We are all now criminals.
Tell yourself whatever you like but the odds are each and every one of us at some point in the past 60 days have violated government orders about what we are not supposed to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of us are in denial as we slam others for not following the rules.
One acquaintance — adamant about how people pushing to reopening non-essential businesses to the point where customers can actually go inside are putting people’s lives at jeopardy — had traveled to Nevada County the previous week to a cabin near Donner Lake.
Such a getaway is definitely non-essential and not allowed under Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders in a bid to reduce the potential for spread of COVID-10. She justified the trip by noting her family practiced social distancing and wore masks when they went to the supermarket in Truckee for additional supplies.
But isn’t the law the law or is it just when it applies to other people?
How we adhere to pandemic restrictions isn’t much different than how many of us view speeding on residential streets.
Three times in the past 25 years Manteca Police have shared examples about speeding that is parallel to what is happening today with how most of us approach COVID-19 rules and how we want them enforced but how our behavior betrays us.
Among the speeding examples included Nana Place that is — one of the longest stretches of neighborhood streets in Manteca without cross streets west of St. Francis Park. In this particular case, officers acting on complaints of speeding from neighborhood residents used radar guns for targeted education. They found out 90 percent of the speeders lived either along the street or within a block or so of it. Their “educational dragnet” also netted one of the most adamant complainers about speeders.
More than a few of us see the actions of others as unlawful and unsafe but we also often are guilty of the same or similar infractions.
COVID-19 rules, however, have made our disconnect even wider.
What is the difference between social distancing in Safeway as opposed to social distancing in Kohl’s if all of the same rules and protocols are in place? The only real difference is the fact one has been deemed “essential’ and the other “non-essential.”
But if keeping employees and customers all safe is the driving force behind requiring Kohl’s to use curbside service plus all of the same protocols to protect employees as Safeway does then why are not grocery stores required to only have curb service as well?
People are told that the need is to reduce social interaction and therefore only essential needs as defined by the state should allow one to stray outside their domicile or open for business.
If the curbside pickup model is the most prudent why not make it universal even for grocery stores, hardware stores, convenience stores, and such? And if social distancing, sanitizing protocols, and masks work why not simply use that as a universal model to open as much at once as possible?
This is of course brings up the second wave. It has been clear from the start COVID-19 was never going to be a one and done thing. A vaccine, if and when one becomes available, will change the dynamics. Even so, experts contend that a vaccine that could make a difference that is put in place as soon as feasible would take 18 months or so to tame but not conquer the coronavirus. That means COVID-19 will still be with us but the number of annual deaths and severe cases will have become acceptable.
It is clear we can’t go that long with much of the economy in chains. To believe otherwise is just as reckless as the COVID-19 deniers who contend no precautions are needed and that this is somehow no more than a bad flu season.
The fact people have been allowed to go into supermarkets where many do not wear face masks are aren’t constantly sanitizing their hands without coronavirus cases taking off into the stratosphere underscores that the protocols are working.
The same outcome should happen when the same procedures are employed by non-essential stores to allow customers inside.
It would seem the best course of action given the COVID-19 isn’t going to be tamed anytime soon is for the state to require all employees dealing with the public across the board to wear properly fitted N95 marks along with other protocols. That would be the most effective way and reducing the odds of catching or spreading the virus and not send a crippled economy into a coma. Hair stylists, barbers, and such could work when optimum distancing is not possible. That coupled with customers wearing masks and other social distancing protocols and sanitization precautions in place should be the most optimum situation.
Those who simply equate a crippled economy to businesses not making money are reality deniers. The economy is how people feed, shelter, and cloth their families. It is what generates the taxes needed to underwrite the safety net for those without a way of doing those things for their families.
There are other considerations such as depression, mental health, and stress that need to be on the balance scales to determine the course of action that is not tipped one way or another. It might seem an affront to consider such things when people are dying and getting violently sick from a virus there is no known cure or vaccine for, but it is clear in normal times that such things have been identified as key factors in overall health and whether some people are driven to the abyss. A death is a death unless, of course, it can be attached to the COVID-19 in part or in whole.
No one should have demanded a debate before initial actions took place and rules imposed by those we put in charge such as governors. Something had to be done to deal with an unexpected enemy that constituted a clear and present danger. That is why we as a people have invested the powers in such public positions to act. But 60 days into it is a different story.
We still don’t have a vaccine but to continue the initial lockdown is fraught with serious pitfalls. To completely go back to normal sans masks, social distancing and stepped up sanitizing is equally reckless.
We need to come to grips with the fact people are going to die and get sick from the COVID-19 and that we must find a way to keep those numbers down without taking a chainsaw to people’s lives and livelihoods.
To assume that way is no deaths for two weeks as well as only one confirmed new case per 10,000 residents is the right answer is a bit disingenuous.
San Joaquin County has had 90 new confirmed cases in the past two weeks. With 760,000 residents that’s 14 cases beyond Newsom’s benchmark of one per 10,000 residents. Nor have we been able to go two weeks without at least one death since the pandemic started. As of Monday there have been 29 deaths and there are 136 confirmed COVID-19 cases that we must assume are people who are showing symptoms and not simply testing positive given that information is never delineated to the general public.
There is a more balanced measuring stick to determine the degree of speed at which businesses are allowed to reopen with COVID-19 precautions in place.
It is based on what drove the stay at home rules in a bid to flatten the curve which was to make sure the seriously sick do not overwhelm the healthcare system needed to take care of them. Based on that, it would make sense if for a two week period there was no more than 1 new hospitalization per 10,000 residents and no deaths attributed to the virus that do not involve patients suffering from underlying conditions.
We have had less than 10 hospitalizations in the last two weeks and not the hundreds that were feared. As for underlying factors, weekly reports to the Board of Supervisors indicated that few — if any — COVID-19 deaths in the county were of people who were essentially healthy.
That doesn’t mean we drop all precautions and expose the most vulnerable to more risk. But we need to take a balanced approach so we don’t destroy people’s lives without a need to do so.