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Councilman Breitenbucher’s push to buck state & single use plastic bags

Flimsy, single-use plastic bags are back.

They’re the ones you have to wrestle with more often than not to pull apart. It is especially true now that stores that ditched the one-use bags under state decree also got rid of the metal rack-like devices that made them easier to separate. So now even more people are touching the bags.

This came about because of a state directive to suspend the use of reusable shopping bags whether they are made of cloth or other material. The reason is the COVID-19 virus has been found in more frequency on such material.

The working theory — I haven’t been able to come across a study that specifically shows someone has contracted COVID-19 from a reusable shopping bag although such research may exist — is that the bag’s user could spread it to others if they have the virus or the virus could cling onto it in the store and they’d be taking it home with them.

If that is the case it begs the question: Shouldn’t we ban the use of reusable bags during flu seasons given they are also respiratory viruses that are spread much in the same manner as COVID-19?

Assuming the Centers for Disease Control is correct in that since 2010 the annual national death toll from flu has been between 12,000 and 60,000 with 20,000 so far this year isn’t that a large enough death toll to impose mandatory social distancing rules?

The primary difference between known flu strands and COVID-19 is that the coronavirus has no vaccine, no known cure, and the knowledge of it is constantly evolving with some previous conclusions dismissed and more puzzling behavior emerging almost daily.

Eventually COVID-19 will more than likely join flu and other diseases we’ve tamed to a degree but not conquered prompting us to institutionalize acceptable death levels.

That’s kind of a harsh concept as we’ve determined a COVID-19 infected person requires a massive community-based response as opposed to a flu infected person in a bid to improve their chances of not either getting sick, sustaining irreparable damage or dying.

But if we can whittle down the death toll of 60,000 deaths a year by banning reusable bags and require the wearing of face masks during the flu season, why aren’t we doing it?

The pandemic response by state and county health officials regarding the wearing of face masks has turned my assumption — and I assume that of many others — upside down.

Face masks, we are told, are to stop the spread of COVID-19 virus from people who may be carriers but don’t get ill and not as much to prevent them from contacting the virus. So why does flu apparently work differently — or does it — given people extremely worried about getting the flu donned face masks during flu seasons long before we ever heard of COVID-19?

If pundit “experts” try to split this one and somehow argue it works differently with each respiratory virus then they’d be saying wear a mask at all times makes sense as it would reduce your odds or catching something during the more vulnerable times of the year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely undermined declared “absolutes” squarely rooted in either specific political, health or environmental concerns.

Going back to single-use plastic bags, what is more important — saving human lives or reducing virtually non-biodegradable waste that could also choke birds?

We’ve embraced recyclable aluminum cans and plastic bottles but given how they can’t all be recycled now how does reusable glass bottles with deposits compare today as a more environmentally friendly strategy?

Are those reusable shopping bags really germ carriers or an effective use of resources? I’ve been using them for years and even still have an original SaveMart cloth bag from 2012 that I use weekly, none of which have even been washed.

Based on some germaphobe rules I should be dead by now since I also drink water out of a garden hose, pick up food I’ve dropped (mostly on hikes) and eat it even if it violates the 10 second rule, and partake in a lot of other routine behavior that in some quarters they would have put money on me being dead and buried 20 years ago.

There are clearly a lot of variables at work ranging from DNA to diet and hygiene.

At the same time reduced exposure to other people reduces your chances of catching any type of communicable disease whether it is COVID-19, strep throat, the flu, measles, or a common cold.

That said we do not live in a vacuum.

It is why Manteca Councilman Dave Breitenbucher is right in suggesting the quickest and most effective way to return to a balance between devastating families with COVID-19 and devastating families financially as part of the prevention effort is to move forward by imposing the same rules on so-called “non-essential” businesses as have been done on “essential” businesses.

Those that want to put a brake on California moving forward now in a bid to begin everything rolling again except perhaps crowded entertainment venues up and running by July 1 as opposed to the experts Gov. Gavin Newsom is relying on to suggest he won’t be going that far until September or October, are raising the alarm about a second surge in cases.

We’ve been told from the beginning there would likely by a second surge and the odds are a second year as well where the carnage could be as great or greater even if a vaccine is rolled out. The difference is when a potential second surge hits.

The modeling that reduces death does so because the healthcare system would not be overwhelmed in taking care of the most sick. Unless every hospital in California is lying, it is clear the system is far from being overwhelmed. Credit it to a degree — large or otherwise — to social distancing.

The question now is how best to move forward in a timely manner that doesn’t increase the carnage and does not increase the economic devastation of families.

It may make some form of distancing learning the new norm, staying six feet apart in stores whether they are essential or otherwise, and other practices that most have bought into.

But if we wait until we test all of the population as some argue the collapse of the economy will devastate more people than the actual virus.

It is why mandating the wearing of face masks in public with the goal of preventing people that have COVID-19 but who may never get ill from unwittingly spreading it makes sense.

Does such a move have some risk? Yes. The only way to possibly come close to zeroing out the risk is to go to a full-blown quarantine of everyone and requiring those that absolutely need to venture out for food and such to suit up as if they are the boy in the bubble.

If the powers that be can determine the risk level of single-use plastic bags is acceptable then accelerating “reopening” by mandating masks and such should be done as quickly as the state made reusable shopping bags disappear from stores.