OpEd: Why is a Social Worker Dictating COVID-19 Policy for the Country’s Largest County?

Why is a Social Worker Setting COVID-19 Policy for the Country's Largest County

Los Angeles County is, by a wide margin, the most populous county in the United States. At an estimated 10 million, its population is larger than all but seven states and over a hundred countries. In fact, LA County has nearly the same number of inhabitants as, dare I say it, Sweden.  Yes, that neo-Nazi, baby-killing, fascist, herd immunity gathering, bastion of pure evil Sweden (sarcasm intended).  Not only is LA County full of people, it is also full of money, having nearly the same GDP as Saudi Arabia.
A county with that population and wealth should have an army of world class scientists leading the battle in the fight against COVID-19. Let’s take a look at who is leading this world class team.
Our LA County Public Health Commissioner is Dr. Barbara Ferrer. You can find her bio here.
Impressive, right? Well, look a little closer. She must have graduated from a top-tier medical school, or so one would think…
Now is when I usually get the “OMG” response, even from the most liberal of liberals.
To be clear she is not even a medical doctor. She has a Doctorate in “Social Welfare.”  So essentially, we have a high-powered social worker (albeit one of the most well-known in the country) leading the largest county in the United States in the fight of our lives against this biological threat.
Yes, this is the real-life version of “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV.”
Instead of looking at science and data and adapting her public health response to attack what we now know are the strengths and weaknesses of this virus, she is essentially behaving like an elementary school principal (probably because she was one). Exerting her new-found unchallengeable and unelected power over an entire population that she views as children. She tells us what to do, how to do it, and even threatens to take away our few remaining freedoms, if we misbehave.
To be clear, I am not writing this to disparage Dr. Ferrer. She has had an illustrious career and has worked hard to achieve . The problem is that, in this fight against a novel coronavirus, we need a team of medical doctors and (apolitical) scientists guiding us, not a sociologist. In a place as populous and wealthy as LA County, we should expect to be led by some of the best in the world. We are clearly not.
She, like many of the public health directors across the country, is faced with a problem that a bureaucrat isn’t practiced or proficient enough to be fighting. Throw more common health issues at her, such as HIV prevention, homelessness, or opiate addiction, and I’m sure she could succeed. But, in the face of a brand new biological pandemic, she has no chance, and the numbers show it.
Let’s take a look at a few graphs, sourced from worldometer. And please note, I’ve intentionally left off which graph represents which location until after you’ve looked at them…
Florida CasesFlorida Deaths
Sweden CasesSweden Deaths
California casesCalifornia deaths
You would probably expect the location with the strictest and longest lockdown to be going down the fastest, right?
Exhibit 1 is Florida. Yes, the Florida that was heavily admonished for opening beaches and having lax social distancing policies. Exhibit 2 is Sweden, which, by its own design, is going for “Herd Immunity.” And yes, Exhibit 3 is California, with more than half of the deaths and cases represented by LA county. This may be shocking to some people as headlines seem to tell a very different story.
How can this be?
Most of the decisions that have been made in LA County are based on politics and not science. This is what we should expect when have politicians, bureaucrats and a social worker leading the effort. It’s been a lazy approach. Lock down as many things as possible for as long as possible while trying to keep the public at bay through a fear mongering campaign. It seems San Francisco County and LA County are in a contest to be the “strictest principal” without regard for the overall well-being of its citizens. So why is the “strict” lockdown in LA County not working?
The answer is simple: LA county is focusing on the wrong areas to prevent the spread and deaths from COVID. Take Florida, for instance. After a rough start, they focused heavily on keeping COVID away from their elderly and most vulnerable populations.
It is now obvious from the millions of data points that COVID is very deadly to the elderly and much much less so to the young and healthy. In fact, the risk to healthy people in general under the age of 50 is statistically no more significant than that of the flu.
Florida, by far, has the most seniors in the country so you would expect it to have a disproportional amount of deaths. But by focusing on this problem and allowing a little more freedom with the rest of its population, state officials have managed to keep the virus relatively at bay. That’s smart and dare I say, scientific.
Another example is the strange dichotomy of Dr. Ferrer’s rules applied to outdoors versus indoors.  We now know, from all the data and our historical understanding of viral transmission, that the risk of transmission in indoor environments far exceeds outdoor environments. Data supports that all super spreading clusters have occurred in poorly-ventilated indoor environments. Yet in LA we don’t think twice allowing Costco free-for-alls.
Is it because we have a mask/scarf/bandana/dirty underwear covering our faces?
Is a scarf really going to protect us in this this poorly-ventilated, crowded, indoor environment? I don’t see doctors and nurses walking around with a pair of tighty-whiteys over their faces.
I, for one, feel protected primarily because of the North Korean style loudspeaker at the meat section blaring its social distancing policies (more sarcasm).

While we allow these Costco ‘orgies’ to continue, we close our wide-open beaches, baseball fields, parks, bike paths, and hiking trails.
Because of politics, not science.
Those were the easiest and laziest solutions for our politicians. If I simply lock it up, no one can use it. Our leaders in California are clearly good at politics, but they stink at science and coming up with the creative solutions to fight against this virus while still protecting us from economic turmoil.
These are only a few obvious examples of the many hypocritical and indolent policies that our overwhelmed leadership has deployed. There are many more, but I will leave that for a later time.
These misguided policies are not only destroying the morale and livelihoods of everyone, they are costing lives. It’s undeniable at this point. Our failure to protect the elderly is responsible for half the deaths in LA county. A recent article pointed out the that 6,000 children a day, worldwide, will die as a result of the disruption to the medical systems due to the lockdowns, prolonging of basic medical care, and supply chain disruptions for medicines. In LA county there have been exactly ZERO deaths of anyone less than 18 years old directly due to COVID. In the entire country and the world there has been only a handful. While the death of any child is heartbreaking, the death of 6,000 a day primarily because of lockdowns is criminal.
LA County has the resources and financial wherewithal to focus on scientifically-targeted approaches, guided by data, and led by world-class medical doctors and scientists. Instead, we have allowed unelected bureaucrats to better their political lives by destroying all of ours.

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