Who thought the day would come when public enemy No. 1 and No. 2 would be two unrelated teens not living in the same household playing catch with a Frisbee on an 80-degree day on the grass of a neighborhood park?
Welcome to Day 42 of stay-at-home orders that come with enough holes via contradictory exceptions that would turn a baseball into a Whiffle Ball.
The rules being put in place that almost all originate with an emergency decree from Sacramento to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic are making more than a few of us hypocrites under the law.
We drive through a car wash that is manned and arguably legally isn't supposed to be open. We expect them to clean off the bugs on the grill with a spray wand they are not allowed to do under pandemic rules. When we see the attendant not wearing his face mask properly we take a smartphone photo of his nose sticking out over the cloth material from inside our car with windows tightly rolled up and send it to city officials to make a complaint.
Blocks away a furniture store owner is paid a visit by a Manteca Police officer. It seems someone has complained that the owner of the non-essential business is taking a delivery. It turns out the delivery is legal under Newsom’s decree but the selling of it to a customer — which was not being done — is not legal.
Compare that to what is happening across town where a Costco delivery truck replenishes stock in the store that includes sofas that have been sold.
As for the person making the complaint about the furniture store owner, what are the odds they passed by the store while they were away from their domicile and were not pursing a narrow list of activities limited to purchasing such items as food, medicines, and hygiene products; keeping a pressing medical appointment; or going to and from an essential job?
Meanwhile the county’s public health honchos have allowed people from different households to gather to play golf but were still banning yoga classes of unrelated individuals from using municipal parks even if they social distance and wear face masks.
Perhaps the real reason large public protests took place in Huntington Beach, Sacramento, and elsewhere in California on Friday has nothing to do with a complete disregard for the health and safety of others. It is more likely to do with the arbitrary, capricious, and ill-thought out nature of stay at home orders whether they involve businesses or the conduct of individuals.
The Costco decision made Wednesday to mandate all customers must wear face masks while in their warehouse stores starting Monday is one of literally thousands upon thousands of actions that don’t make sense and as such erode public faith. In the Costco case, if it is determined to be vital for the health of employees and customers to mandate face masks why not do so immediately instead of waiting five days for it to go into effect?
The fact the owner of a self-serve car wash can continue with his business model undisturbed and actually get a bump in revenue while a manned car wash has to be closed is a prime example of orders that seem to have a huge disconnect to the objectives the state and county indicate they are pursing in the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is clear car washes that are manned can practice social distancing by not touching money and by customers keeping their windows up. But the prohibition from such personnel applying sprays of any type to a vehicle with the occupants sealed behind glass and steel due to concern about the virus being able to linger on metal is ludicrous. Meanwhile self-serve car washes have hundreds of people using the same wands to wash vehicles meaning whatever germs such as COVID-19 on the handles can go from the skin of one person to another.
Logic would dictate a manned car wash’s operation coupled with a requirement to continually wipe down keypads customers use along with the removal of vacuum stations would be far healthy under the basic assumptions in place of reduce the spread of the corona virus than an unmanned self-serve car wash model.
The lack of consistency as well as contradictions in the rules of engagement for the pandemic has created a situation that they never taught any officer at the police academy. They are now serving as front-line public health officers using individual discretion to respond to complaints regarding social distancing violations.
They are also told — as it relates to social distancing — to act primarily on complaints although officers have been dispatched from time-to-time for tasks such as checking city parks to remind people to stay off playground equipment.
But here’s the rub. If all of the orders issued on how we must conduct ourselves in public or whether we can open a business that generates the money needed to feed our families and pay the mortgage are key to curve flattening and therefore will allow everyone to get back to whatever normal will be going forwarded, by police not looking for violations and citing people will only prolong the economic agony.
As citizens we are navigating uncharted territory but so are medical professionals and politicians with emergency powers.
A lot is unknown.
However, there are a lot of basic assumptions or understandings that have gained traction.
It is those understandings that must be the basis for all pandemic restrictions.
But how can this happen when members of healthy NBA teams where most players are millionaires 10 times over have access to repeat testing and most of the rest of America doesn’t, especially those in COVID-19 hot spots?
You can’t expect people to have faith in what we assume are lawful orders until the courts say otherwise if they are applied with bias, favoritism, in an unequal manner, or simply when someone complains.
Gov. Newsom didn’t help things Friday when he backed off his original plan to close all 840 miles of California’s coastal beaches and just targeted his order to Orange County.
It clearly is designed to punish those that violated social distancing on a massive scale last weekend in Huntington Beach. It did nothing to re-enforce his emphasis that people everywhere need to stay home.
It has created a patchwork of conflicting signals. In the Bay Area where lockdown orders are much more stringent than they are on this side of the Altamont Pass, San Mateo County allows you to use the beach only if you reside within 5 miles of the coastline. But if you live even 10 feet farther it is illegal for you to hit the beach even if you and everyone else is practicing social distances.
Law enforcement as far north as Eureka was thankful the governor didn’t lock down the entire coast. Doing so would likely have created a backlash of civil disobedience that not only could police not stop but would trigger more massive public rejections of various nuances of stay at home orders.
It is clear that hard fast rules that make sense are needed to reopen the economy as quickly as possible whenever it can be done in days or weeks and not months.
That means the governor’s office needs to give health authorities in the state’s 58 counties on a collective regional basis the ability to take actions that are less restrictive than what Sacramento has ordered.
Having the freedom to toss a Frisbee in a city park with someone who is not a housemate shouldn’t require Sacramento granting local officials permission to allow it if they deem it OK.