I can feel the pressure building to open up the country. Locally, the traffic on Pacific Coast Highway is already increasing, particularly morning traffic headed toward Ventura County. Ventura opened its beaches this weekend and people streamed to the beach, just to get out of the house for a while. In Malibu, citizens still seem to be wearing their masks and keeping that six-foot spacing, but for us that’s relatively easy because Malibu is not very densely populated. I suspect Santa Monica and West LA are very different. Before we go plunging into opening it all up, perhaps should do a quick analysis of where we are right now.
As of now, April 28, we have crossed the one million mark in the United States of confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are obviously many more who have it, including people have no symptoms but may still be contagious. We simply don’t know how many fall into that category. Worldwide, there are three million confirmed cases of COVID-19. So, what are your chances of getting sick and dying? In the United States, out of the 1 million confirmed cases, 118,000 have recovered and 58,984 have died, which would be a death rate of about six percent. That would be an enormously high death rate for a pandemic, where death rates are typically well under one percent, at least in the developed world. Worldwide, the ratios are not terribly different than our ratios of deaths to confirmed cases. Cases in the United States started climbing in about mid-March, peaked in mid-April and stayed about the same in the rest of April with some ups and downs. If we stayed closed and buttoned up, we would see those numbers dropping. If we open up the entire country, the number might soar. California has been lucky that we’ve had good leadership by the governor and that has helped keep our death rate down. As we open up, it’s probably predictable that deaths will rise. How much is anybody’s guess, but there are things we can do. We can continue to wear masks, continue to maintain social distance, continue to work remotely and meet via Skype or Zoom. We can stay away from crowds, stay out of airplanes, avoid larger events, stay home as much as possible and, most of all, don’t take any medical advice from President Trump. At my age and being married and a Democrat that’s not so difficult. If I was 25 and single and a Republican, it would be sheer torture. We can all encourage our younger friends, children and grandchildren to play it safe but, truthfully, I doubt it will do much good. Youth is optimistic and kind of believe they are invincible. I hope they are right.
In the April 9 print edition of The Malibu Times, we reported the COVID-19 virus death of John Bell, a well-known, well-respected local who was engaged over the years in many service clubs, sports and charitable activities. Last week, we ran a letter to the editor that erroneously stated his stepson had tested positive for the virus, which was not the case, and also speculated that Anawalt Lumber, where the stepson worked, was possibly contaminating the public, without any factual support given. There is a lot of incorrect information out there in the press, a lot of unconfirmed speculation, and much more so online. We attempt to examine and filter what we run but, even then, we don’t always get it right. On the web and social media there are few filters and frequently information out there is wrong or intentionally distorted to meet a political agenda. We don’t edit our letters to the editor, which does come with some risk that some information will get out there that is incorrect. We run letters because we believe that people should have an opportunity to get their beliefs and opinions out onto the community and, overall, it’s better to get things out rather than censor. You will see that we have several letters to the editor that take us and the writer to task for what was said. We did not have room to print all the letters we received, but you can find them all online by the end of the week.
We at The Malibu Times are still waiting to see some dollars from the original $2.2 trillion federal rescue legislation or the supplemental legislation, which added $485 billion to the original $350 billion for small business. We’ve been told that we can expect the federal payroll protection program (PPP) dollars imminently, but none of us is quite sure what imminent means in federal budget parlance. In the interim, we’ve worked it out with the LA Lakers—they are not going to take any of the PPP dollars and we’re not going to field a basketball team.