State Sen. Mike Morrell

Experts in the medical field and those in positions to make decisions over our lives frequently use the word “science” in reference to the pandemic. Sometimes, though, scientific facts intersect with politics, leading to arbitrary and detrimental sets of restrictive government guidelines.

I certainly have taken COVID-19 seriously, exercising the necessary precautions, as all of us should. However, I am concerned more damage may be done long term if the approach we adopt does not weigh all the factors.

Accomplishing the task ahead requires clarity of resolve. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill were great communicators in times of crisis. You always knew where they stood.

Today, though, many Americans and Californians – in general, a responsible people – are frustrated. We regularly hear conflicting information and see government mandates changing weekly. Consider just a few.

On March 30, the Imperial College of London model said the United States could reach 2.2 million deaths by Sept. 1, which it since walked back. In a March 19 letter to the president, Gov. Newsom estimated over 25 million Californians could contract the virus by May.

Feeding further skepticism, the media reports that labs in Florida have stated test results are 100 percent positive and that they did not account for negative tests. Having done so, it throws the numbers into doubt.

Messaging on face coverings has been mixed too. In a March 8 “60 Minutes” interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advised, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” Now we recognize wearing them as important measures for slowing the spread.

On physical distancing, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends maintaining space of at least three feet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it should be six.

One day, an expert at WHO suggests asymptomatic spread is “very rare,” making headlines. The next day, WHO appears to bow to pressure and rolls back the statement.

The seeming randomness of shutdown guidance also raises questions. In early April, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer attracted national attention for banning big box stores from selling plants.

California now wants to bar singing at church. Backyard barbecues and family gatherings are blamed for the rise in COVID cases, but the activities of thousands of protesters in the streets are not.

Against this backdrop, you cannot fault individuals for taking pause with the uncertainties caused by back-and-forth shutdowns and reopenings.

Containing the virus must be the top priority, but the reality we confront is that isolation, combined with jobs and livelihoods lost in such an unprecedented way, can very well lead to other negative health consequences. Reports indicate that domestic violence, suicide rates and deaths from drug overdoses have risen significantly.

Additionally, since the onset, postponed “elective” surgeries and treatment have become more urgent. Dr. Scott Atlas, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote in “The Hill” that cancer patients deferred chemotherapy. Approximately 80 percent of brain surgeries were skipped. Now the system is dealing with a backlog. On July 6, Atlas observed that 80-85 percent of hospitalizations in Texas were non-COVID related.

Tragically, the median age of death caused by the pandemic is over 70. An estimated 40 percent of fatalities in California are traceable to nursing homes. Other factors like obesity and diabetes also play a role in susceptibility.

With these statistics, it is clear we can identify the most vulnerable populations, protecting them while at the same time empowering Californians to provide for themselves and preserve public health.

Small businesses by and large are doing their part to combat the pandemic. They have gone extra lengths to comply with current guidance, churches have adopted strict safety protocols, and outdoor venues have welcomed visitors back with safeguards in place.

Any hope of economic resilience or normalcy, however, is repeatedly dashed by unpredictable government orders. I have personally spoken to over 300 business owners and heard their anxiety and stress as well as that of constituents. The situation feels endless with little optimism a finish line is in sight.

Americans by nature are fiercely independent with a keen eye toward overreaching government. What we want is consistency, direct communication and not a constantly moving one-size-fits-all approach to this challenge.

For the most part, Americans will do the right thing and act in good faith, but government bureaucrats must remember they are public servants and not our masters.

It is time to stop politicizing the virus at the expense of lives and our overall well-being.

State Senator Mike Morrell represents the 23rd Senate District in the California State Legislature, which includes portions of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties.

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