Coronavirus pandemic: Bakersfield doctors push to lift shelter-in-place order, NorCal health experts disagree

Monday, April 27, 2020
COVID-19 stay-at-home order: Doctors debate when CA should reopen
Two doctors in the Bakersfield area are sparking debate on when California should reopen. They say their data reveals that the shelter-in-place order should be lifted. Bay Area doctors ABC7 News spoke to strongly disagree.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sparks are flying between those who believe that Gov. Gavin Newsom should lift the stay-at-home order and others who believe it would be catastrophic to do so. Two doctors in the Bakersfield area are pushing for the California shelter-in-place order to be lifted, but Bay Area doctors who spoke to ABC7's sister station KGO strongly disagree.

Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi own and run an urgent care facility in Kern County.

"Do we need to still shelter in place? Our answer is no. Do we need businesses to be shut down? No. Do we need to test them and get them back to work? Yes we do," says Dr. Dan Erickson.

The two say they have their own statistics that show COVID-19 is similar to the flu.

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Dr. George Rutherford of University of California, San Francisco disagrees with that, saying that the mortality rate of COVID-19 could end up being 30 times worse than the flu.

"What we're trying to do is prevent people from dying that's what we're trying to do in the Bay Area," Rutherford says. "The early projections were that there would be 44,000 deaths in the Bay Area. There have been 210 so far so I think we're doing pretty damn good and I've certainly don't want to mess with that kind of success."

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The latest data from the local health officials shows the Bay Area currently has over 250 deaths. KGO special correspondent Dr. Alok Patel echos those thoughts and cautions using data from one location.

"It's not scientifically sound to take one population from one county, extract the data and try to make a claim about the national picture or even the rest of the states very different populations," Dr. Patel says.

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Erickson and Massihi gave their thoughts on reopening last week. Since that time, their message has been viewed millions of times online.

Dr. Rutherford says we need to learn from history. In 1918 San Francisco reopened early after the Spanish Flu and an additional 3,000 people died.

Dr. Rutherford believes that some things could start opening up as early as mid-May. Dr. Patel believes we could see a partial start-up in late May to early June.

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