The COVID-19 California Police State

cdc map

Found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website

No, I’m really not that paranoid, but you have to admit that people are probably getting nervous about not just the pandemic, but governmental responses.

First, the rise of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic across the globe. Then the hoarding, including guns and ammo, and then martial law…well sort of.

Yesterday, I heard that San Francisco and several of the surrounding countries all went on lockdown:

Almost 7 million people are affected by the lockdown that went into place Tuesday as Bay Area counties followed San Francisco’s lead in ordering residents to shelter in place. It was the first of such measures in the United States as authorities try to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Okay, I get it. The northern California authorities are trying everything they can think of to flatten the curve.

But then, to top it all off, I read that California Governor Gavin Newsom placed the California National Guard on alert. What’s he expecting, riots in the streets?


California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

If I were paranoid, I’d believe that California’s liberal leaders are taking advantage of what seems to be news agency fueled panic in order to seize control of civil liberties, confining people to their homes, dictating where and when people can congregate (or not), which businesses will remain open, what goods and services remain available.

It’s like a story I might write. Imagine this happening on a national scale.

Oh wait!

That already happened in Italy where, in the space of just a single day, 475 people died from COVID-19.

My wife was supposed to be in Israel right now, but again, Coronavirus caused her tour to be cancelled (even though the flight did leave). Now Israel is facing a national lockdown.

I’m reminded somewhat of the aftereffects of the September 11, 2001 attacks. As our need to feel safer escalated, our liberties were eroded, some say too harshly. It seems to be a human response to an emergency or crisis. In that sense, the COVID-19 pandemic fits the bill.

Of course, I’ve lived through a few 20th century pandemics, but the public response to this one seems so much more extreme:

In 1957, an H2N2 virus appeared in China. This “Asian flu” quickly swept through the population, replacing the previously-circulating H1N1 virus and killing 1-4 million people worldwide. Similarly, in 1968, an H3N2 virus emerged from Hong Kong to replace the H2N2 virus. This pandemic resulted in 1-2 million deaths. The H1N1 serotype re-surfaced in 1977, and currently, H3N2, H1N1 and reassortant H1N2 viruses are circulating in the human population.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is being compared to the deadliest pandemic in the past 100 years, the 1918 Spanish Flu.

Here’s some ways they differ and what we do or don’t know yet:

But Spanish flu is different from COVID-19 coronavirus in important ways. According to National Geographic, Spanish flu killed with deadly speed, with many reports of people who woke up sick, then died on their way to work.

But perhaps the most important difference between the two viral diseases comes down to historical timing. The Spanish flu pandemic coincided with World War I, which helped the disease quickly spread along with mobilized troops from place to place. In contrast, many nations have enacted travel restrictions to areas high in coronavirus COVID-19 infections with the purpose of preventing quick spread.

Coronavirus COVID-19 has never been seen before this outbreak. As a result, there are many details about the infection that remain unknown.

One of the most pressing questions is whether coronavirus will go away anytime soon. The impact of the Spanish flu was vast and continues to this day. Descendants of the virus can still be found in pigs, Dr. Taubenberger said. And ever since a lab accident in 1977, nearly all human cases of influenza A have been caused by Spanish flu viral descendants.

sf lockdown

A man crosses a nearly empty street in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

It wouldn’t take much to push all this information in the direction of a Stephen King novel. I’m not sure anyone would want to read it right now.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news.

Hang in there. I may yet write a dystopian tale based on these events, but I’ll wait until it’s all blown over.

Addendum: Not sure this is such a good idea.

6 thoughts on “The COVID-19 California Police State

  1. I must be honest, James, I think that a lock down is they only way to handle this. People don’t do what they are told to do in western countries and they put others at risk as a result. There may very well be riots as the number of sick people rises. I think your government is doing its best to protect people. I have a lot more faith in the US response than Southern AFrica’s.


  2. I’d recommend writing your tale ASAP, that it might be published before 1 of 2 things occurs: either the pandemic will subside and people will be less desperate for reading material to distract them from the realities of it, or the dystopia will become real and it will become illegal to publish such a subversive story. Think of China’s apparent restriction against journalists or their own scientists and doctors telling about the severity of actual events there or sharing medical data that could aid in combatting the disease elsewhere.


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