'Our luck ran out': UCSF doctor explains what went wrong in California's fight against COVID-19

ByAlix Martichoux KGO logo
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
'Our luck ran out': UCSF doctor explains CA COVID-19 surge
"Until recently, our state managed to do so well that our experience has been dubbed The California Miracle," said Dr. Bob Wachter. "But let's say it clearly: The Miracle is over."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California is no longer the darling of the American fight against coronavirus. As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged in June, the curve is far from flattened.

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"Until recently, our state managed to do so well that our experience has been dubbed The California Miracle," said Dr. Bob Wachter in a Twitter thread Monday night. "But let's say it clearly: The Miracle is over."

Wachter, the chair of UCSF'S Department of Medicine, has been tweeting about California's journey through the coronavirus pandemic to his 95,000 followers. When he started tweeting, Wachter said, "I fully expected to be chronicling an apocalypse."

But then California became the first state to declare a shelter-in-place order, people by and large stayed home and the curve flattened.

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"California is different: our leaders acted responsibly. And Californians mostly did too," Wachter tweeted.

On Monday night, Wachter decided it was time to level with everyone: things have taken a turn for the worse in the Golden State.

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"Around Memorial Day, standards were relaxed, people (yes, mostly young ones) got complacent, and - after a string of lucky breaks - our luck ran out. Now it's our time."

"With reopenings, a bump in cases was expected ... but few (including me) expected it to be so fast and widespread. While it's mostly concentrated in red states, blue states that dodged the first bullet are getting hit too.

"While it's easy to pin the new surges on feckless politicians, California offers a bit of a controlled experiment: even in a state with mandatory masking and a sound reopening plan, things went sour. COVID wins again: demonstrating that good leadership is crucial, but not sufficient."

What went wrong exactly?

Wachter spreads the blame out a bit, and he's not letting President Donald Trump off the hook. He says the president helped spread misinformation about the virus and masks, which may have left young people thinking they don't know who to believe (and opting to go for the more convenient, mask-less option).

"Many people got sloppy," Wachter said. "On top of that, our lucky streak came to a screeching halt."

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While California didn't have any large outbreaks in March, that's no longer the case. More than 1,000 inmates have tested positive at San Quentin State Prison - and the number continues to climb.

San Francisco isn't surging, but there are "warning signs" as hospitalizations rise, Wachter said. He implored Californians to heed the warnings of public health officials and to wear face coverings.

"I don't know about you, but in March I was scared; now I'm mostly depressed - depressed that we've collectively allowed this to happen, depressed that the light at the end of the tunnel may prove to be an oncoming train. But if any state can turn this around, I'd bet on California."