The woman in front of me in line was distraught.
“It’s scary,” she said.
Governor Gavin Newsom just hours earlier had essentially shut down the California economy. And if that was not enough to scare folks, he predicted 22 million Californians will end up getting sick.
But the woman’s main fear wasn’t that she or a loved one could get sick. She had no inkling of how her family was going to continue to afford to eat let alone keep a roof over their heads.
Three days earlier in another line chatting with people waiting to check out the talk revolved around the shape pantries were in, trading “war stories” on how they had to hit multiple stores before finding a case of water, and how crazy the world was getting.
You might think that the change in tone has to do with the ever changing events. In reality it is where you are on the economic ladder.
The line where folks were chatting about how well positioned they were with food and supplies was at Food-4-Less. The other with the distraught lady was at a 7-Eleven.
Many of us do the bulk of our shopping at places like Costco, Raley’s, SaveMart, Food-4-Less and such. We may patronize 7-Eleven stores and such on a routine basis but we rarely shop there for food staples.
That is not the case for many who have limited transportation and therefore limited means. They are fortunate if they can afford a run to the supermarket every two weeks. They use places like neighborhood 7-Elevens as a place to grab fill-in items if they have the money.
It is what will happen now — the fact many are losing their low-paying jobs for what is likely to be months — that is driving their fear and not the coronavirus per se.
They could barely feed and shelter their families as it is let alone squirrel away food or even “hoard it” as were people who at the start of the run on grocery stores were grabbing 10 packages of toilet paper and filling baskets with canned juices while buying what seemed like half a year’s supply of pasta and rice.
One 7-Eleven clerk said people had been coming in the store all day on Thursday sharing their fears. And it almost had all to do with the fact they had already been sidelined from their job or that Newsom’s order has assured that they would be.
It is of little comfort to them that the governor conceded his actions would push a number of Californians into poverty. They heard the grandiose ideas to help those hit the hardest. They are, however, not stupid. They can do the math. It is real easy to do when you are indeed living paycheck to paycheck. Lose a job under conditions today unless you are lucky enough to snap a temporary job restocking shelves in supermarkets or filling and delivering orders from the likes of Amazon and you are instantly on a downward spiral.
It will no longer be deciding whether you can afford a pair of used shoes for the kids at the thrift store and still put food on the table but whether you can afford to keep a roof over your head and eat at the same time.
Time will only tell whether Newsom’s order was the right move, insufficient or way too aggressive.
It was a tough call to make.
And the fact known coronavirus cases went up almost 50 percent to 25 on Friday in a 24-hour period in San Joaquin County with the death toll still at two underscores the need to try and reduce the spreading of the virus.
The fact three Manteca firefighters were exposed to the virus while tending to a medical call on Thursday night drove home two facts that can’t be denied. The coronavirus is in Manteca. The other is that the community’s frontline of defense is fairly thin.
The three firefighters are being isolated at home. The city — thanks to gearing up for the fifth station targeted to open in May — had all nine firefighters already on board to staff the engine company that will be stationed there 24/7.
But it is clear if more than six additional firefighters are quarantined for a possible exposure in the future, the city will be looking to reserve firefighters to maintain the level of services needed to effectively respond to fires, accidents, and medical calls.
It is likely surrounding departments will soon find themselves in a similar situation. That could make mutual aid for structure fires dicey.
The same dilemma faces the Manteca Police Department. Anytime an officer is confirmed to have been possibly exposed to the coronavirus by someone they have encountered, that takes them off the streets for at least 14 days.
Minimizing movements outside your home and staying away from crowds is the best way you can support police and firefighters in the pandemic as well as assure the community’s safety from other threats — crime and such — that haven’t gone away during the coronavirus outbreak.
That said there is a breaking point for workers that need to support their families and for businesses to stay afloat.
It is clear there needs to be signs that the threat is subsiding or flat lining before Newsom lifts his order.
However, cold harsh reality may make it difficult, if not impossible, to wait for an all clear signal from Sacramento.
There is a breaking point. It may be weeks or a month or two away when the people on the ground with shuttered businesses and/or sheltering in place are teetering at the abyss.
That point is anybody’s guess but if you’re a betting man and the Nevada casinos weren’t shut down by edict for at least 30 days, the odds are bookmakers would count on that happening in four weeks.
It is more likely that 22 million Californians will be in financial freefall in four weeks than be ill from anything including the coronavirus.
Newsom — with grandiose plans to leverage the state’s tax wealth as reflected in a massive $7 billion budget surplus into his version of a 21st century utopia — didn’t sign on for being battered by an old school pandemic.
The question now that everyone wants answered is when will Newsom blink?