Beverly Hills Needs to Name a Chief Medical Officer

Microbiologist at work
Microbiologist at work

Robin Rowe proposes the City get better prepared for epidemics

BEVERLY HILLS, CA ( 2020/2/5 – Lulu Chen in Hong Kong reports how hate is going viral online as a poorly informed public and ill-prepared government struggle with the coronavirus epidemic that originated in Wuchan, China.

“Social media sites are teeming with conspiracy theories, quack claims, rumors and bitter invective,” says Chen. “From my vantage point in Hong Kong, I’ve seen friends falling out over online posts. Bloggers have been met with waves of digital hate. And journalists reporting on health constraints are being criticized for peddling fear.”

Are we prepared to handle epidemics here in Beverly Hills? Who is in charge of health and infectious disease prevention for the City of Beverly Hills?

Beverly Hills does not have a Chief Medical Officer. The Department of Public Health for Los Angeles County provides information to the public on health and infectious disease prevention. The Beverly Hills Fire Department has two Medical Directors, one who oversees the Paramedics Program and one that oversees the Nurse Practitioner Program. In a disaster, our Fire Chief Greg Barton coordinates public health and sanitation.

The Beverly Hills Office of Resilience, Emergency Management and Recovery under director Pamela Mottice-Muller coordinates City departments and with the Health and Safety Commission. Many other City departments have health and safety related functions and responsibilities as well.

Why do we choose the Internet for health information? It’s the fastest way to convey information, but that comes with some risks. When something bad happens that hits social media, people panic. Some will deny the facts and attack the messenger. And, some attackers are not in panic, are people or bots paid to do dirty tricks to suppress discussion on the Internet, to maintain a narrative being pushed by corrupt companies, governments or conspiracists for their own benefit.

People in fear get stupid. Teaching science and tolerance in our educational system can help prevent panic. After panic happens, we must share the best unbiased information available, try to quell hysteria. Here’s the best summary on cononavirus I’ve seen, what scientists think we know now.

The best guess where coronavirus initiated is in the wet food (live animals for meat) markets of Wuhan. Keeping live animals in crowded, unsanitary conditions is something China cracked down on during the bird flu epidemic, but had allowed to return.

The CDC concluded in, “Effect of Live Poultry Market Closure on Avian Influenza A(H7N9), Virus Activity in Guangzhou, China, 2014” that poultry workers and the general population are constantly exposed to H7N9 virus at these markets and that market closure and disinfection rapidly reduces the amount of viable virus.

Whether or not science eventually proves conclusively coronavirus is spread by wet markets as was A(H7N9), the most prudent thing we can do as a society is to stop meat production entirely. This industry is a leading generator of CO2 climate change and a major vector in the spread of diseases. As with tobacco smoking, the pleasure some feel in the habit comes at a staggering cost to society.

Instead of panicking and seeking a scapegoat when an epidemic leaps out of the meat industry, we can make a personal choice that makes a difference, choose a vegetarian lifestyle. And because much of the world is not vegetarian, the City must get better prepared for when the next meat production instigated epidemic appears.

The city should name a Chief Medical Officer, make it clear who is in charge during a health emergency. Not expect a variety of City officials to immediately act in concert during a crisis.

Fire chief Greg Barton is already acting in the role of Chief Medical Officer. It should be made official.

I’m Robin Rowe, a candidate running for Beverly City Council. I don’t accept contributions from developers or from anyone. I don’t do paid political advertising. I don’t plaster everybody’s yards with “free” yard signs paid for by special interests. I’m #1 on the ballot in the March 3rd, 2020, election. See you there.