Gavin Newsom, governor of the “nation-state” of California, is raising what he calls an “army” of 20,000 government employees who will trace the spread of coronavirus across the state. Those found guilty, or rather, infected, are likely to run into an uncomfortable change in their lives.
In Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, a pilot program was launched this week to trace infections and exposure, according to County Health Director Dr. Robert Levin.
When infected persons are found, he said, they are “immediately isolated.”
As more people are tested, Levin continued, “we will find more and more people who have COVID-19.”
“We will isolate every one of them, and we will find every one of their contacts, and we will make sure that they stayed quarantined, and we’ll check in with them every day.”
Seems innocuous, even helpful. But:
As we find more contacts, some of the people are going to have trouble with being isolated, for instance, if they live in a home where there’s only one bathroom, and there are three or four other people living there and those people don’t have COVID infection we’re not going to be able to keep the person in that home. Every person whom we’re isolating, for instance, needs to have, uh, their own bathroom. And so we’ll be moving people like this into other kinds of housing that we have available.
Forcibly move them? This isn’t clear. But it sounds ominous.
Of course we’re not thinking the county and state will be sending infected people and contacts into internment camps. The local ABC affiliate reports the county “will provide a free hotel room and meals if patients can’t easily isolate.”
Meaning they will be separated from their families.
Each positive test will be reported to the county health department, which will dispatch a nurse to interview the infected person.
During the interview the nurse will “find out who lives in the house, we will find out if they are working, and ask them if they have been out in public,” Hannah Edmondson, Ventura County’s senior registered public health nurse, told the local station.
Those known to have been exposed will then be asked to monitor themselves. They must check their temperature twice a day. The contact investigators will follow up through calls and home visits.
And if those being investigated decline?
“We will definitely consult with our health officer to look into the next step,” said Chris Ornelas, a contact tracing Nurse in Ventura County.
Again, this sounds ominous.
To be fair, a citizen journalist website in Ventura County is reporting that Levin later said his language is imprecise, that hotel rooms will be offered, not required, when a household quarantine won’t work.
Yet that same website also reports that a law passed last year, Assembly Bill 262, has made some nervous. The legislation authorizes local health officers to order “other governmental entities“ to “take any action the local health officer deems necessary to control the spread of the communicable disease.”
That’s rather open-ended and should make people living in a state where the government routinely tramples on freedom more than a bit uneasy.
We also note that the Associated Press, in a fact check of a rumor about AB262, admitted that “existing state law does allow for the state’s public health officer to ‘take possession or control of the body of any living person, or the corpse of any deceased person’ as well as destroy ‘bedding, carpets, household goods, clothing’ to stop the spread of a communicable disease.”
We assume Levin was precise in his language when he said it’s going to spread like the disease itself.
“It’s not just our county that’s bringing more people on” as contact tracers, he said. “There are going to be thousands of people hired who will be these contact investigators throughout the state.
“This is occurring in many, many other states as well and perhaps all the states in our country.”
Other states are likely to grant the infected and exposed greater liberty than what California appears to be willing to permit.
— Written by J. Frank Bullitt