The oracles who art in Sacramento decreed playgrounds must close to save lives.
Two days later they say, go ahead. Let your kids play. Just be sure to mask them up and sanitize their hands afterwards.
The same oracles mandate retail venues including grocery stores be slashed to 20 percent capacity as an essential move to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Two days later the governor’s office is playing let’s make a deal with various counties and the California Grocers Association.
The Sacramento folks want a number between 20 and 50 percent for store capacity. They agree on 35 percent for Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties, 25 percent for Santa Clara County and 50 percent for San Francisco. But wait — wasn’t 20 percent just two days prior the line that had to be drawn to reduce the spread and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed?
At the risk of sounding flippant, what is the scientific model for the footprint of a cookie cutter chain store in one county to be safer with a larger capacity limit than in another county?
And if you’ve ever spent a lot of time in San Francisco’s neighborhoods you will know that supermarkets with wide aisles such as the Safeway store along the Great Highway where Playland on the Beach used to be — now that dates me — are a rarity in The City. Most grocery stores are neighborhood places where aisles are narrower than in 7-Eleven stores and ventilation systems are relics of the mid-20th century, if that new.
How can 50 percent capacity in such places be safer than 20 percent capacity slapped on San Joaquin County supermarkets are under assuming the oracles in Sacramento are still channeling Monty Hall?
Simply asking the question will bring down the wrath of anyone who is breathing whether they are wearing a mask or not.
Some see actions that don’t lock things up tighter than a drum — figuratively speaking given literally such a move would reduce the movement of fresh air considered critical by most to reduce the chances of COVID transmission — as being akin to signing death warrants.
Others view tightening the screws down too far as being capricious and arbitrary. Dare they mention struggling businesses or workers they will be accused of valuing money over lives.
By the same token, if some are pressed to take basic precautions that are effective to varying degrees to reduce the spread they coil and get ready to equate a mask requirement to 1775 when Americans pushed back against British rule that essentially saddled people with taxation without representation.
We’ve got taxation and we’ve got representation. Some don’t like what our representatives are doing either through hypocritical behavior or insisting science is behind their decisions and then chucking it aside when they get significant pushback.
If everyone is being honest, the government has limited control over our personal actions although they can issue decrees that can do a lot of collateral damage.
They are not getting push back because of pandemic fatigue as much as they are from actions that at first may seem capricious and arbitrary but are tempered with assurances they are data driven. They clearly become capricious and arbitrary once people start noticing parallel situations with different rules are applied.
This is what appears to be driving the 9th District Court of Appeals —not exactly known as a bastion for protecting religious freedom — to question how Nevada could justify placing a hard cap on church attendance and allow casinos to be at 25 percent capacity when both churches and casinos are following the same COVID-19 precautions.
Back to the playgrounds and store capacity.
If they were data driven decisions that we have been told repeatedly is the most effective way to reduce the COVID-19 carnage then how do you justify capitulating just two days later? If you made the right decision for the greater good then a true leader would stand their ground.
They could even get the benefit of the doubt as time passes and things change. However, there was absolutely no data, no scientific rationale for flipping on playgrounds and the 20 percent capacity which means that there was none to begin with. After all, how many times has the governor repeated the words “we are being driven by data” during his frequent COVID-19 press conferences?
Gavin Newsom has a truly thankless job. The most selfish thing he could do right now is appoint himself to the U.S. Senate seat when Kamala Harris vacates it and gets out of Dodge.
It would assure him of a healthier political future while scoring points for elevating the first woman to the governorship of California, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.
Newsom needs to strike a balance that — dare it be said — weighs the lives of potential pandemic victims against what can be severe and lasting damage to others whether it is fiscally, physically or mentally on a number of different levels. It sounds good and noble to say people need to make the ultimate material sacrifice if need be to increase the chances of others not dying from COVID-19 but instead do so from cancer, a drug overdose, auto accident or old age.
But few are saying that who aren’t secure in their income or their ability to keep a roof over their heads and their families fed.
It is a cruel world. We hope — or at least we should do so — that Newsom keeps trying to find that middle ground.
In order to do so his initial edicts need to be a tad less one-dimensional.
It appears the playground edict was lifted because of pressure that kids need a healthy outlet especially those in poorer neighborhoods that, by chance, are likely populated by a lot of families that lost paychecks to restaurant shutdowns.
As for the store capacity, folks who actually manage stores and have a good handle on customer behavior successfully argued that reduced capacity creating lines would only trigger hoarding.
There is a lot of wishful thinking out there that vaccines will magically make COVID-19 disappear in months. It may slow down the spread and death toll, but then what? If we drop below 150,000 deaths a year from COVID-19 will that be when we can go back to normal without masks, social distancing and such? Or is that target 100,000 deaths or 50,000 deaths?
The real problem isn’t getting people to comply now. It’s going to be determining the point where the data or death rate prompts authorities to release the chokehold on the economy and not simply dialing back the pressure on its throat.
We will get through the next three weeks one way or another.
But what plays out afterwards is going to have economic and political ramifications for years if not decades especially since it is clearly creating a deeper economic divide.
All of this seems all over the road because that reflects reality.
And if we realize that is the case, then we need to do what we were taught when we learning to drive which is act defensively.
We need to social distance. Wear the mask. Knock off travel you can do without at least for the next month or so. It may not stop you from getting COVID-19 or anyone else you know for that matter but it will blunt the numbers. And in doing so it might indeed be the best way to minimize the carnage to businesses, jobs and the financial stability of households.
And to be honest, we are all going to violate “lockdown” rules at one point or another. But if you do it at least in a defensive mode with thought given to others, we just might be able to move closer to the shore instead of staying adrift in pandemic pandemonium.