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From the start of the pandemic, the trickle-down message from experts about closing businesses, curbing beach activity, ordering you to wear a face covering and the like has been that their actions are guided by science.
That's laudable because, when presented with a clear explanation of why something is, the public has what it needs to make informed choices about behavior.
When it comes to Malibu, however, the science seems to be in the experts’ blindspot.
When I arrived at Malibu Surfside News two months ago next week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city was 29.
As of today, that number is 52.
Even the city of Malibu has taken notice of the spike, issuing a press release stating, “Key metrics continue to show steep increases in community spread of COVID-19.”
The average person might ask why?
Why have COVID-19 cases in Malibu nearly doubled in just two months? Also, what has contact tracing shown about the cases in Malibu?
The science shows that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two days to two weeks after exposure to the virus. Well, a mini spike happened here in mid June, about two weeks after thousands of people took to the streets — not all in masks and not all social distancing — including dozens over the course of several days in Malibu.
We know that residents not only protested here alongside people from outside the city, but locals also went to other cities where protests took place.
Did the protests have anything to do with the Malibu spike?
I asked the experts at the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. The response: crickets, like on a cold, dark night in the Santa Monica Mountains.
On June 25, I contacted the department with a simple question: Any idea why Malibu has seen more confirmed COVID cases in the past week or so?
Then there was this: “What does the contact-tracing data show about Malibu cases?”
I wanted no names; the ill, after all, are entitled to their privacy. However, the science associated with their movement surely is a matter of public interest.
The response four days later from no one in particular was, “I checked and we don’t have information specific to the Malibu cases that would answer these questions.”
But Malibu has two contact tracers (the state is gearing up for 10,000). Is there no information from them yet about the Malibu cases?
How many cases are they following?
How many people have they contacted?
All of these questions have answers that protect the privacy of the patients.
That’s too bad, because the science behind the answers will help the residents of Malibu get through this.
If I get the answers, I’ll be sure to pass them on.
Scott Steepleton is editor of Malibu Surfside News. You can reach him here.