Opinion

Why Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is the Worst Person to Lead our COVID-19 Response

Written by Scott Chipman

Supervisor Fletcher has emerged as the leading figure in San Diego’s fight against the Wuhan virus and many people are beginning to realize that his serious lack of judgement and political ambitions should prevent him from ever having that much power.  

As this deadly virus emerged from Eastern China and began to spread across the globe, and five days after President Trump announced the banning of travel from China, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher not only failed to shield San Diegans from it, he took affirmative and aggressive steps to increase the risks to the population.  

Why would he do that? Because he was far more worried about being labeled a racist than protecting human life. In addition, buoying his future political prospects by virtue signaling in front of the cameras is also a likely explanation.

Four days before Fletcher was interviewed on February 4 by KUSI about the pandemic, the virus had begun to spread exponentially across the globe, with the 11th American case confirmed. Five days before, the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International concern, and soon later a pandemic. 

During the interview, Fletcher strongly encouraged everyone to go about their daily lives, even hinting that if you did not, you were a bigot. Fletcher misled the public about the spread nationally and emphatically stated, “Fear of a virus that hasn’t even manifested in our county, there is no reason, at all, to avoid any part of our community or any section of our community. Many have been targeted with acts of racism and we’ve seen old stereotypes and stigmas come back using a virus as a justification for this.” Fletcher offered no evidence or examples of acts of racism, of course. He was just making unsubstantiated claims for political reasons, promoting divisiveness that we don’t need right now—or ever. 

Fletcher then made more dangerous falsehoods by saying, “The only way to date that we know that people have acquired this is by going to one specific province in China. You are at no risk of getting the virus by coming to a restaurant in Kearny Mesa. At this point the risk to the public is low and folks should not be fearful of getting out and going to any part of the community.”   

Was Fletcher dangerously ignorant of what was happening across the globe by dismissing the growing pandemic? He was either horribly misinformed, which is unlikely, or he was so intent on virtue signaling and getting TV face time to buoy his future political prospects, that human lives didn’t matter. 

Three weeks later, taking the helm of the county’s response to the virus, Supervisor Fletcher gave San Diegans his list of essential businesses that were allowed to remain open, even going so far as to ask for the public’s help in reporting on non-essential businesses still open. He then took the extremely careless and unconstitutional step of declaring gun stores nonessential and ordered them to be closed in the county immediately. 

San Diego Gun Owners Association President Michael Schwartz rightfully blasted Fletcher for his actions: “We have a harsh condemnation for Supervisor Fletcher and are extremely disappointed with his inflammatory rhetoric about closing gun shops,” said SDGOA’s Schwartz. “The Supervisor’s potentially dangerous statements were ludicrous and escalated an already tense situation unnecessarily with bad information. Nathan Fletcher should stop his inflammatory rhetoric and concentrate on the business of running the county.”  

Schwartz continued: “The situation has been made worse by overreacting politicians who stoke public outrage with their incendiary and reckless comments as they flex their egos in the name of safeguarding public health. During a time when people are trying to make sure they remain safe and secure is not a time to advance your political agenda. For the sake of the safety of all San Diegans, please be a part of the solution rather than creating yet another problem.” 

Four days later, Sheriff Gore overrode Fletcher’s decree and stated that gun stores can remain open for business during the crisis. 

This isn’t the first time that Fletcher has ignored solid advice and instead chose to virtue signal at the public’s expense.  

Back when Fletcher was an Assemblyman, he was the lead champion for banning single-use plastic bags in San Diego, ignoring the science that proved that it would lead to disease manifestation and spread.  

Just a few months later, San Diego was hit hard by a hepatitis outbreak spread by fecal contamination, killing 16 and sickening 421 by November of that year. The Huffington Post posted an article at the time titled “San Diego’s Hepatitis Outbreak Is A Man-Made Disaster.”  

Since then, numerous California counties and entire states have cancelled their bans on plastic bags, with some calling for an outright ban on bags that are reusable due to the spread of disease. Supervisor Fletcher, however, has decided not to address this issue.  

What about Fletcher’s capstone issues of relentlessly pushing for high-density housing and forcing people out of their cars into mass transit? To date, Fletcher seems to be moving forward on those initiatives. Let’s all thank God that these initiatives weren’t fully implemented before the coronavirus pandemic. Who knows how many more innocent victims of the virus there would be in San Diego County. Who’s eager to cram into a high-density apartment building or sit shoulder to shoulder on a two-hour bus or train these days?

Fletcher has been the cheerleader of one of the most anti-small business bills in the history of California, AB 5. Along with his wife Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, he has helped aggressively push the law forward, throwing hundreds of thousands of hard-working independent contractors and freelancers out of work. This comes at a time when the California unemployment rate is already soaring to record highs. 

In only four weeks, 22 million Americans lost their jobs and filed unemployment claims. That number grows daily. The Small Business Administration has run out of money for its paycheck protection program, which means that millions are unable to apply for emergency loans. 

It’s good to know where Fletcher’s priorities lie.  

Is this the kind of person you want to lead the response to the virus, who has authority to dictate what businesses are essential or not? Does this sound like a person who cares about the public more than his own ego and political future? 

San Diego deserves much better.