It’s almost been a year since SARS-CoV-2 became an adversary of humanity. It reared its head in Asia and, as of this week, it has set up residency on all seven continents.

In the United States, the pandemic has danced around our geography, heating up Seattle and San Francisco, then New York, then Florida, followed by the Midwest. All states have been infected to one degree or another. Even isolated Hawaii and Alaska have wrestled with the virus.

I live in California, and I’m guilty of thinking early on that California would show the rest of the country how a community weathers a brief pandemic and gets to a place where our economy can accelearate again. Boy was I wrong.

Californians did things correctly at the start of the pandemic. In March and April, when our first stay-at-home orders were in effect, our roadways were largely empty and the 101 was quiet. Shopping centers were closed. Streets were empty of cars and people. Everyone appeared to take this seriously. It seemed like we all wanted to ‘flatten the curve’ so we could get back to normal as quickly as possible.

We’ve come a long way since then. And it’s all been in the wrong direction. An article today in explores why that might be, and I think they get some things right.1

“The state hasn’t employed strict enforcement…But it has no real hammer against people gathering or engaging in everyday social activities, and many local law enforcement agencies have made a point of declaring they will not become the stay-at-home police.”

It is correct that government has not tried to employ any strict enforcement of best practices at slowing the spread of the virus. We’ve had no stay-at-home orders enforceable by law. We’ve had no mask mandate. It’s largely been on the honor system, like Sweden.2 My County has appealed to residents’ sense of compassion, but those appeals didn’t work.

What changed here between March and April when the roadways were empty and now in December with its surge of infections? It’s an uprising. Residents whose livelihoods have been effected by the pandemic, either because they own a small business or work(ed) at a small business, have become livid at the idea that stopping the pandemic comes at the cost of throttling the local economy. They have mobilized people for a ‘shut down’ protest movement. And my county leaders are petrified.

They are hiding behind GOP themes of ‘local control’ and the primacy of economics instead of working with their public health leaders to project a message of control and contain. Lately, our county leaders have pointed fingers at the shortcomings of the governor’s office while staying mum on their own shortcomings during this pandemic.

One shortcoming: their inability to share data on where the virus is spreading (or honest interpretation of their data). They say their data shows that the virus is not spreading at local businesses, but a casual review of the contact tracing data they’ve made public shows their assertion is poppycock. The data neither supports nor refutes their claim!

Elected leadership at the city, county, and state level has lost the confidence of California citizens. We might be in a different place had someone at the federal level been assuring Americans of the importance of masks and social distancing. But that never happened. (And Donald J. Trump should be held accountable for that.)

How California moves forward in the pandemic is a corporate3 decision.

My family has been hunkered down at home since March. We’re paying the price of self-isolation to keep our neighbors and local health care workers safe. I’m sure nobody sees this sacrifice that we’re ``happily’’ making, and that makes it terribly frustrating to watch other people flaunt all these public health guidelines. Terribly frustrating.

We feel guilty going to the store for that ‘extra’ thing. We have regrets about getting takeout from the local pizza place, even though we wear a mask and afterwards wash our hands. Meanwhile, we hear about people gathering for backyard bar-b-ques and having holiday parties. We hear about churches gathering for services, and we hear about faux-church people rallying singers for unhealthy caroling.

How long can people continue to follow public health guidelines while so many celebrate those who publicly flaunt that responsibility?

At what point does the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stop protecting those who insist on shopping without a mask?

Our city, county, state, and federal leaders need to grow a spine and establish consequences for violating the best science-based practices for managing the pandemic. If they don’t, all Americans will suffer for a long time.

  1. One thing they didn’t get right is their numeracy. They wrote, “With rapid, logarithmic growth, the virus has become so prevalent it’s simply become easier to spread.” Any idiot would know it should be ‘exponential growth’ because it is fast whereas logarithmic growth is almost slower than everything. 

  2. After being ravaged by COVID-19, the country of Sweden has admitted that it’s ‘honor system’ approach to controlling the pandemic was misguided and wrong. It led to too many deather. 

  3. Definition – of or shared by all the members of a group: the service emphasizes the corporate responsibility of the congregation