Virus notes: March 26, 2020

MERCED (BLJ) -- The Merced Department of Public Health announced Thursday that there were now four confirmed cases of coronavirus, and added that all the cases “were acquired outside of Merced County.”

How they can be certain of that was not explained?

The county promised to "assess risks of exposure and contact any affected individuals.”

And after a chat, send them down to Costco for some toilet paper?

Three of the four were under 40, the health department said.

Were they students at UC Merced? That would probably have meant a large number of contacts, now spring breaking thither and yon.

Fifty-eight people in this county, population 257,000, have been tested by the county, and an unknown number of people have been tested privately. The health department assures us that if the commercial labs find any cases that test positive, they will alert the authorities.

At the time of the release of this statement, 67 people have died of the virus in California and there are 3, 082 confirmed cases. But without anything like adequate testing, we have no idea how many people are infected. This is not the county health department’s fault and its reluctance to admit its helplessness is understandable if pointless. It announces its relations with larger entities, its operations center, its recent town hall meeting, but frankly it does not "message" the public in a way that indicates it really wants to find out how many cases there are. The business press is full of stories of how the coronavirus will depress real estate values, which could be creating riptides in the local political will to take care of the public with the best science.  But this is just temporary; the virus will quickly overwhelm its deniers, along with the rest of us.