• Jim Kelly

San Francisco's lockdown tightens

Mayor London Breed tweeted a new edict Friday, requiring citizens to wear masks when visiting "essential businesses" such as grocery stores.

San Francisco hasn't been deluged with COVID cases. The local rate per capita is close to the national average of 100 per million, and the new case curve has been flat for weeks. Hospitals are not inundated.

We've had 20 deaths. To put that in perspective, in a city of 800,000 people about 74 die every year of seasonal flu.

Earlier this month The Atlantic praised Mayor Breed's early action on CV. She locked the city down March 17th, three days before governors of California and New York locked their states down. The author credits San Francisco's relative good health to her decisiveness but doesn't explain how three days could create such different case rates.

So much for success

One would think that with the case load low and flat and the mayor winning praise, San Francisco would be starting to reopen and repair some of the economic and health damage the lockdown has wrought.

But on the contrary, she's adding new restrictions that seem more easily explained as political grandstanding than any necessary or even rational public health demand. The full press release leaves obvious questions about the edict unanswered and unasked:

  • Were the previous restrictions insufficient to meet some public health goal?

  • If so, what is that goal? How do we know these additional requirements will be sufficient to meet it?

  • If the lockdown was working, why is City Hall issuing new demands on suffering citizens?

  • Is buying groceries a right or a privilege? If you're imposing hurdles to access these services, in what sense do you consider them "essential?"

This new move calls into question the whole theory of the lockdown. People's lives are already dramatically curtailed. I used to encounter hundreds of people every day, now I see more like a dozen, all at a "social distance." The transmission rate today must be orders of magnitude lower than when the economy is functioning.

If that's nevertheless insufficient to subdue the virus, then what purpose does the lockdown serve? If the disease is so contagious that it will spread unacceptably even at these low levels of contact, then everyone will get it sooner or later when we inevitably must go back to work. Is the hope to simply prolong the process so hospitals can keep up?

Grant Colfax, the city's Director of Health, talks vaguely about slowing down the virus but doesn't offer any particular goal or rationale.

Covering your face is a great way to show you care for your neighbors, friends and family. We are going to have to continue to work together to slow down the virus and reduce transmission. The virus is still out there, and we need to be vigilant.

Instead he justifies the mask edict as virtue signaling: "showing you care" about the people around you. Even if my caring were any of his business, this is Orwellian nonsense. When not wearing a mask is "a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both," wearing one is no longer a sign of caring.

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