What many have called “irresponsible” can also be categorized as a kind of “rebellion” against state authorities. In California, during the holidays, people went shopping; stores and malls saw significant customer movements, all against the recommendations of politicians and health experts.
“Hundreds of shoppers seeking post-Christmas discounts and returning gifts filled California malls this weekend, despite warnings from health authorities and restrictions due to the increase in cases of COVID-19, which keeps hospitals at their highest capacity,” reads an article by EFE.
California, despite the fact that it has been one of the states that has most radicalized its health measures to curb the cases of COVID-19 -closing down the economy, imposing confinements and curfews- is one of the states with the most cases and deaths from coronavirus in the entire country.
In the “Golden State”, the most populated in the United States, a total of 2,122,806 infections have been reported (50,141 on the lastest day) and there are around 24,283 deaths from the disease.
But the health crisis is not less important than the economic crisis, California this year has lost many jobs and its unemployment rate will end up above 8%. At the same time, important companies are making the decision to move out of the state. The forecasts for economic recovery are not very encouraging either, with economists saying it would be “very slow,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.
In that context, Californians, with considerable indifference to state and health authorities, decided to go out and do their Christmas and general holiday shopping.
“Long lines to enter the stores in shopping centers working at only 20% of capacity were seen this Sunday in big California cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco,” says EFE.
Los Angeles remains the focus of the pandemic in California, with a total of 720,000 cases since the health emergency, and as the virus has not been controlled and the economic crisis is deepening, authorities continue to ask citizens to stay home.
“The biggest concern of authorities continues to be the availability of hospital beds and intensive care units, which in the case of Los Angeles are at 0% capacity, so authorities have urged their residents to stay as long as possible at home,” states the Los Angeles Times.
The facts on the ground are that with people disobeying -whether through ignorance or real intent to “rebel against the authorities”- and shopping centers only at 20 percent operational capacity, an effect contrary to what is intended is caused. Citizens end up in crowds, with less distance and much more likely to contract the virus.
At the same time, closed stores and establishments end up being an ineffective measure that causes economic havoc to all people in the state.
But state authorities do not seem to see it that way. In Los Angeles County, in fact, several shopping centers and stores were fined for violating sanitary measures, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Small businesses and Latinos, the most affected in California
The state measures are affecting mostly small businesses and restaurants in the major counties. The situation is such that California Governor Gavin Newson had to approve a temporary tax relief – the payment of the tax burden was not eliminated, simply the deadline for payment was extended – and a $500,000,000 fund for affected small businesses. The package was announced just one week before the lockdowns were due to arrive again.
The state aid also did little to help, especially Latino families in the state, as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce reported that 35 percent of Latino businesses closed due to the economic impacts of the pandemic and its restrictive measures.
California’s small businesses employ a large number, 7.2 million workers, representing nearly 50 percent of all private sector employees.
Authorities, in addition to crowds, also have a problem with travelers. Many people are returning to the state after going on vacation and, at the same time, are receiving tourists coming to the “Golden State.”
More state restrictions
According to EFE, the increasing number of cases would trigger the extension of “preventive restrictions” in the state starting this Monday. “California public health officials predict this Sunday that the stricter stay-at-home orders that are due to expire this Monday in some counties will be extended due to the large number of people who are hospitalized dealing with the contagion.”
The regional stay-home order in 11 Southern California counties, including Los Angeles and areas in central and northern California, was implemented December 6th and it theoretically expires December 28th. But, “Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to extend these restrictions, which do not allow restaurants to serve in the courtyards and outside tables, keep malls operating at 20 percent of capacity, and order the closure of gyms and other non-essential businesses, among others.”
State officials mentioned last Sunday afternoon that the orders were likely to be extended in view of the escalation of positive cases that keeps more than 20,000 infected people hospitalized and hospitals at their maximum capacity.