Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
San Francisco declares state of emergency to prepare for coronavirus (businessinsider.com)
103 points by wglb 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments

While the sensationalist headline is technically accurate, both the headline and the linked article bury the intent and context of the declaration. In short, don't panic.


> There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in San Francisco to date, but as infections continue to rise across the world, “we need to allocate more resources to make sure we are prepared,” Breed said at a press conference announcing the emergency declaration.

> “To be clear, this declaration of emergency is all about preparedness. By declaring a state of emergency we are prioritizing the safety of our communities by being prepared.”

I feel like the debate between the "don't panic" crowd and the "preppers" is a useless semantic debate between extremists.

You want to react the appropriate amount. For the time being, you should go about your normal routine, but like the CDC said today, you should prepare for some major lifestyle disruptions.

I can comment on a couple unexpected shortages we've seen in Asia: toilet paper, due to panic buying, and hand sanitizer.

There are also some concerns about medicines unrelated to the virus because many meds are produced in China and the supply chain here is all screwed up. So some might consider getting medicine refills for 30 days (or however long your insurance will let you) in advance. You also might not want to have to go wait in line at a pharmacy during a pandemic.

In terms of work: it may make sense to start thinking about what kind of work can be done efficiently remotely vs. on-site.

You also may want to think about finances in case the world sees a significant economic contraction. If lots of countries replicate what has happened in China, the world economy will be highly disrupted for at least a couple months.

Super useful comment. R.e. toilet paper, random observation: buy a bidet and you basically won't need to buy tp very much any more. They are very inexpensive at least in the states. You can get one for $20 or so.

Hopefully you have running water. I'd still recommend keeping some TP in case water goes out in toilet.

Yep, we have a backup supply. That said if there's no running water for a prolonged period we are eventually going to start having other problems. Fwiw I don't think that is an anticipated outcome even of a global covid-19 pandemic.

This is the most useful comment ever made in any forum for all of history. I would give you all of my karma points if I could.

I made this same recommendation and got downvoted(?!). Bidets really are a great invention. Basically cut your toilet paper down to almost nothing.

Other countries won't copy China once the cat is out of the bag. Strategy will change to mitigation

Out of curiosity, have you done anything to prepare for any major lifestyle disruptions?

A fringe benefit, perhaps the only ;), of living in San Francisco is that you are always prepared for major lifestyle disruptions; it is called an earthquake plan and you should have one.

Plenty of food and water to last at least seven days, evacuation meeting points etc. Oh and a wrench for those pesky gas mains.

> Plenty of food and water to last at least seven days

I'm always a little bemused to see food and water given equal weight in preparedness recommendations like this. If you have no food at all for seven days, that won't really cause problems. If you're only planning for a seven-day emergency, there's no reason to store any amount of food.

If you have water for 7 days and food for 3 months, the lack of water will cause a lot of problems.

The recommendations presume you may need to do more than just sit around.

Suppose on day four fire breaks out and you need to evacuate. Your ability to walk long distances, carry others with injuries, and think clearly and make good decisions about how to evacuate will all be impacted by a lack of food.

When I was in a mild emergency one thing the experts did that stood out to me was forcing us all to take a break and cook a warm meal. It made a significant difference to perceived energy level and judgement, even if it wasn't strictly necessary.

> When I was in a mild emergency one thing the experts did that stood out to me was forcing us all to take a break and cook a warm meal. It made a significant difference to perceived energy level and judgement, even if it wasn't strictly necessary.

It does wonders for morale, otherwise it's really not that necessary unless you're running exceptionally low in the adipose department to begin with.

I'm absolutely not an expert in this. I personally perceived a benefit to focus, concentration, and problem solving in addition to morale/group enthusiasm.

My belief, however, (without experience) is that after a few days of no food the physical feeling of hunger will start being very distracting, and you'll start feeling lethargic. I believed that was the case even if you were well nourished before. Not because you run out of fat to burn but because your body starts minimizing usage. Is that totally wrong?

> I personally perceived a benefit to focus, concentration, and problem solving

People often describe the same things about ketogenic diets and fasting, which are both fat burning modes.

The issue is if you only get into the flux state where you're in between modes. That's where you're hangry, irritable, and can't focus because all you can think about is your hunger. In that condition feeding restores normal operation, and can seem like the only path to recovery.

But it actually passes eventually, and what happens afterwards seems kind of remarkable if you've never done it before.

Water is a different story, but food is really quite optional until the fat buffers start experiencing underruns and your muscles start getting cannibalized, then you're starting to get into trouble.

We've evolved to not just struggle through periods of food scarcity, we actually perform well and can be surprisingly athletic without food. It makes sense to me, since when we're without food we need to be on our game and go find some or eventually we'd die.

When fasting, for me anyways, it really feels like a keyed-up high-alert almost stimulated mode of operating. I've gone on long hikes and runs after not eating for multiple days, it's kind of preferable now so I don't have to carry any food and it's more pleasant to do physical activities with an empty abdomen.


Above where I wrote "feeding restores normal operation", I'm assuming that "normal operation" isn't a ketogenic diet, and feeding includes carbs.

People already in ketosis don't go through this suffering phase when starting a fast, because it already happened when they ceased consuming carbs.

I've gone 7 days without food, multiple times in a row and 3 days without water. I felt great towards the end of the food fasts. I felt pretty lethargic on the dry fast. Body fat stores a significant amount of energy. I burned about 45 lbs of it this way.

I have done 10-day fasts pretty easily. However, the difference is that when you are doing a voluntary fast, it is just that - voluntary. I imagine not knowing when your fast will end (if ever), will change your attitude and behavior a great deal.

You may have less energy, but after a few days of no food, the feeling of hunger doesn't get worse -- it goes away.

If people around you are going without food for 7 days or longer, you still have a problem, and it’s directly proportionate to the number of very hungry people that live around you.

“Safe is anywhere a hungry person can't walk in three days.”

No reason? How many days have you gone without food before? No, you won’t die, but it won’t be comfortable.

Hunger and hunger pangs disappear by day 3 or 4, and what pain there is almost entirely mental. Lots of people do 7-10 fasts (especially in California), and this experience is quite typical if not universal. Though, perhaps once you get to the point of starvation the experience changes.

I've done a few 5-7 day juice fasts starting at ~600 calories per day--all sugar as fat and protein prevent hunger from subsiding. After the hunger subsides it's easier to taper off entirely. The hard part is dealing with stress. Even though it's common to experience a mental high and to even perform well athletically, the difficulty with stress betrays the fact that your body has declining energy.

I don't do fasts, but I can attest to hunger pains disappearing after a couple of days, and the fact most of it is mental.

I went from a 3000 calorie/day diet to a 1000 calorie/day diet for 8 months several years back. A few years after that, I once went 4 full days without food (it sucked, but I was mentally prepared due to my experience from that 3k to 1k diet change).

The change in energy will mess with your head/body for about a week until you get used to it.

Edit: People keep downvoting the parent, but I'm not sure why, just because the information comes from someone who does "fasts"?

> all sugar as fat and protein prevent hunger from subsiding

I think you've got that inverted.

People easing into intermittent fasting are often recommended they start with keto to get fat-as-fuel adapted and begin their intermittent fasts with a few days of keto for the very reason that it gets through the hunger pangs while still being able to eat, just avoiding carbs.

Wait, what? I thought fat and protein were generally what gave the feeling of satiation?

> starting at ~600 calories per day--all sugar as fat and protein prevent hunger from subsiding. After the hunger subsides it's easier to taper off entirely.

I think that statement was easily misinterpreted.

After not eating you start to feel hungry. After a couple of days, that hunger will fade. Eating fat or protein will satiate that hunger but will sort of reset that timer on the hunger going away entirely.

I think the idea is you do a 7 day fast, eating a small amount of sugar during the first ~3 hungry days.

I think you're talking about two different things.

Fat and protein giving satiation refers to your hunger subsiding because you're full.

Whereas "eating all sugar as fat and protein prevent hunger from subsiding" refers to the phenomenon that when you're starving, you stop feeling hungry despite the fact that you aren't full. Presumably, consuming sugar doesn't interfere with this, while consuming fat or protein does.

May as well pack a portable DVD player with your favorite movies to enjoy your food with.

On the other hand, if I have fuel, then I may be able to get water in the form of rainwater or other potential water sources -- boiling the water for safety. For me, that's one of the big things that people overlook when they are preparing for disasters.

But I would say definitely store food and medicine. Keeping your energy levels up is important for maintaining your health. Getting ill is just another way to die.

You need chemical treatment and not boiling for rainwater. It is often chemically polluted because we're still burning contaminated hydrocarbons, typically with NOx or SOx (nitrates or sulphates). These are rather unhealthy, but in a short emergency it's fine.

You definitely want to boil river or lake water.

I don’t know much about the city water system, is there a likely scenario where the water shuts off due to coronavirus?

It’s a much different situation than an earthquake, nothing is going to damage the water lines in this case. Does the water grid require a lot of active maintenance on a daily basis that it’s at risk of shutting off if there are a few weeks where nobody is working?

The lesson I would draw is less "they're recommending 7 days of water because they think there's a chance the water might shut off" and more "they issue the same recommendations without regard to what circumstances you're supposedly preparing for or whether those recommendations technically make any sense".

>If you're only planning for a seven-day emergency, there's no reason to store any amount of food.

but why would i do that to myself when i could easily buy protein bars and canned goods?

If you have no food at all for seven days, that won't really cause problems.

"Civilization is only three meals deep." — My old boss.

Everyone here saying “hunger goes away after 3 days” should read more about what desperate people do during prolonged famines.

If it comes to that, your “neighbors” aren’t going to be sitting around doing yoga to feel less hungry.

The people talking about 'hunger goes away after 3 days' are talking about people who are mentally-prepared to experience it.

You and the people talking about civilization only being 3 days away from anarchy are talking about "desperate people".

I don't think anyone is confusing the two groups of people; just talking about two different possibilities for different people.

Prolonged meaning nearing a month, not a week.

> If you have no food at all for seven days

I strongly disagree with this characterization.

Sure, technically, most people aren't going to literally die, if they go without food for a couple days.

But I think that you underestimate the secondary effects that not having food for a couple days has on a person.

An emergency bag with documents, first aid, and basic supplies, clothes, etc can be a good idea for the earthquake plan. Not so useful for epidemic emergency though.

Well, it would have masks as well which are directly helpful. And if you must be quarantined for days and possibly care for yourself or someone else in the house with a bad fever/illness then yeah everything else is useful.

Our world is filled with viruses, and we have set measures to fight it. I'm afraid Covid2019 might became a reason for another Patriot act, seizing people's rights and freedoms even more.

Sure, but “don’t panic” is not an extreme sentiment, nor does it imply you shouldn’t prepare. Panic over an illness that has infected a grand total of less than 100,000 people...out of 7 billion, is probably an overreaction, in almost every case.

The amount of absolute garbage information flooding the internet right now has caused a lot of folks I know to freak out, when the relative risk of this virus is lower than any number of other things they do on a daily basis without a second thought.

So yes, wash your hands more, try to avoid large crowds amd have a plan for when they cancel your kid’s school or whatever, but don’t start a run on canned goods at the local grocery store. It’s important to maintain perspective.

Ah, but I panic a bit about other people panicking.

How is avoid large crowd advice have more perspective than buy can food?

Your choice to avoid crowds helps everyone, because the crowds are one person smaller.

Hoarding canned food from your local store hurts everyone, because now they have less food.

My sister in law was in Milan a few days ago. In her words the city was deserted and the reaction by immediate family members to the description was to fuel more panic and suggestions to react by hoarding basic food supplies asap. The main rationale for suggesting that was to react on other people panicking.

Everything we do has consequences.

It’s especially important to manage your sense of panic when everyone else is losing their mind.

The fact that a simple acknowledgement that hoarding is objectively worse than avoiding large crowds is voted down to -1, should tell you everything you need to know about the sense of panic that is sweeping the internet right now.

Buying 46 cans of beans and corn is hardly hoarding. Everyone shouldn’t have been so apathetic.

Well, please note that the entire of U.S.A has tested like 500~ people in total. Some expect there to be many more undetected cases that we're missing simply because we are not testing.

That’s due to bayes theorem. If you test people who aren’t like to have caught the disease, and say the test has 1% chance to misdiagnose, you’ll almost certainly create wild amounts of false positives and spark a wider panic.

I think it's due to being extremely unprepared for the scale of testing required.

The current test also has an absurdly high false negative rate - one source claims upwards of 50%.


"One possible explanation is the tests are accurate and the patients do not have coronavirus at the time of testing"

Sure if you want to cherry pick explanations. Likelier alternative is this is a new virus and the test needs to be adapted for it. Also we don't know where to swab for it. Another paper came out saying presymptomatic patients have concentrations of virus in their sinuses IIRC.

I'm curious how this "state of emergency" declaration works when everyone is doing it. AFAIK a lot of "state of emergency" declarations are about fund allocations from central sources (state, federal) and that works fine when it's used for exceptional cases/natural disasters but I doubt this will scale well when the entire country enters a state of emergency. I guess we shall see.

Local governments in disaster prone areas tend to have significant emergency funds they can tap into. Doing so now to do an inventory of supplies, run some disaster planning, and possibly fill in any gaps is completely reasonable.

They are unusually likely to see a small scale outbreak and effective early responses could make a huge difference.

Most importantly this allows using the emergency funds to boost local healthcare in case of an epidemic. Without the declaration the local government is unable to do so, just use it to bolster standard plans.

its not just fund allocations but there is a change in operational stance for local governments and service providers its a different machine state than default mode

if theres not enough money around the emergency rules will still be in effect

Maybe that's why SF is declaring emergency so early

"There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in San Francisco to date"

There also has hardly been any testing.

There also has hardly been any testing.

Source? Or are you under the impression that there's a public announcement every time someone gets tested?

Only 426 people tested in the entire US, so I think "hardly any testing" in SF is a fair statement.


> There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in San Francisco to date

Because the health care system nationally is refusing point blank to test people who have viral pneumonia even after they test negative for flu.

Italian health care system has performed 10x more tests than neighbouring EU members such as France or Germany and founds 10x people positive to the virus. Italy is now the third most affected country (for some definition of "now" since the situation evolves rapidly)

That doesn't mean it's necessarily a statistical artifact of the stance on testing. It could really be that Italy has been unlucky and once the infection spreads there the number of tests might be commensurate to the number of people showing symptoms.

But it can also be an artefact of the engagement rules: the WHO guideline is to perform the test under certain conditions, some of them are clinical (e.g. specific symptoms of the respiratory system) some of them are not, e.g. whether you've been in an area that has been identified as affected.

That is reasonable of course, but makes the numbers hard to compare. Imagine there are a number of undetected cases in a town in Germany, and that number is greater than whatever threshold would turn the surrounding area as a hotspot.

Now anybody that passed through that area becomes eligible for testing and it's quite possible that the number of positive test results skyrockets (possibly triggering the creation of new hotspots etc).

The situation on the ground hasn't change ; just our awareness of it (i.e. our information)

> To be clear, this declaration of emergency is all about preparedness.

Is it me, or does this completely abuse the meaning of "state of emergency"?

Just like the freedom act, many things in politics are named for popularity and not clarity.

"Declaring a State of emergency" sounds better than "begging for more federal money"

It's not unusual to declare a state of emergency before a big snow storm, or a hurricane. Sometimes they blow through without much impact, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

A state of emergency grants the government some powerful things. It should not be abused. If you are declaring it for a hurricane you want those power to do things like declare a mandatory evacuation.

The only reason to declare such a thing is if you need those powers. So what does San Francisco need those powers for?


> The declaration of a local emergency is a legal document that will mobilize City resources, accelerate emergency planning, streamline staffing, coordinate agencies across the city, allow for future reimbursement by the state and federal governments and raise awareness throughout San Francisco about how everyone can prepare in the event that COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) appears in our community. Santa Clara and San Diego counties have issued similar declarations to bolster their preparedness.

In the case of a snow storm up here in upstate NY, these tend to allow for overtime and pre-positioning of equipment. I'd imagine similar scenarios here.

well, it is BI. that's what they do.

There have been confirmed coronavirus cases in SF, as a number of sick patients are/were being treated at hospitals in the city (I know, because my alma mater, UCSF, sent out a big press release about it). They probably mean nobody has been reported to be infected while in SF. That's probably also not true.

Can you link to the press release in question? Thanks!

Not the press release, but here's UCSF's Coronavirus info page where they state that there were two patients from a different California county with confirmed Coronavirus who were treated and released at UCSF Parnassus (the main campus on the hill near Cole Valley):


Hmm, I guess it was a 'statement', not a PR. https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/U-S-officials-ta...

"""ix people have tested positive for the new coronavirus in California — two in Southern California and the four people now in the Bay Area. The San Benito County patients, who are both 57, were at home until early Monday, when they were taken by ambulance to UCSF after their symptoms suddenly worsened. They are being cared for in isolation at the hospital.

In a statement, UCSF said that it “specializes in the care of patients with complex illnesses, including infectious diseases like the novel coronavirus.” Doctors there “also treated patients during past epidemics, such as SARS in 2003.”"""

(of all the places in the US you'd want to treat patients while studying them, UCSF is one of the top ones. They really are experts in infectious diseases).

Whether or not this turns into a real pandemic I'm really curious how the world survives a real one in the sense of all the disruption.

Sure some desk based jobs can be done at home but it seems like nearly every restaurant, bar, and store would likely go out of business. As would airlines, trains, maybe hotels. Grocery stores would have to go 100% delivery only? Maybe be open 24/7 so people can spread out? Or would I need to wear a hazmat suit to get food? Note: there was a family riding the bullet train in cheap hazmat suits a few days ago.

I really have no idea. I suppose you can look at cities in China and see a full response.

I see lots of people saying "prepare" but then list having a week of supplies. Seem more like you'd need 6 to 12 months of supplies. Unlike an earthquake a pandemic would hopefully not stop the water flow or electricity like say an earthquake might but conversely it will be much longer before it's declared safe to return to any normal routine.

As much as I hate to say it like this, a pandemic is only going to kill something like 5% of the population at the top end. The Spanish flu in 1918 infected 500 million people, which was 27% of the population (according to Wikipedia). The death toll was about 40-50 million (possibly up to 100 million at worst). It was one of the most deadly worldwide infections in the history of the world, but probably killed less than 3% of the population.

A pandemic is going to severely hurt the economy, but it won't completely stop it. It will not be the case that nothing will be produced for months on end. People will go to work. Farmers will produce food. There will be shops. But things will also be in short supply. Prices will probably rise. Poor people will be hit harder and there will probably be some famine (or at least more than there is now). But things will still continue.

In an event like an earthquake, entire distribution lines are shut down because you can't physically get somewhere. With a pandemic, things will be in short supply because labour is in short supply.

> Poor people will be hit harder and there will probably be some famine

I wonder how the extreme wealth distribution today will affect this. Although looking at statistics [1] it seems it was even worse in 1922 (no numbers for 1918).

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth

San Francisco has Moscone Center. One unlucky unscreened attendee and good bye world. Skipping all conventions until all clear.

It's only a matter of time before this becomes a massive problem for the city. I applaud UCSF for not letting the two patients from Santa Clara start a local outbreak.

It boggles the mind that there was absolutely no mention of COVID-19 preparedness at the recent Democratic debates, and that Trump's been trying to significantly cut the budget of the CDC.

Our leaders have their heads buried in the sand.

At least SF is trying to prepare.

> absolutely no mention of COVID-19 preparedness at the recent Democratic debates

I guess you are referring to an older debate but here is what they said on the subject tonight.


It boggles the mind that there was absolutely no mention of COVID-19 preparedness at the recent Democratic debates

Maybe you were in the kitchen getting a beer when it happened, but I saw it.

> It boggles the mind that there was absolutely no mention of COVID-19 preparedness at the recent Democratic debates,

The Presidential term start in late January 2021; “preparedness” isn't a relevant issue, the issue will be response to a situation that we have no clear picture today of what it will look like. Aside from knocking Trump on lack of preparedness—which is more of a general election issue that a primary debate issue—there’s not a lot for campaigns to do at this point.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact