Credit: Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News, NY

Santa Barbara, wake up!

Masses of Santa Barbarians behaving as normal on a sunny Saturday afternoon was shocking. Our neighbors were congregating on State Street and at the waterfront, mostly without masks and distancing. They were enjoying eating and drinking at re-opened restaurants and bars, and shopping as if it were just another normal “day in paradise”. This should, in the middle of the worst pandemic in the past century, be seen as shocking. Evidently Governor Newsom agrees.

Since the Memorial Day re-openings, California health officials reported more than 150,000 new cases. On June 27 the state recorded 7,149 new infections, the largest single day total for positive cases. We now have more than 200,000 cases of Covid-19 in the state. It is important to note that more than 56% of new diagnoses are in people ages 49 or younger (up from 29% a month ago).

Here, in Santa Barbara County we have confirmed 2,712 cases, with 745 new cases recorded in the last two weeks. We now have the 15th highest number of infections among the state’s 58 counties.

While I understand both the economic pressures and shelter fatigue we are all suffering, I believe that California and Santa Barbara “opened up” too soon. No state in the union, including ours, had met the White House guidelines of 14 days without an uptick in cases before reopening; much less the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines, which, like the governor’s order, included masking (along with social distancing).

While clearly laudable and justifiable, the recent protests against systemic racism and George Floyd’s, and now Rayshard Brooks’s murders by police will undoubtedly lead to yet another “spike” of cases caused by the mass demonstrations.

This coronavirus is still among us. It is not going to suddenly disappear. It is transmissible by talking or even just breathing. Carriers of the virus can be contagious even if they don’t have symptoms. That’s why doctors support the governor’s order to mask up and try to keep your distance from others as much as possible.

If one needs a stronger motivation for fearing the Virus and protecting one’s self and others, consider the admonition of renowned virus expert Dr. Ali S. Kahn. Dr. Kahn served at the CDC for 23 years before retiring as the director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. He firmly “believes viruses are alive and even collectively intelligent.” According to Dr. Kahn, they “have the ability to replicate but need to invade our cells [to do so].”

Think about this, microbes, which include viruses, are 3.5 billion years old and represent 90 percent of all life on the planet. They can produce 30 generations in a day and know how to exchange genetic material. We, by comparison, are about 200,000 years old and can only produce a single generation in 25 years.

The governor did the only thing he could, other than again shutting down the state and ordering us back to our shelters. It is going to be difficult, but our local elected officials have to enforce the governor’s order. I don’t believe that we are voluntarily going to wear masks: in any indoor public space; waiting for or riding on public transportation; while working; and while outdoors in public spaces and less than 6 feet from others. Fines need to be established, and police and others designated by the city and county, will need to ticket violators.

Just because one can’t see COVID-19 doesn’t mean it isn’t there, dangerous and lethal. It will not be disappearing anytime soon. More unmasking and more congregating only means more disease and more death.


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