On Friday, May 15, I read on Facebook that at 2 p.m. the next day there was going to be an “Open Napa” rally at the courthouse on Third Street. Lots of people are out of work, lots of businesses are shut down, and people need haircuts. So I decided to see for myself what would be happening that day.
I arrived at the appointed time. Standing at a safe distance (across the street at the historic Courthouse) I observed a group of about 40 people waving signs reading “Open Napa,” “My Body, My Choice,” “All Work is Essential,” “Quarantine the Sick, Not the Healthy,” etc.
No “Trump” signs were seen, but several MAGA hats were present. Lots of American flags were present, I suppose to show patriotism. There was no social distancing between any of these folks, and only a couple of masks were being worn
There were also lots of handshakes, hugs, kisses and high fives. One man had the California flag waving on a pole, but it was upside down, the universal signal for distress. A gentle breeze wafted through the air, ensuring those microscopic droplets would be carried much farther than six feet.
As time went on, the crowd grew larger. Vehicles that drove by the rally were encouraged to honk to reopen Napa, and many did. As I watched all of this going on, a man walking his dog turned to me and said, “Don’t these people realize that keeping distance is one of the best ways to stop the virus?”
He then went on to say, “I’ve just seen someone die from COVID, and it isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s horrible.”
When I left 45 minutes later, the crowd had grown to about 125.
I get it that people need to go back to work. They have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I get it that businesses need to reopen. People want to go back to services that have been taken for granted by all of us -- gyms, nail salons and barbershops. But here are a few thoughts of my own on the shutdown, and what it’s done for us.
California, with a population of about 40 million, was one of the first states to go into lockdown in mid-March. As of this writing, New York has had 362,155 confirmed cases, and 29,355 deaths, an 8% fatality rate. By contrast, California has had 81,833 confirmed cases, and 3,288 deaths, a 4% fatality rate. The difference? Social distancing with stay-at-home orders almost from the beginning.
Consider this idea: the shutdown is not the cause of the economic troubles. Just like banning travel from China did not stop COVID-19 from entering our country, not shutting down would not have saved the economy. Even if our economy had not been put on lockdown, it would still be way down; in fact, it could have been worse since it would have been very chaotic and harder to manage.
Had Gov. Newsom not ordered the shutdown, we would have likely seen many thousands more deaths. This would have created a level of panic. A huge portion of the state’s population would have self-quarantined, which on its own would have dealt a shock to the economy and caused it to go into a tailspin.
Shutting down, while dealing a hard blow to the economy, would have very likely been worse if that hadn’t happened, and resulted in many more deaths. The shutdown literally saved lives.
As a society, it’s essential that in addition to ourselves, we take care of and watch out for one another. At his daily news briefings, Gov. Cuomo says it over and over again: “I don’t wear a mask for me, I wear a mask for you.”
It’s time to stop complaining. It’s time to be responsible for one another. That means wearing your facemask in public, and keeping our distance from one another in public. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Napa County saw a spike in COVID-19 cases by the end of this month, given the virus has an incubation period of 14 days. We’re better off making some hard sacrifices now, rather than suffering some hard losses in the future.
When a threat isn’t fully understood, it’s better to overreact rather than underreact. The federal government has provided little guidance on how to proceed through this crisis. It underreacted for six weeks, allowing the virus to gain a foothold. Consequently, it’s up to us as responsible citizens to do all that we can to keep it contained.
Napa will reopen, but it should be in phases. Opening too quickly could result in a second shutdown, and no one wants that.
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