California is reportedly refusing to share key coronavirus data with the public because officials say it would confuse and mislead them.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed some of the most rigid shutdown orders in the country beginning in March. After Thanksgiving, Newsom switched from using data for each county to determine reopening plans and began using ICU capacity as the only determining factor for each of the five regions he created.
In order to relax restrictions, a region had to have ICU capacity above 15%. Four regions, which accounted for about 98% of California’s population, had ICU capacities well below 15% as of Jan. 18, the Associated Press reported Friday. However, Newsom announced that the Greater Sacramento area could relax its restrictions – meaning salons, worship services, and outdoor dining could resume.
State officials said that they projected that Sacramento’s ICU capacity would rise above 15% within a month by using a complex formula, according to the report. Nearly a week after the restrictions were lifted, the region’s ICU capacity was still at 9%. Local business owners and local officials said that they were surprised that the restrictions were lifted. (RELATED: ‘Garcetti, You F*ck’: Michael Rapaport Slams California COVID-19 Restrictions After Seeing Flea Market Open)
— Carla Marinucci (@cmarinucci) January 22, 2021
“What happened to the 15%? What was that all about?” Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious-diseases control expert at the University of California San Francisco, told the Associated Press. “I was surprised. I assume they know something I don’t know.”
Ali Bay, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health, told the Associated Press that projections used to predict ICU capacity “were not being shared publicly” at the moment.
“These fluid, on-the-ground conditions cannot be boiled down to a single data point — and to do so would mislead and create greater uncertainty for Californians,” California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar said in a statement, according to the report.
David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, which supports increased government transparency, said that citizens have a right to know why the government is making decisions about reopening.
“The state is wielding extraordinary power these days — power to close businesses, to directly impact people’s livelihoods and even lives — and so it owes it to Californians to disclose how and why it makes those decisions,” Snyder told the AP.
“Secrecy is exactly the wrong approach here and will only breed further mistrust, confusion and contempt for the crucial role of government in bringing us out of this crisis,” he added.
Restaurants and other businesses that were forced to close would find access to the data helpful because they could start planning in advance for reopening, said Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association.
The announcement that restrictions were being relaxed “was a good surprise, but we just didn’t see it coming,” Condie told the outlet. “We just don’t know what happens behind the curtain.”