Mayor Poe: “Post-quarantine Gainesville will not look like pre-COVID-19 Gainesville”

State of the City
State of the City

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe released the following statement on his Facebook page yesterday about when the COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and the citizens of Gainesville would be relaxed or lifted:

 “Many people are starting to ask when Gainesville will open back up for business as usual. It is a fair question. We see the devastation this new virus is having on our neighbors, friends and families. When we speak of economic ruin, we are really talking about people’s lives being thrown into chaos. People are suffering. People are begging for help, for some measure of relief. People want to know when it will all be over.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is the leading cause of death per day in the United States. It has no cure; it will not respond to anti-viral treatments and there is no vaccine. It is especially lethal to our older neighbors, but everyone is at risk. The CDC believes that 25% all people infected show no symptoms and researchers in Iceland believe that it is twice that. This means that if these carriers are not taking significant precautions while interacting with other people and self-quarantining the rest of the time, they are likely spreading the disease without ever knowing they had it.

So, what does a post quarantine Gainesville look like? One thing seems likely; it will not look like pre-COVID-19 Gainesville. Epidemiologists nearly all agree that without a vaccine or other as-yet-unknown protective measures, a sudden return to “normal” would inevitably lead to a second wave of mass infections. Emergency rooms will be over capacity, healthcare workers will be stretched too thin, and we will be back on lockdown.

Thomas Pueyo has two master’s degrees in Engineering and an MBA from Stanford. In his March 19 article in Medium titled:Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance, with over 40 million views, he suggests taking hard measures now or suffer dire consequences in the long run. An excerpt reads:

Our healthcare system is already collapsing.

Countries have two options: either they fight it hard now, or they will suffer a massive epidemic.

If they choose the epidemic, hundreds of thousands will die. In some countries, millions.

And that might not even eliminate further waves of infections.

If we fight hard now, we will curb the deaths.

We will relieve our healthcare system.

We will prepare better.

We will learn.

The world has never learned as fast about anything, ever.

And we need it, because we know so little about this virus.

All of this will achieve something critical: Buy Us Time.

If we choose to fight hard, the fight will be sudden, then gradual.

We will be locked in for weeks, not months.

Then, we will get more and more freedoms back.

It might not be back to normal immediately.

But it will be close, and eventually back to normal.

And we can do all that while considering the rest of the economy too.

 I believe that we need to fight hard. We need significantly more testing. Not just a little more, but exponentially more testing. We need to see declining positive tests for at least two weeks in a row. We need to have a much better ability to conduct thorough contact-tracing. We need to learn if exposed people develop immunity or not. We need to collect many more antibody samples. We are in the infancy of doing any of this.

We may get to the point where we can gradually begin allowing some non-essential businesses to reopen. But until there is a vaccine, the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and most other public health experts agree that mass gatherings are out, and groups must be kept to ten or fewer. That is nothing like the pre-COVID world. These decisions should not be based on emotion or hunches. They should be based on sound science and the advice of medical professionals.

In the meantime, we will do what we can locally to help small businesses, our neighbors struggling to pay rent, our neighbors who are out of a job. We have extremely limited resources, so it is incumbent on our state and federal government to carry the load in the areas of economic support and strengthening the social safety net. I fully expect our innovative ecosystem of both the public and private sector to come up with new and exciting ideas that will transform our local economy and offer new hope to our neighbors living on the margins.

None of us have been through this before. It is traumatic. It is inconvenient. It is going to be a challenge that tests our mettle and will eventually bring us closer together. Keep fighting hard, Gainesville.”

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