Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

When California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday, January 25th that the state would lift the stay-at-home order imposed in December, Californians everywhere were confused at best and angry at worst.

The stay at home order was implemented in early December in response to critically low hospital capacity and the unprecedented surge in COVID-19-related cases and deaths.

Based on projections the state released this week that estimate the future capacity of the intensive care unit for hospitals across the state, California leaders decided to lift the home stay order to allow certain businesses and restaurants to use reopen loose regulations.

Southern California – one of the hardest hit regions of not just the state but also the country – makes up half of the state and is still suffering from 0% ICU capacity according to the latest state data. However, according to the projections, the state predicts that ICU capacity in the region will increase to 33% in the next four weeks.

“We’re seeing a flattening of the curve – everything that should be up is up, everything should be down is down – case rates, positivity rates, hospitalizations, intensive care units,” Newsom said in a virtual press conference this week.

The repeal of the stay at home order means that the state has resorted to the color-coded tier system, which imposes certain restrictions based on the rates of fall and positivity between counties. This allows restaurants to dine outdoors again and places of worship to resume their outdoor services. In addition, hair and nail salons and other retail stores can now be opened to in-store services with capacity constraints.

The home stay order also included a curfew to limit the spread of the virus from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., which was also lifted on Monday.

In an interview on NPR on Tuesday, January 26th, California Health and Welfare Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly that the state was seeing a slight decrease in cases and hospital stays (likely due to the more or less working stay-home arrangement as intended), the state felt the public had an opportunity to resume activities outside the home albeit with the same mandates for social distancing and face mask.

“We know that events in the open air, preferably wearing a mask as often as possible, are among the lower risk events,” said Ghaly. “And we banned it because every movement, every mixing outside of your home mattered when we had such enormously high fall rates. But of course when they are down we have to allow and really hope that people use their good judgment. “

But news that the state lifted the stay-at-home order wasn’t very well received by many Californians as they strive to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The most recent surge started back in mid-October and since then the state has seen 2 million more cases and an increase in hospital stays.

Los Angeles County has had a total of 1.1 million cases and more than 16,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

“At that point it became a cycle. We take one step forward and then three steps back. It’s exhausting and annoying, “Myla Ramirez, a Filipino American ICU nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, told the Asian Journal in a recent telephone interview.

Ramirez, 29, became a nurse last February and has seen firsthand how the COVID-19 has weighed on her workplace as well as the other hospitals in the area. Just yards away are the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, which employs two family members.

“I belong to a family of nurses, doctors, and other doctors, and all we do when we talk is how bad our situation is in each of our hospitals, and those conversations just got worse and more tragic. Said Ramirez.

“Just because the numbers have gone down slightly and just because you have a piece of paper predicting capacity will increase doesn’t mean it is a good idea to let go of our guard,” Ramirez said, pointing to the first reopening of the state in May, when the state saw a surge shortly after the initial home stay order was lifted.

Regarding vaccinations – both doses of which Ramirez received earlier this month – Ramirez noted that they are not an excuse for people, especially frontliners, who are high on vaccine priority lists to facilitate public behavior.

The easing of pandemic restrictions, despite ICU predictions, comes at a time when there are astronomical fluctuations in positive COVID-19 cases, particularly in LA County, affecting the local health clinics and funeral industry facing a problem , tragic debris continues to burden thousands of bodies.

Cecilia Li, a Filipino American caregiver in the San Gabriel Valley, told the Asian Journal that the reopenings were “ill-advised” and could result in further spikes in the near future.

Reflecting Ramirez’s thoughts, Li believes that the stay at home order should be extended in order for the condition to improve significantly.

“You think it’s safe to go outside, and you think it’s convenient to go shopping and dine, but not because you can’t expect everyone you encounter to be as careful as You, “said Li.

Li, who was hired directly by her employer (an 83-year-old Chinese American), signed a contract with COVID-19 in June shortly after the first stay at home order was canceled.

She and a colleague had gone to a Santa Monica restaurant and walked down Third Street Promenade one weekend. The following week, she tested positive for coronavirus and quarantined for two weeks before returning to her patient.

Li was admitted to the hospital for a few days and made a full recovery before going back to work. However, she regretted what she called a “stupid decision” that could possibly be “infected” [her] Customer and others. “

“If you’re thinking about going out, maybe in an outdoor seating area of ​​a restaurant or even an open mall, think again. It’s not safe because even if you take off your mask a little, you are still exposing yourself, ”said Li.

In Orange County, COVID-19 has plateaued some with a cumulative total of 229,757 cases and 2,975 deaths across the county. As of Friday January 29, there are currently 1,521 people in hospital for the coronavirus, a small decrease from the 1,703 reported on Monday January 25.

But with the easing of stay-at-home orders – and the fact that local pandemic measures in Orange County are far less restrictive than LA County – the county could see another surge in the coming weeks. And the frustratingly leisurely introduction of vaccines doesn’t help either.

“It is imperative that more people be vaccinated so that we don’t have to go back and forth about when to close and when to open again. Aside from being confusing and sending mixed messages, it is a lot of work for us in health care to adjust to these changes, which are feeling really unpredictable at this point. “Nina Alvarez, a nurse at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, told the Asian Journal.

Alvarez said she and her colleagues expect cases, hospitalizations and deaths to continue to rise in the coming weeks as more people go to restaurants and other public areas.

“We’re really working to the bone here, which has made us very emotionally distant and feeling pretty bleak about the future,” complained Alvarez. “These politicians will celebrate the decline in hospital stays and the death toll, but there is nothing to celebrate. One death from this virus is one too many. “

She expressed dismay at the reopening of the outdoor restaurant.

“There haven’t been many days in the past few months that we haven’t had at least one death from this virus, but those at the top of the tree don’t see this as terrible,” Alvarez said. “But God forbid, people are not allowed to eat on a restaurant terrace.”