Life in Pasadena has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. I must express my heartfelt sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and my profound gratitude to those who have worked so hard to keep us all going.
Like the rest of the state, Pasadena has shut down everything but essential businesses and directed everyone to practice social distancing. We took these extraordinary steps to limit deaths and to avoid overwhelming our medical system. With widespread cooperation from our residents and effective work by city staff, we have been successful to date.
The economic impacts of these measures have been devastating for many people and we all yearn for them to end soon. Unsurprisingly there are loud voices demanding that the restrictions and their attendant economic hardships can no longer be tolerated and that it is time to loosen the rules, allow more people to go back to work and resume other aspects of their normal lives.
Unhappily, the best available scientific advice advocates maintaining the current strictures until certain benchmarks regarding reductions in cases, expanded testing and the availability of therapeutic drugs have been achieved. Of course, there is controversy regarding the accuracy of the tests and the efficacy of existing drugs.
Then there is the matter of Pasadena’s unique role in all of this.
Some assume that since we have our own Health Department that we should exercise more control over our own destiny. We should decide which stores are truly “essential” and which potentially crowd-gathering attractions should remain open. Pasadena should be leading the way in decision-making instead of moving in lock-step with the rest of LA County. I disagree.
Our Public Health Department has been working hard to manage the nursing home hotspots and pursuing vital tracking and tracing of infected people. Our Public Health Officer does have some authority. However, our resources are limited and we are relying on the same science as others in the region. The disease is not limited by municipal boundaries and I believe that Pasadena’s elected officials and city staff must rely on science and experts. Also, is the case with all disasters, we must act in concert with LA County and the state of California.
Where Pasadena has shown significant leadership is in providing assistance to those most in need. We have allocated substantial resources to feeding the hungry and helping the homeless. We have installed a 250-bed surge medical facility in our Convention Center and we have provided $11 million-plus in rebates to all of our power customers.
This pandemic experience is new to all of us, although the 1918 version does offer some guidance. So, we will undoubtedly make some missteps in our efforts to keep our residents safe. We may even be overly cautious in the way that we manage the reopening of normal commerce, education and recreation. Be assured that we will strive to do the best possible job of keeping everyone informed as to the basis of decisions as well as what the rules are.
However, we cannot allow those armed not with facts, but with loud voices to push us into bad choices.
So please, continue to ask questions, make your opinions known and reach your own conclusions; but allow us to act as best we can on your behalf and realize that Pasadena is not an island, but rather a special piece of a larger urban ecosystem that is confronting an international crisis.
Be patient. Stay safe.
Terry Tornek is the mayor of Pasadena.