How Legislators Can Reopen California

There are smart ways to protect the vulnerable and reopen businesses and churches and schools, but California’s legislators continue to do nothing. Instead, edicts issued from the governor’s office have the state in an ongoing lockdown, despite growing evidence there are safe alternatives.

Last month an event held in the Sacramento area, “Re-Open Cal Now,” offered local elected officials from all over California access to attorneys, economists, and medical experts who presented information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to safely cope with it. From the start, it was smeared as being a partisan “super-spreader” event. Facebook refused to allow promotional ads, claiming the agenda included “dangerous content.” Not one, but two email services, MailChimp and then MailLite, banned event organizers from using their platform. But none of these accusations were true.

The event admitted only 115 in-person attendees and was held in a 24,000 square foot covered but outdoor equestrian center. As a consequence of all this extra space, booked at significant extra cost, extreme social distancing was observed. As for partisanship, over 25,000 people have viewed the event online so far, and the only thing “partisan” about the event was its commitment to finding solutions to end the lockdown.

The most revealing, and controversial, of the panels during this three day event was the one that featured medical experts. These medical doctors and epidemiologists provided information on COVID-19 treatments that have been ignored and even suppressed by the media and the mainstream medical community. Without delving into the reasons for this, which are at best inexplicable and mystifying, public policy experts and local elected officials are invited to watch these presentations. They are invited to ask themselves: Why is COVID-19 unique among diseases that have confronted humanity, in that early stage outpatient treatments are not only ignored, but have arguably become forbidden topics?

As Dr. George Fareed described in his segment, in any pandemic there are four essential policy responses: (1) contagion control, or social distancing to slow the spread, (2) early home treatment to reduce hospitalizations and deaths, (3) late stage hospitalization, and (4) vaccinations to develop herd immunity. As anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the COVID-19 pandemic will confirm, stage two has been ignored.

It isn’t necessary to examine the merits or fallacies underlying the many early stage treatments that have been proposed to conclude something is wrong with this picture. There are many drugs and therapies that practicing doctors claim can prevent this disease from worsening, causing death or chronic disabilities. They include Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, Doxycycline, Ivermectin, Zinc Sulfate, vitamin C, vitamin D, Quercetin,  Fluvoxamine, intracellular anti-infectives, antiviral antibodies, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants, and many, many more.

Are all of these drugs effective in treating early stage COVID-19? Probably not. But why has discussion regarding their efficacy been suppressed? Equally important, why has an entire early stage treatment protocol for COVID-19 been neglected?

Dr. Fareed presented a chart that adheres to a template used in medicine to treat most infectious diseases. That chart, reproduced below, shows “innovative early sequenced multidrug therapy for COVID-19 infection to reduce hospitalization and death.”

Based on the testimony of hundreds of U.S. doctors who have treated tens of thousands of patients, many early stage therapies for COVID-19 are effective. While these doctors back in mid-2020 could only rely on positive clinical results, there is now a growing body of evidence from controlled studies that confirm the efficacy of early stage treatments. In his presentation, Dr. Fareed presented evidence as well from nations that have widely employed early stage, outpatient treatments for COVID-19. Various drug protocols were used, depending on the country, but in all cases, their national death rates from COVID-19 are far lower than in the United States.

In the face of mounting evidence that early stage treatment is one of the most effective ways to cope with this pandemic, and has been almost completely ignored, why aren’t California’s elected officials demanding answers from the establishment medical community?

The Cost of Misinformation, The Benefit of a New Approach

Imagine California today if the medical community and policymakers had emphasized all four elements of pandemic response, instead of only three. Imagine how much we would have learned by now if doctors everywhere had been encouraged to prescribe early stage therapies for their COVID-19 patients, instead of just sending them home to either get well or worsen to the point where they required commitment to an ICU.

It is impossible to know how many lives and livelihoods might have been saved if early stage therapies were encouraged instead of suppressed, but Californians deserve answers. And now, with at least some official recognition that some of these early stage therapies do work, along with vaccines rolling out by the millions, it is time for a new approach.

One creative way to begin to safely unlock Californians has been proposed by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who late last year proposed that individual counties adopt a “Healthy Communities Resolution.” The intent of the resolution (read full text) is to allow each county to “respond locally to the COVID-19 virus in accordance with our local data and circumstances,” and to allow this response to be “tailored to geographically separate areas.” So far ten counties have adopted this resolution.

In Sacramento County, however, just to illustrate what Kiley and others are up against, Supervisor Susan Frost’s attempt to introduce the Healthy Communities Resolution was opposed 4-1. She couldn’t even get someone to second the motion so they could debate the topic and vote on it. Her opponents claimed that to selectively open portions of the county based on neighborhood conditions was “racist.” And with that magic word, end of discussion.

Kiley’s resolution also calls for school districts to “safely open all schools as soon as possible and provide in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible without further delay.” And it isn’t just classroom instruction, but sports, where pressure is building to reopen. Just a few days ago, San Diego high school athletes filed a lawsuit that aims to force California to join 47 other states that have already resumed active high school sports. Support for this lawsuit has grown overnight into a grassroots movement. On Facebook, the “Let Them Play CA” group has acquired over 50,000 members in less than a month and continues to rapidly add participants.

The Teachers Union Has a Chance to Do the Right Thing

To call the California Teachers Association one of the most influential special interests in California politics is something most informed observers would consider beyond serious debate. But why aren’t the leaders and the members of the all-powerful CTA trying harder to reopen California’s public schools?

From their website, some of the primary elements of the mission of the CTA are to “improve the conditions of teaching and learning; to advance the cause of free, universal, and quality public education for all students.”

Surely everyone can agree, including the members of the CTA and their leadership, that what has happened over the past year has been a disaster for California’s K-12 students. They might also agree this disaster has had a disproportionately negative impact on students living in low income zip codes. So why isn’t the CTA pushing harder to reopen schools? Why isn’t this powerful organization demanding answers regarding the incomplete pandemic response? Why aren’t they adding their voice to the growing calls to roll out early stage COVID-19 therapies, so Californians do not have to live in deathly fear of infection, and so herd immunity can be quickly achieved?

Why isn’t the CTA, for that matter, observing the experiences of charter schools such as the Orange County Classical Academy, where creative measures to reduce the chances of contagion have been effective, and in-person classes were never interrupted? Why is the CTA condoning the ongoing, disastrous deficiencies in instruction, whereby, for example, in Los Angeles Unified School District, the school day only runs from 9 a.m. till 2:15 p.m.? It is to be expected that the CTA will look out for the concerns of their members, but in recognition of the hardships facing everyone, why aren’t they urging their members to work harder during this pandemic, instead of cutting their hours?

Back in the summer of 2020, the United Teachers of Los Angeles, affiliated with the CTA, demanded $250 million to reopen schools in LAUSD. And instead of sticking to the basics of pandemic safety, they used the pandemic as a springboard to demand an end to all the structural disadvantages they have identified as facing low income students. But is this the time for that? Or shouldn’t we just get those kids back to school, and then get back to worrying about these issues of social justice?

Since the summer, not much has changed. According to a scathing report published in the California Globe in January, Governor Newsom’s latest attempt to reopen schools goes something like this: “If a school district promises to re-open schools by mid-February, it will get an additional $450 to $750 per student in funding.”

If there ever was a time for Californians to come together to share the risks and challenges presented by a crisis, this is it. The CTA should take Newsom’s deal, they should open the schools up immediately, they should permit sports to resume, and they should accept that perfect is the enemy of good enough. And as self-proclaimed advocates for the underprivileged, they might also join those of us who want to know why medical experts denied all of us access to information on early stage COVID-19 treatments, abetted in that denial by some of the biggest corporations in the world.

By allowing individual counties to manage reopening, and by demanding that health officials support for better early stage therapies, California’s legislators can ease the state out of lockdown. It cannot come a moment too soon.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

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