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COVID: South San Joaquin County hasn’t rejected the science, they’ve rejected the political science
In early January when restaurants were legally able to have inside dining, every other table was left vacant. Now inside dining isn’t yet legal in San Joaquin County and people are dining inside without every other table being taken out of service.

Is the sky falling down or does the emperor lack clothes?

Yes, we are in the twilight zone where Gavin may not know best and people are voting with their feet.

Three weeks ago a lot of independent restaurants started practicing what might best be called “responsible social disobedience.” They were allowing people to dine inside in defiance of the orders not to do so while enforcing mask wearing and most social distancing protocols.

By the first weekend of this month, places like the Texas Roadhouse in Tracy were not only allowing indoor dining but they weren’t leaving every other table empty. Everyone from guests to staff wore face masks or shields. And for a Saturday afternoon the place was packed.

Meanwhile those that had followed government decree without wavering such as Mel’s Diner further down Grantline Road in Tracy have long been killed off, collateral damage to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This past weekend you could find locations still following the San Joaquin County health orders to a “T” and enforcing the indoor dining ban.

You may ask how this can be since we aren’t even close to the numbers tied to allowing movement downward through the much ballyhooed four colored tiers. Let’s not forget there are COVID-19 variants popping up that are making those that pull down six figures to help guide our response to the pandemic nervous. And we are still in the low double digit numbers in California for the percentage of the population that has received two vaccine shots.

Maybe it has a lot to do with people are smarter than the government — or more precisely that believe the science as opposed to the political science — think they are.

Statista, a website that takes data from various sources such as the federal government and all 50 states and compares ambrosia apples to ambrosia apples as opposed to one of 2,500 plus cultivars of apples in the United States compared randomly to another apple cultivar, offers an unfiltered and un-politicized view of the numbers we are told that count.

Let’s look at the four biggest states by population — California at 39,512,223, Texas at 28,995,881, Florida at 21,477,732, and New York at 19,453,56.

Now examine the COVID-19 data as of March 8.

When it comes to overall coronavirus cases, California leads the pack at 3,599,689. The rest of the top four unfolds in the same order as population with Texas at No. 2 with 2,695,555 cases, followed by Florida with 1,944,657, and New York with 1,694,651.

And when it comes to deaths, California leads the way with 54,225. The rest of the top four is scrambled. New York is No.  2 with 48,335, Texas is next at 45,315 and Florida is last at 31,683.

So what state has the highest per capita deaths based on every 100,000 residents when it comes to COVID deaths? It isn’t California. It is New Jersey at 265. After that it is New York at 248, Rhode Island at 240, and Massachusetts at 238.

California doesn’t even make the top 10. It is 30th on the list for deaths per 100,000. Texas is 24th and Florida is 27th.

Based on talking heads that rule the airwaves that in reality brace political science over science per se, Florida should have been ground zero for a COVID-19 bloodbath followed by Texas.

Florida with an older population never went into full lockdown. Instead they followed the Sweden model of aggressively protecting the most vulnerable while eschewing most COVID-19 protocol much of the rest of the West has imposed.

So what happened?

First, when bantering about numbers much ado has been made about California leading the nation in COVID cases and deaths. When you have 25 percent more population than any other state it’s should be expected, statistically speaking. Our deaths, though, are about 18 percent higher and our cases are 33 percent higher than the next most populous state. But when it comes to our death rate at 127 per 100,000 we come in at almost half of the nation leading 265 per 100,000 deaths in New Jersey.

A death is a death. Make no doubt about it.

But those who proclaimed they were purely guided by science, Florida’s lightweight, or some may argue, non-existent lockdowns should have put it at No. 1 in death rates per 100,000 as opposed to 27th.

The wisdom behind the lockdowns was to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed with the secondary point being to reduce deaths.

Give Gov. Newsom some credit on this one. We were the first state to go to tight lockdowns. And when he initially started easing up on them in May the media’s Patron Saint of COVID-19 Response Mario Cuomo in his earthly role as New York’s governor took swipes at Newsom for nor making the right moves.

Whether Newsom is reacting to a recall petition breathing down his neck or now is in a better positron due to the perspective of time to “read” the trends provided by statistics and scientists, is almost irrelevant. That’s because based on past pandemics adherence to many government imposed COVID-19 lockdown behavior — as well as the disease itself to a degree — is backing off.

Yes, this pandemic could be the exception. But concluding that is the case would be as irresponsible as back in March 2020 everyone acting as if COVID-19 would be something that would disappear within weeks. Showing no caution as some argued a year ago is no more foolish and irresponsible than those demanding tight lockdowns be continued today.

Herd immunity is a term that does not mean stopping the spread of a disease. Instead it refers to slowing down its ability to spread seemingly at will. The death rate that ends up being “acceptable” is not a one size fits all when it comes to diseases. Nor is it something that some politician in Albany, Austin, Sacramento, or Tallahassee decrees. That goes for the death rate of everything from the flu and measles to COVID-19.

A careful read of how communities reacted to the Great Flu Pandemic from January 1918 to December 1920 shows after about a year people “let down their guard” even though they were still dealing with a second wave with a third wave yet to come.

The big difference between now and then in terms of personal behavior is the attitudes toward masks. If you read newspaper accounts over a century ago, people were largely ignoring mask mandates when out in public. Contrary to what social media and abbreviations magnified by Yahoo News and others that use algorithms to harvest news that plays to people’s fear, mask compliance is incredibly close to universal in public settings at least in Southern San Joaquin County.

 What we are seeing are people making decisions based on their life and their health. At the same time, it seems the vast majority of people are respectful of others when it comes to wearing masks.

It doesn’t mean they are COVID-19 deniers, far from it. Based on other realities they need to balance, they are becoming comfortable with it much like we have with the flu.

They haven’t rejected the science. They’ve rejected the political science.


 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at