It didn’t have to be this way

Yesterday, we learned that San Diego County has been added to the Governor’s “monitoring list,” alongside a total of 23 out of California’s 58 counties. Following this, new restrictions were released by the County including some changes from the last round of closures. All “non-essential” businesses must cease indoor operations for the next 3 weeks, meaning that restaurants can move to outdoor service or curbside delivery but will not be allowed to continue with indoor dining. Movie theaters, zoos, bowling alleys, and other family entertainment venues must also cease all indoor activities. Grocery stores and healthcare facilities may continue to operate indoors, but some businesses that had been forced to close during previous restrictions, such as hair and nail salons, will be allowed to remain open this time. Masks will continue to be required in public places.

It’s tough to find ourselves going backwards on this because it didn’t have to be this way.

Safer-at-Home was doing what was intended–helping to flatten the curve so that our healthcare system did not become overwhelmed. It was what happened as we began to reopen that was the problem. Perhaps growing tired of isolation and being limited, people started to resume activities as if the virus was gone–including things like parties and other non-essential indoor activities where people congregate together. Many people did not wear masks, even after it became required by law. With Sheriff’s Departments across the state announcing publicly that they would not be enforcing the mask requirement, that’s really not a surprise. No one is suggesting that we need a SWAT Team on this, but certainly there needs to be some perceived consequence for those who do not want to follow the law for this kind of infectious pathogen, because it isn’t just your own life you are taking into your hands with that kind of action. Spreading this in the community means that more people will become sick and die from it.

What message does it send when police are being told to pepper spray peaceful protesters, shoot at them with rubber bullets, or arrest them, meanwhile people who are spreading a potentially deadly virus fear no consequence–not even a fine? It’s fascinating to see such inaction on this when, back in March, the DOJ “notified the nation’s federal prosecutors that anyone threatening or attempting to spread the coronavirus can be charged with terrorism.

The problem, of course, is that all of our public policy around this virus has become politicized. One could argue that Europe and other countries have done better precisely because they treated coronavirus as a public health issue, not a political problem for an unpopular president during an election year.

But this virus doesn’t care where you fall on the political spectrum or what state you reside in. Without question, many of us have become sick of distancing and tired of even hearing about the virus. (Kudos to you if you are still reading this email!) So how do we get back to making progress on this so that we can keep our healthcare facilities below maximum capacity, have a hope of reopening small businesses, and someday get our kids back to school in person?

In the short term, it unfortunately means more restrictions.

The more we elect to do voluntarily and the more compliant we are with the recommendations from public health experts, the better our chances of getting back to our “new normal,” which probably means masks and physical distancing for a year or more depending on how quickly we can get an effective vaccine and treatment. That might be the best we can hope for now, as we continue to work toward better treatment protocols and medications that improve recovery and survival rates. What do you think?

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