M.C. NOW - Sara Rubin

As Covid-19 spikes again, health officials have some dire predictions.

Good afternoon. 

Remember SIP 1.0? Sara Rubin here, thinking about how long ago that feels. Just this week, I felt like I’d uncovered something in an archaeological excavation when, in the process of trying to make room in the freezer, I found giant bags of frozen veggies from Costco, still unopened. I offloaded them to some neighbors, then almost immediately thought: Maybe we’re about to re-enter a time that resembles SIP 1.0 and I should’ve kept those vegetables. 

Yesterday, Dec. 1, when the Monterey County Board of Supervisors convened, representatives of each of Monterey County’s four hospitals weighed in with sobering updates. While beds and equipment like ventilators are just fine, staffing is the biggest challenge. And the Covid patient population in Monterey County’s hospitals is now roughly double its previous record. “It’s really stressing our capacity, frankly,” Dr. Allen Radner, Chief Medical Officer of Salinas Valley Memorial told the supervisors. 

“We’re really concerned that over the next month or two the numbers are just going to worsen,” he said. “This is real, this is serious. People that don’t believe this—I wish they could take a tour of our hospital. Most of the people on ventilators are in their 50s, with no known pre-existing medical problems.”

At the time Radner and his colleagues were presenting, there were 8,517 Covid patients hospitalized in California—a record—and 85 hospitalized in Monterey County, also a record. (Yesterday, there were 17 Covid patients in Monterey in the ICU, a little lower than the peak of 21 in August.) 

“The rate of increase almost boggles the mind,” Natividad CEO Dr. Gary Gray told the supervisors. 

Overall, the message from health leadership is that the public messaging isn’t really working. As we all try to lead normal lives, we all make exceptions for ourselves. We meet up with friends from another household, we visit family for Thanksgiving, we host birthday parties. We rationalize the ways in which we push the limits, and as long as we don’t get sick, we rationalize pushing the limits again. And the virus persists. 

Given the mind-boggling increase, Gov. Gavin Newsom is reportedly considering taking the state back to SIP 1.0-level restrictions. It’s a big ask of a public that is exhausted and frustrated and still suffering economically. Many businesses are barely hanging on, and many rely on a holiday season bump in sales to get them through slower times, even in normal economic conditions. 

Part of the frustration stems from knowing that the first lockdown did not end the virus. And even if we do go into full lockdown now, we’d have to wait a while to see the results. As Dr. Martha Blum, an infectious disease specialist at CHOMP, told the supervisors: “No matter what measures we take today, even if we went into a very draconian lockdown today, it would take weeks to see a flattening of the curve. There are some pretty dire days ahead of us. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more positive.”

Well, I can be more positive: There might be dire days ahead, but it is in our power to help control the spread of Covid-19. Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors also voted to take steps to help control the virus, approving a pilot program for the month of December that allocates $1,000 stipends to adults who test positive for Covid-19 and are not eligible for other wage replacement—meaning a real incentive to stay home from work.

Stay healthy out there.

-Sara Rubin, editor, sara@mcweekly.com

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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