politically driven covid policies, will anything change for you? pic.twitter.com/6cxC8ImJvO
— Yinon Weiss (@yinonw) January 26, 2021
This action in lifting the lockdown seemed to contradict Newsom’s plan to look at ICU data. It didn’t help that, according to the AP’s Jan. 22 article, Newsom’s administration deliberately withheld some of that data from the public after easing restrictions in the Greater Sacramento area.
“State health officials said they rely on a very complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public,” the AP reported, adding that officials used a “complex formula to project that while the Sacramento region’s intensive care capacity was below 10%, it would climb above 15% within four weeks. On Friday, it was 9%, roughly the same as when the order was lifted.”
“At the moment the projections are not being shared publicly,” Department of Public Health spokeswoman Ali Bay said.
“These fluid, on-the-ground conditions cannot be boiled down to a single data point — and to do so would mislead and create greater uncertainty for Californians,” California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar added in a statement.
On Monday, the state finally released some of the projections to the public following backlash. Still, Newsom’s failure to do so sooner conveyed a clear message to California and the rest of the country, showing he believes that the citizens of his state are too inept to interpret data for themselves.
Convenient timing for @GavinNewsom to pull back on statewide restrictions using his secret data.
Californians and their livelihoods are not political pawns and they deserve transparency from this Governor and his administration.#ShowUsTheData
— Senator Shannon Grove (@ShannonGroveCA) January 25, 2021
One opponent of Newsom’s initial decision to withhold information was Dr. Lee Riley, chairman of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health infectious disease division.
“There is more uncertainty created by NOT releasing the data that only the state has access to,” he told the AP. “Its release would allow outside experts to assess its value for projecting trends and the resulting decisions on lifting restrictions.”
Those in the medical field like Riley are accustomed to publishing data and results from research for peer review, and this review is crucial in determining the quality and validity of the research. However, Newsom appeared to do the exact opposite by keeping the public and some of the most renowned health experts in the country in the dark.
The United States of America prides itself on transparency between government and citizens, yet Newsom’s actions — until he relented, at least — seem like those of a dictator rather than a leader in a democracy.
One explanation for Newsom’s sudden lifting of the stay-at-home order is if politics were the driving force behind his decision.
It is hard to ignore the fact that Newsom lifted the lockdown just days after President Donald Trump left office. Additionally, a growing number of Californians have expressed a desire to recall Newsom as governor due to their disgust with how he handled the pandemic.
“Frustration over California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is fueling an effort to make him the second governor in the state’s history to be recalled from office. Proponents of the recall have raised more than $1.7 million and say they have gathered 1.2 million of the 1.5 million signatures they need by March 17 to get a recall on the ballot, which under state law would likely happen in the fall,” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
While Newsom’s timing seems convenient and political, he denied allegations that politics affected his decision to lift the lockdown, CNN reported.
Californians have every right to be furious with Newsom’s actions, and they deserve more from their public officials. Transparency and accountability from elected officials is not too much to ask, yet Newsom has failed Californians in both categories.
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