For weeks now, our economy, our community and our world have been tested and stressed to levels seemingly unimaginable by an invisible enemy. Back in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom provided worst-case modeling data that suggested an infection rate of over 50% (20 MILLION Californians), with mortalities in the millions to justify the sweeping quarantine directives put upon all of us.
Flash forward to today, and the results of Covid-19’s savagery thus far have been exponentially less than originally postulated. Perhaps the quarantine directives and stay-at-home orders worked, perhaps the virus has already made its way through the citizenry with many suffering little to no outward effects, or perhaps the real damage of COVID-19 will be less about tangible illnesses and more about an underlying fear of a virus no one understood.
We may not know the true effects of COVID for months or years to come, as experts continue to gather real data and information to try and put the pieces of this pandemic puzzle together.
Regardless of your views on what has taken place these past weeks, and whether your perspective is from a public health concern, politically motivated, or a constitutional crisis frame of mind, there are real consequences being shouldered by the parents, children and businesses that cannot be dismissed any longer.
Reports from Sacramento suggest budget deficits over $50 BILLION, while Santa Clarita itself expects losses in revenue of $10 million this year alone. Our local school districts brace for massive budget cuts while trying to educate our most precious gifts, and honor our graduating seniors who will not get the traditional ceremony they have earned. Thousands of businesses have closed their doors — some forever — giving our city the third highest unemployment numbers in California and 17th highest in the nation.
The safer-at-home edicts, initially meant to protect our hospitals and prevent overburdening our healthcare system, have now resulted in layoffs as revenue from both elective and urgent procedures are being postponed.
While we can endlessly debate the validity of the devastation caused by the initial forecasted numbers of this pandemic, the economic fallout certainly came to pass. This is the devastation that we must now grapple with safely, boldly and immediately!
With this in mind, it was disheartening to hear the county health director suggest safer-at-home directives might be extended through July. If this happens, it would further postpone the opening of businesses and continue to crush our families and economy. Even with our statistically low infection and mortality rates, the county continues to lump Santa Clarita in with harder-hit areas. This “one size fits all” approach is more restrictive than even the state’s approach, and will be binding on Santa Clarita without immediate adjustments.
At a recent City Council meeting, Holly Schroeder, the director of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., gave an honest, nonpartisan and extremely chilling description of the devastating effects this shutdown has created. Schroeder shared that unemployment rates in Santa Clarita could approach 31%, as our largest private employer is closed, our second largest has stopped global operations through the summer, our once booming aerospace industry has been brought to its knees, filming has been shut down, local medical device manufacturers almost all sit idle, and the list continues.
Simply put, there are businesses ready, willing and quite frankly who need to open their doors because the mitigation efforts for the pandemic have become far more dangerous to our health and safety as individuals, and as a community.
At the pinnacle of this pandemic, we bore witness to the strength and resiliency of our community to continually find positive and uplifting manners in which to serve those in need. Our incredible nonprofit organizations in the valley continue to help the disadvantaged, the vulnerable and the struggling, even when they are unable to promote and execute the charity galas that keep their doors open. People from all walks of life set aside their personal thoughts, feelings and ideologies, and only strive to serve!
I was personally blown away when a friend reached out who knew a single mother in town with an immuno-compromised child, who was now out of work, no income, and no way to get groceries for her family. Within a matter of HOURS, along with being tied into organizations who could provide assistance on a continual basis, a number of local residents had packed up bags of groceries and dropped them off at her door, including a new toy set for her child.
It is remarkable how we can impact the lives of those around us in a positive way, and be done safely, quickly and effectively.
It is more important now than ever that our business communities, advocacy organizations and elected leaders come together, stand together and work together to protect that which has made America a beacon of industrial ingenuity, a home for those with nothing but a dream to pave their own futures, and re-create an economy that can benefit us all.
We will all undoubtedly get wrapped up in the “Monday Morning quarterbacking” that will arise from the actions taken by our elected officials, but don’t let the noise of that debate prohibit us from remembering what has made the Santa Clarita Valley successful.
Don’t let fear dictate policy and choice. Find patience and understanding for all those who have been hurt by COVID-19, and let’s start safely rebuilding and recovering now.
We simply can’t afford not to.
Jason Gibbs is a Santa Clarita resident.