Talk of the Bay from KSQD
Santa Cruz Epidemiologist Will Forest on Coronavirus danger

Here is an interview with Will Forest, an epidemiologist who has worked for the County of Santa Cruz for the past 17 years. He retired in 2018, only to be asked to come back to work for this pandemic response, which he did.

On March 14th, Santa Cruz County epidemiologist, Will Forest wrote this post on his Facebook page:

Will Forest

You’re probably accustomed to the media jumping on a news story and over-covering it and overstating the concerns. COVID-19 is the opposite of that.

I think there is no COVID control measure, large or small, that you, your family, your friends, or your local, state, or federal government will take, that you’ll ever look back at and say “Oh, that was an overreaction.” Quite the opposite. COVID-19 is likely to kill as many people as World War II did.

I’ve worked as a county health department epidemiologist for most of the last 17 years. I’ve been paying attention, much belatedly, to the data from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, as well as the bad situation in the state of Washington and the brand-new cases here in Santa Cruz, California. Hardly anyone in the media or in public office seems to understand just how bad our situation is. The numbers of cases in Iran have doubled every two days for a month; most countries are on the same track, and so is Santa Cruz County. Picture a hospital where every hallway is jammed with people standing cheek to jowl like a packed elevator, waiting and hoping that they’ll be the lucky person who gets the next care available. That’s what actually happened in China, and they have more hospital beds per person than the U.S. does. Picture the 24/7 closure of every school, bar, restaurant, cafe, shop (except grocery stores), and so on. That’s pretty much what Italy recently did, but too late; and it’s what Spain and France just did. That’s what we have to do, immediately, everywhere, in order to “flatten the curve” and avoid the kind of catastrophic situation seen elsewhere.

I’m sending you this message in the hopes that you’ll contact your local and state governments to demand that they IMMEDIATELY impose the same kind of “draconian” controls that have been imposed now in Italy, France, and Spain. Next week would be TOO LATE. In this situation, the word “draconian” is kind of interchangeable with the word “inadequate.” We must press for control measures that you would normally consider outrageous and beyond the pale.

You don’t have anything more important than that to do today.

[updated Sunday 3-15-20: Yes, please feel free to share this. I wrote it specifically so that people would contact their governments to demand immediate actions that they won’t dare to take unless we demand them.)

Three days later, the County, then the state issued a “shelter in place” warning.