I broke the law Wednesday.
I went to a gym.
It was three long months ago that health officials were nagging people to work out.
But in the twilight world we are now in it is an illegal act in San Joaquin County until Dr. Maggie Park grants permission for you to hit the gym.
Governor Gavin Newsom has said it is alright to go back to the gym starting today if the county you live in allows it. The county — channeling Park— sent out a convoluted press release Wednesday referencing the reopening of gyms that Newsom is allowing but made it absolutely unclear whether that was going to happen.
Then under cloak of darkness on Thursday night — 8:45 p.m. to be exact — Park made her call. Casinos, cardrooms, race tracks without spectators, day camps, campgrounds, pools, campgrounds, and hotels for leisure can reopen today. What she is not allowing to reopen that she has the power to allow are gyms, movie theaters, zoos, wineries and museums.
Park made that call while conferring with state health officials. The release said the decision was made realizing that counties bordering San Joaquin County are opening additional sectors of the economy and that the nearby availability of such activities and business will likely result in the residents of San Joaquin County traveling outside of the County potentially increasing the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile cities in the county where the COVID-19 situation seems to be stabilizing are being kept in the dark regarding basic information they need to make decisions regarding the health and safety of their citizens as well as their economic well-being. Those cities, including Manteca, have noted Park’s office is no longer reviewing for feedback “super protocols” that have been drafted that are often more robust than the state’s guidelines in many cases in a bid to convince the county they have a responsible plan for reopening sectors of the economy still shuttered. It seems county lawyers don’t like the idea of the county health officer dispensing advice on the best way cities can keep their citizens safe while at the same time avoid destroying their ability to shelter, cloth, and feed their families.
The lawyers are worried about liability. Park is worried about COVID-19 stats that are based on real concerns of being able to keep serious cases at a minimum given there are 522 county residents currently suffering from COVID-19 and another 866 who have recovered. Local officials are worried about the same stuff as Park is plus the overall well-being of the other. 758,612 folks that live within the county.
Tuesday Park told the Board of Supervisors she was worried if the county went ahead with further reopening as cases predominately in Stockton are creating a surge in hospitalization, San Joaquin County could be forced two weeks from now to order concerns that have reopened to close.
Good luck with that one. The genie is not going back into the bottle. People have willingly adopted social distancing and other protocols although a handful of malcontents predisposed to aggressive behavior have been making horse’s behinds out of their selves for belligerent responses to store requirements for the wearing of face masks.
What many people seem to no longer buy into blindly are the draconian measures that were imposed to flatten the spread of COVID-19.
It doesn’t help that experts — and those parroting them — are now talking as if a second wave will only happen because of reopening. Epidemiologists from the start made it clear there would likely be at least a second — and even a third — wave regardless of what action was taken. The 1918-19 flu pandemic unfolded in such a manner. It is highly unlikely an effective vaccine can be developed quickly enough and enough people inoculated to avoid a second wave or a third wave. And to make it clear, unless something highly unorthodox regarding COVID-19 happens, it isn’t going away. It will still kill people even after vaccines are developed. Instead of waves, there will be annual ripples of carnage involving illness for most as well as death. The amount of illnesses and deaths COVID-19 causes at that point will become “acceptable.”
It is clear that lockdowns, stay at home orders, and such is not sustainable on multiple levels. They could not stay in place for 18 or so months. Not that the 1918-19 pandemic can be used as an exact comparison but Manteca businesses, stores, schools, and churches were closed collectively for three months during which time public gatherings were banned as well. They did not reclose during the second and third waves because the first go around convinced people to take to heart rules about wearing masks in public and such after initially rebuffing rules put in in place after Manteca experienced its first confirmed flu case in October of 1918.
People basically took appropriate measures going forward.
It is what people are doing now including business owners trying to avoid annihilation and families trying to stay afloat while keeping themselves and others healthy at the same time.
The decision to leave gyms off the list is apparently based on the assumption people will come too close to each other and will not follow through on various protocols.
What I experienced Wednesday at the gym and what I encountered over the weekend in stores that have been open since the start of the pandemic makes me question what is going on. People were social distancing — even in group exercise classes. All of the precautions the state and other health experts have outlined for gyms to reopen were in place. People were wiping down equipment before and after using with disinfectant as was the staff.
So what is the point of the county only going “half way” on the latest round of reopening the state is allowing for counties to move forward on if they wish if all the proper protocols are in place and are being followed?
And if gyms are indeed still a deadly place to be from Dr. Park’s perspective, then she has a heck of a lot of explaining to do. There has been at least one gym that is in the county’s jurisdiction outside of Manteca that has been open now “illegally” for 12 days. If these are COVID-19 death traps then why isn’t the county making routine visits to make sure they are closed instead of relying on people to rat fink them out? If a gym being open is a clear danger to the health and safety of the county population then Dr. Park has an ethical obligation to unleash the forces of the law and shut them down.
The question is whether the county still has the “moral authority” to keep businesses that implement and enforce social distancing and protocols such as nail salons from reopening. Almost everyone agrees that big crowds with people in close proximity even outdoors when not everyone is wearing a mask is a big risk when it comes to the potential transmission of COVID-19. Yet there wasn’t even a peep from the San Joaquin County Health Department scolding people from such activities let alone threatening to use muscle to shut them down as they did with the 99 Speedway whose owners faced jail and fines for trying to have spectators.
The grounds for widespread civil disobedience are being sown by the county simply because people who act in a responsible manner are not enough for them to be allowed to go about their lives.
Thanks to the county almost all of us are now criminals in the eyes of the law.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org