Sunday, July 12, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on June 3rd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 14

But foresight was desperately needed in the case of COVID-19


This has been a very chaotic couple of weeks on the COVID-19 front. I am surprised but happy at the pace that Gov. Newsom and Santa Barbara County have adopted in reopening most businesses, even though there are many restrictions.

I am not complaining, but the “science” that the governor has repeatedly said would guide his every move hasn’t changed much, at least in this county, for the last month. The disease is still contagious; hospitalizations have remained consistent; while the number of people tested has increased dramatically, the number of people proved to be not infected is eight times greater than the total number who are infected; and the deaths haven’t increased as dramatically as originally predicted.

So, what changed to cause the governor to ease restrictions statewide? I think the tipping point was his arbitrary closure of beaches in Orange County. While beaches in nearby counties remained open, he closed conservative Orange County beaches after he saw a ground-level photo of what appeared to be people enjoying themselves on a sunny day.

The other factor was that his choices of which businesses could remain open and which should stay closed didn’t follow any logical pattern. For example, you could shop freely in big-box stores and other places that also sold clothing, watches, computers, and other commonly purchased items that had nothing to do with feeding you or allowing you to get needed medication. But you couldn’t shop in other retail establishments using the same protocols.

Then there were the churches; he ordered them closed even though they had taken every precaution, including reducing seating and sanitizing anything people could conceivably touch.

I think that instead of “science,” it was the filing of several lawsuits concerning infringement on the public’s right to worship, which businesses couldn’t open, and bipartisan pressure from state legislators and local politicians that changed his mind.

The county Health Department, after gaining approval from Sacramento, announced in late March that 52 previously defined “essential” businesses could remain open if they met certain social-distancing protocols. An additional 38 defined lower-risk businesses could operate with modifications to ensure physical distancing and offer curbside pickup only.

Health Department officials also ordered that everyone must wear a mask while in public places, specifically in places where people were near one another.

Then they followed up on May 26 by creating a new phase of the reopening plan and allowing some “higher-risk activities” to resume. This included hair salons and barber shops (not nail salons) and allowing students to attend graduations, collect diplomas, and have their pictures taken. It also included allowing in-store shopping at retail establishments if they only allowed 25 percent of the store’s occupancy inside.

It also included allowing churches to reopen with 25 percent of their capacity.

Dining in at your favorite restaurant is OK now, but there are a lot of rules. The operator must ask customers to wear a mask they bring with them when entering and leaving the place. Note: The mask may be removed when eating or drinking. There will be no condiments on the table, so you’ll have to ask for salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Families and people who ask to be seated with friends are allowed, but tables must be set at least 6 feet apart. Of course, the staff will have to sanitize your table and seats after you leave.

During this period, some establishments have taken the health orders concerning sanitizing shopping carts and door handles seriously. And, of course, most people are wearing masks as recommended (and now required) by the health officials.

But others haven’t been quite as responsible. I am sure that you have seen both customers and employees who haven’t worn a mask and shopped where cart handles aren’t cleaned. These places are the exception—for the most part business owners are cooperating.

I don’t like wearing a mask, but I do it because it’s a lawful order of the health authority, and I do it out of consideration for my fellow man.

At the fourth stage, we can finally “reopen high-risk workplaces, from concerts and convention centers to live audiences sports,” but as the state Public Health Officer Sonia Angell says, “We want to make sure that both the workers and the customers are safe in these settings, which means that there will be modifications to ensure physical distancing and [to make] sure that the unique circumstances of those workplaces will be addressed.”

It’s those “modifications” that will continue to inhibit our ability to really return to normal. The government simply doesn’t trust the public. We have never witnessed the suspension of freedoms that have accompanied this disease in our country’s history.

Hindsight in these matters is always 20/20, but in this case it was foresight that was overlooked.  

The people in long-term care facilities are there because they can’t take care of themselves and most are in frail condition. After warning the whole country that individuals with “underlying conditions” were more prone to becoming seriously ill and even dying, you would have thought that state and local health authorities and politicians would have focused more effort to protecting these folks—but instead they concentrated on quarantining otherwise healthy people and closing businesses.

Maybe if the government had devoted more time to things they already controlled early in this disease, like long-term care facilities, there wouldn’t have been as many fatalities.

It appears that the “nanny state” has finally taken center stage but ignored the most vulnerable in our society. 

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send your thoughts, comments, and opinionated letters to

Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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