Gary Horton | It’s Good to Be a Californian in the SCV

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Week four of the Covid-19 shutdown:

Carrie and I live off Arroyo Park Drive, maybe one-third of a mile west of Granary Square. We’ve been here since Newhall Land mushed the hills around and created the Summit development. Same house, just 32 years of raising kids and living later. And we’ve seen all kinds of things in these all-too-quickly passing years:

Northridge Earthquake, which ravaged our home and neighborhoods.

Sept. 11, which changed the very nature of America.

The Great Recession and the 2008 banking crisis – which emptied out nearly one out of four homes in the SCV.

Y2K, the 1992-1995 recession, the dot-com bust, and a whole list of minor shocks and awes…

Indeed, we’ve lived in interesting times. Many, like me, crave normalcy, calm, security – and often we’ve achieved it here in bucolic and well-managed SCV. But every five or seven years comes something out of nowhere reminding us that really, we’re rather like ants in an ant farm. We try to create order but forces well beyond our control can shake up the farm rather quickly.

This week is supposed to be “peak week” for coronavirus deaths. Our self-appointed “war president” was at least this time finally correct when he warned us in his lazily concerned voice, “There’s going to be a lot of death.”

“There’s going to be a lot of death.” 

Well President Trump is finally coming clean. A far cry from, “It’s going to disappear… one day, like a miracle, it will disappear.” Or, “Anyone who wants a test can get one.” Or most absurdly, “The U.S. is the most prepared country in the world.”

Trump got the one about a lot of death right. As of this writing we’ve had 11,000 American deaths. Yes, “There’s going to be a lot of death.” Yes, Mr. War President, there will be. In this “most prepared country in the world.”

My Nixonian mom used to say, “The proof is in the pudding.” Here’s a lot of messy pudding.

As per par, we also hear from the presidential pulpit, “We’re doing a great job.” This Trumpian refrain is reminiscent of George Bush’s, “You’re doing a great job, Brownie,” when 1,000 Americans drowned during Hurricane Katrina and a misdirected and incompetently led FEMA couldn’t get folks off rooftops…

Lacking strong national leadership, the COVID-19 crisis has seen most states fending for themselves. Fortunately for California, Gov. Gavin Newsom pulled our plug early with a fairly stringent statewide lockdown. Californians first balked, then complied, and with national death rates quickly outpacing our own, now we’ve become Raving Fans. Fancy a trip to New Orleans by comparison?

Indeed, four weeks in, California is lending ventilators to other states. We’ve successfully “bent the curve” remarkably downward. As in times past, “liberal” yet importantly educated California is leading the way. Most of us can agree at least on this – today is a good time to be in California. For in California, we still believe in science!

But over in New Zealand they’re not just bending the curve, they’re eliminating it. Seeing what happened in Italy, their prime minister instantly put a padlock on the country and closed the whole island down. They’re one viral cycle in, and the P.M. is committed to hold the line through two full infectious cycles. Their cases have fallen rapidly. She’s taken some hits for her tough hand. Good leadership isn’t always popular – but it sure can be effective. The key words are “good” and “leadership.”

So, even beyond the Great Recession, and beyond the banking crisis and even beyond 9-11, this time America’s national government is so dramatically mismanaged, so vastly unprepared, that we’re facing a daily Katrina-level drip-drip of more than 1,000 deaths – and we’re all (at least in intelligent states) sheltering at home, scared to death that this plague passes over our doors. 

And beyond the plague itself is the pain of pending economic carnage of unimaginable, unknown scope.

We can only hope that once this has finally passed, we can, as a nation, demand better and fix these shortcomings. 

No, we did not “handle this well,” and to believe it, surrounded by so many caskets, is cult mentality.

Back in the SCV, we’re protected by the better planning of our state and the great planning in our city. It was reassuring to hear Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Roger Seaver say the hospital was well-equipped, well in control, and in fact, has capacity for normal hospital services. “Don’t be afraid to use the emergency room.” “Don’t hesitate to use the hospital.” Friends, this is not the message we’re hearing from lesser managed locales. Let us be thankful for a great community and a fabulous hospital!

We’ve seen a lot from our SCV home of 32 years. But never a body count like this, and no economic devastation like this. Let’s hope all of us make it through – please, may we all make it through. 

But in making it through, we have an obligation to improve America so that such mismanagement never happens again to us or our children, again.

Meanwhile, it remains good to be a Californian in the SCV.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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