State Sen. Mike Morrell

Our state and nation have implemented extraordinary measures in the face of the coronavirus. We are forever grateful to our health-care workers and all those on the frontlines.

After several weeks, with Californians following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines, it appears things are moving in the right direction. People are now asking whether it is time to reopen the economy.

It is an appropriate conversation to have. While prioritizing physical health, we can and should together figure out how to restart.

It is good news that the worst scenarios have not come true. Early models by researchers at Imperial College London showed 2.2 million Americans dying from coronavirus. Since March, Institute for Health and Inlands models have revised projections down to 200,000, then 81,000, then 68,000, though numbers continue to change. Much of that falloff is likely attributable to Americans exercising caution.

Yet couple these high projections and lower figures with the anxiety and fear felt by Californians struggling to get by, it is understandable why so many are anxious to reopen.

Business owners continue to reach out with concerns as to whether they can push ahead. Many have already been forced to lay off employees. Of course, it is not just business owners in this camp. We are all concerned about the virus itself. Then there are news reports on the stock market plunging 10,000 points, the oil market collapsing and nearly one in six Americans out of work.

There is a serious tension between protecting health and getting Californians back to work to care for their families. With this backdrop, perhaps we should consider the president’s “phased-in” guidelines for opening up America, with the advice of experts. Several states are beginning to head that direction, including Georgia, Florida, and Ohio, setting timelines that are aspirational and realistic. Things remain fluid, but providing some certainty is surely welcome.

By beginning regionally and using medical data to guide us, perhaps we may determine it is safer to reopen a furniture store or a floral shop while continuing to avoid squeezing tens of thousands into an arena for a game or a concert. Additionally, with nearly 25 percent of fatalities occurring in long-term care facilities, closer attention should be given toward protecting seniors.   

I appreciate the suggested federal guidelines of opening regionally, recognizing states’ rights and, more importantly, local rights, moving decisions closer to the people. This would be a very American and constitutional thing to do.

I am grateful to the doctors, nurses, medical staff, and other health officials for their coordinated response.  All of these efforts will make us better prepared if there is a next time around.

There are a lot of questions out there. For information and resources, my office has put together a website with key links that you can access from my homepage at www.senate.ca.gov/Morrell.   

Though America finds itself in a very difficult position, I do not believe Providence has abandoned us and I am convinced that better days lie ahead. Thank you for reading and may God bless you and your loved ones during these challenging times.

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