Only Fairview? Really?

Senator John Moorlach
California State Senate, 37th District

It’s a rare day to be featured in the lead editorial of the LA Times. But, if you want to see how far out this editorial board has become, then you’ll enjoy their simplistic treatise on coronavirus, insisting Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa is the proper location to quarantine highly contagious coronavirus patients.

Perhaps they could offer up a location in downtown Los Angeles? I hear their previous office building is vacant between West 1st and West 2nd Streets in Downtown Los Angeles. If they are not concerned with the airborne nature of the virus and its infectious and communicable nature, then perhaps we can house the patients there?

I jest, because even as the Times mocks me as a representative of Orange County who cares about the health and safety of my constituents, they know it’s not NIMBYism to oppose putting a fireworks factory next to your house. And because there still is a lot of secrecy on where the virus originated and how the patients contracted and transmit the virus, it may be wise for the Times to be a little more circumspect on this matter.

Indeed, Orange County is the second-most densely populated county in California, behind the city and county of San Francisco. It’s the home of the Disneyland Resort, which has experienced concerns about measles in years past that have created years of angst up here in Sacramento. And John Wayne International Airport is not far from Fairview, suggesting it wouldn’t take more than one case to impact every other metro area that receives passengers from our airport.

“Not in my backyard” is a weak argument when the world is going apoplectic over coronavirus, including causing a 1,000-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Index Monday and almost 900 points more Tuesday.

The U.S. military also has refused to house any of the coronavirus patients at any of its installations.

We are in need of calm, cool discussions on how to deal with these sensitive patients and care for them appropriately without casting aspersions. Since I received my first phone call late Thursday evening from the Governor’s office offering murky details on what the plan was and who made the determination to select Fairview in the first place, I’ve tried really hard using all the contacts I have to make a sober and informed decision about how to react. I don’t believe we have explored all the options we have in the state.

To haphazardly locate a quarantine center literally hours after announcing that the state would allow Fairview’s use for subsidized homeless shelters ignores the request I made three years ago in the budget to have the property assessed for its highest and best use. As far as I know, the last of the developmentally disabled residents there for decades were relocated only a few days ago. If you were to take a tour through the facility, you would know that the buildings are in need of massive repairs and the mechanical and sanitation systems are severely lacking. And we want to put our sickest people there?

I appreciate being called out, but I wonder about the sincerity of their scholarship and sensitivity to a population that barely reads their erudite wisdom on life and death issues. Experts are still at odds about how the virus is transmitted, but some of the country’s best and brightest (like those at Johns Hopkins University) are suggesting that the airborne transmission can last long after emitted from a host. There is a possibility that the virus is shedding through fecal matter. Or that this virus may be worse than the seasonal flu or SARS. I’m not pre-med, so I don’t know how this will all play out. Epidemiologists are likely working overtime to get a handle on the solution.

In the meantime, I’m sure the editors at the Times have taken a tour of the facility and asked all the relevant questions about its condition. If not, perhaps they are willing to do a tour with me this weekend so that they can better commentate once the federal judge makes her decision on Monday? I’m happy to arrange that for them.

Hosting patients who are being quarantined requires a large support staff for their care. They will be driven in and out of the Fairview facilities. If there is shedding, have we prepared our waste-receiving facilities and sewers appropriately to handle the task? Orange County recycles a lot of water–can those systems handle an outbreak? I could go on and on with the questions.

I have consistently proposed giving the coronavirus victims the best available care–but away from populated centers. Retired military bases in the desert seem like an easy answer.

According to the BBC, in January China constructed a hospital with 1,000 beds in just six days. I’m not saying that’s necessary in America, but creative and community-sensitive solutions are needed. Plunking down the unfortunate patients in an ancient medical facility intended for something far different gives me cause for concern.

I am preparing a formal letter to the Governor to see if he has answers to all the outstanding questions about siting this controversial quarantine at Fairview without any input from legislators or local elected officials, since it appears that it was his Administration that suggested this site to the federal government.

This is no time for secretive partisanship. Everyone should be open about what’s happening, and eager to advance solutions. Let us work together. Let us find solutions. Let us help the victims. But let us first protect ourselves and our families.

Okay. I’ll stop there.

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