California Rightfully Suffers COVID-19 Consequences

Congratulations, California mask-deniers. Behold, the unintended consequences of your refusal to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The state’s COVID-19 numbers are up, so some things will be shut down.

Despite all our progress and months of sacrifice, we’re now taking a giant step backward. Huge hunks of our California economy will be shuttered again. All that work. What a waste.

All we had to do was follow some simple rules enacted during a pandemic so our state’s economy could gradually reopen, industry by industry, business by business. Had we continued to improve, we could have slowly opened up the rest of our economy and put the social back in society, inching that much closer to our wonderful old normal.

The basic requests were easy: Stay home if you’re sick. Wash your hands thoroughly. Wear masks. Maintain at least 6 feet apart from each other. Keep gatherings small.

It wasn’t too much to ask.

Many followed those guidelines (bless you), and took those instructions to heart for the greater good of ourselves, our loved ones, our community, our cities, county, state, country and the world.

But many suspicious Californians who thought they knew better than some of the best brains in the world decided not just that they couldn’t wear a mask, but they wouldn’t. They refused to wear masks and maintain physical distancing for a variety of reasons, most of which revolved around rebelling against being bossed around by a governor they hate, or not believing the virus is any worse than the common flu, or because they believe the virus is a hoax or a conspiracy.

I understand their frustrations. I’m frustrated, too. I miss all the things we used to be able to do. Nobody wants to party like it was 2019 more than I do. But glance to the right side of ANC’s page at the Shasta COVID-19 Cases graph. Notice how the numbers continue to climb in Shasta County, even among kids and young people? (Click below the image for the complete information.)

If the mask-deniers are watching our national numbers, how can they ignore nearly 140,000 dead Americans? Oh, wait. I remember. They think the numbers are cooked, too. The images of those refrigerator morgue trucks? The stories from exhausted healthcare workers on the front lines of hospitals overrun with COVID patients? Fake news.

Sadly, most mask-deniers won’t take this virus seriously until COVID-19 hits home, lands on their doorstep, walks right in, sits right down, pulls out a chainsaw and mercilessly hacks off a few branches from the family tree.

The mask-wearing situation doesn’t need to be spelled out in such graphic terms, when really, at its core, it’s all about giving a rip about others.

Back to the chainsaw-wielding virus. The destruction will no doubt begin with grandparents and the most vulnerable family members, but it’s a hungry virus with a voracious appetite that will greedily move on to younger and younger victims, as we can see by the ages of our most recent Shasta County COVID cases, with ages ranging from younger than 13, to people in their 20s on up to the elderly.

Data won’t move the mask-deniers, because they deny the numbers, too.

The fact is, for the mask-deniers, most likely this virus won’t become remotely real until a dear grandmother or other loved one dies from COVID-19. But for it to really make a lasting impression, they’d need the unforgettable image of grandma or grandpa lying naked and in a coma on bellies while hooked up to ventilators via plastic tubes that have been inserted down throats; bare behinds covered loosely by cloths to partially contain the excrement that will surely flow involuntarily from prone bodies.

Of course, because this novel coronavirus is so contagious, family won’t be allowed into hospitals to hold the hands of their dying loved ones, where they might see these horrific sights, so maybe it won’t register after all. Out of sight, out of mind. Maybe they’ll claim after their loved one’s deaths that those sheeple doctors followed orders from on high (where?) and wrote “COVID-19” on death certificates when what really killed them was, uh, organ failure (from COVID-19).

When historians look back on this period in time in America – our own personal version of The Plague – when stories unfold about the willful ignorance that led to so many deaths from this brand new unpredictable virus, historians will give our generation a name, and you can bet it won’t be The Greatest Generation. Most likely we’ll be bestowed with something more along the lines of  The Most Selfish Generation, or The Most Ignorant Generation.

During WWII, Americans were united behind the cause of doing what they could here at home as a show of solidarity for our men and women who sacrificed everything from limbs and faces to minds and lives on foreign soil. At home, Americans planted “victory gardens” and raised chickens. They donated grease and underwear elastic and scrap tinfoil for the war effort. They endured hardship and food shortages and death and poverty. Most of all, they sent their brightest, most potential-filled youth off to to war, leaving women to run the homes, machines and families. No wonder that was truly the Greatest Generation.

How I miss the United States of America.

Fast forward 75 years, and behold, what we have here is the Most Embarrassing Generation: a bunch of whiny-assed, entitled American crybabies who think they’re being brave when they stand up to “the man” (which man is anyone’s guess) by refusing to wear a damn mask in Costco so they can illustrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by stocking up on big-screened TVs, toilet paper and Kirkland booze.

Lord help us get over ourselves.  What the hell is wrong with us? How did we become so bratty, weak and unable to withstand the smallest amounts of discomfort or inconvenience for the sake of humanity? Our ancestors must be rolling over in their graves over the humiliation of it all.

All across the world other countries get what it means to live in the middle of a pandemic; to come together to do the right thing as individuals for the greater good of all.

Here in America, and specifically here in uber-conservative, wild-west good-old-boy Shasta County in Northern California, we are passengers dependent upon a rudderless, leaky ship with some worthless leaders at the helm, including a literally unbelievable Sheriff Eric Magrini and his buddy District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh, each of whom have willfully ignored the Governor’s CDC orders since Day 1, way back in March. Even our police chief, who seems a nice enough guy, appears disinterested and toothless when it comes to enforcing our governor’s executive public health executive orders. Uh, he would, but you know, he’s really busy with other police stuff.

What other stuff is more important than public health and safety?

In the city of Redding, it’s as if all the elected leaders have a mixed case of stage fright and laryngitis when it comes to speaking up loud and clear about what needs to be done to not just flatten the curve, but to keep businesses open, and, oh yeah, save lives.

In Shasta County, the cauldron of civil unrest between the mask-believers and mask-deniers is about to boil over. But our leaders seem either unaware about the potentially deadly powder keg, or appear to lack the spines and balls necessary to take charge and say unpopular words for the sake of our people during a deadly pandemic.

Yesterday around lunchtime, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered that the state take a giant step backward as he shut down many businesses that had barely had a chance to celebrate being open again.

This is such a heart-breaker, especially for local restaurants and bars, many of which were scarcely staying afloat since the March shutdown, businesses that invested thousands of dollars they probably didn’t have to comply with masks, sanitizers and Plexiglas dividers.

My favorite Mexican restaurant, La Cabana, comes to mind. They’ve done a great job complying with all the new regulations. And yet here we are, returning to square one again. I worry how wonderful Redding restaurants like La Cabana, Moonstone Bistro, Karline’s, the Airpark Cafe and others will survive, not to mention those North State favorites, like Cafe Maddalena in Dunsmuir. I vow, as many of you will, to redouble my efforts to support my favorite local businesses during this second shutdown. Even so, how many more times can they weather the storm of revolving doors of open and shut; shut and open, before they finally just stay shut? What a tragedy that would be for them and our community.

If you haven’t participated in wearing masks and maintaining recommended CDC guidelines, if you’ve scoffed at mask-wearers and mocked them for being weak, then I don’t care to hear your tantrums and outrage that we’re suffering the consequences of your unwillingness to do the right thing when our community’s economic health and human lives depended upon it.

What’s closed, what’s on the chopping block, and which counties are impacted?

The governor divided his decision into two lists. First, effective yesterday, all counties must close indoor operations in these sectors:

Dine-in restaurants
Wineries and tasting rooms
Movie theaters
Family entertainment centers (for example: bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades)
Zoos and museums
Card rooms

A state press release added that bars, brewpubs, breweries, and pubs must close all operations both indoor and outdoor statewide, unless they are offering sit-down, outdoor dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.

Second, Newsom identified the following industries and activities that will be shut down in those counties that have the dubious distinction of ending up on the state’s County Monitoring List because of excessive COVID cases. (They may remain open if their services can be modified to operate outside or via pick-up.)

Fitness centers
Worship services
Offices for non-essential sectors
Personal care services, like nail salons, body waxing and tattoo parlors
Hair salons and barbershops

Identified counties

Contra Costa
Los Angeles
San Benito
San Bernardino
San Diego
San Joaquin
Santa Barbara

A scan of the list shows that Shasta County isn’t among those counties ordered to shut the above industries and activities. That’s good news, and it offers us the opportunity to remain off that list and continue moving forward, not backward.

Since the governor’s order, social media is blowing up with enraged people who cannot believe what the governor’s “done” to us. Done to us? Because of the number of non-compliant people, we did this to ourselves. We shouldn’t be the least bit surprised by the consequences. Frankly, if you were someone who refused to comply with the CDC guidelines, I won’t be moved by your crocodile tears about this recent outcome, because it’s people like you, and non-compliant businesses, who helped contribute to this second shutdown. Unintended consequences, I’m sure, but the negative outcome is there either way. Cry me a river.

Ironically, the very ones I see screaming the loudest about yesterday’s shutdown are the ones who thumbed their noses at the previous executive orders right out of the gate. What did they think would happen when they gave the collective one-finger salute to the masks and CDC virus guidelines, and Shasta County’s COVID-19 numbers began to rise?

No surprise, despite the July 13 order, on Facebook posts abound of individuals and businesses who announce their plans to openly not comply. One such business is the San Francisco Deli in Redding. Here’s the message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page yesterday:

San Francisco Deli team. Photo sourse: San Francisco Deli Facebook page.

Good evening everyone! As you may know, the govenor has closed indoor dining. Many restaurant’s like SFD have tried to adhere to all the previous mandates. Masks, signs that ask for social distancing, sanitizer, washing hands, reduction in seating etc. After a very long sole searching discussion, Jack and I have decided to stay open, at least for now. We want you all to know we care about your safety, appreciate your loyalty. WE CONTINUE TO OFFER TAKE OUT, DELIVERY, AND CURBSIDE SERVICE for anyone not able or uncomfortable with dine in. Hopefully, Shasta County will apply for a variance again, because of our efforts. We have not made this decision lightly. I do not believe many of my fellow restraunteurs can survive another long shutdown. SFD has been in business for almost 45 years, and hope to be around for many more. Thanks to all our loyal customers, God Bless

The message is understandable, but it’s a reckless disregard of an executive order intended to protect the public. We’ll need more than God’s blessing if more restaurants follow San Francisco Deli’s act of defiance.

And really, who could blame other restaurants who might follow the deli’s lead, especially since we lack local leaders to enforce the rules?

Hey,  no fair! I shut down my restaurant, why doesn’t that restaurant shut down, too? 

For some insight about the mentality and level of anger demonstrated by some business owners ordered to close their doors, I offer this message posted on Red Bluff-based Palomino Room’s Facebook page this morning.

Way to keep it classy, Palomino Room.

Other less-colorful messages of defiance are being posted on some fundamentalist Christians’ Facebook pages, such as this one by Joel Kilpatrick, former Bethel Church member, now of Southern California.

For Christian leaders in California, this is nothing less than a second chance to make the right decision. Your people will forgive you the past. Show some mettle!

While the majority of comments on his Facebook page praised Kilpatrick’s leadership, at least one person pushed back.

“When did it become a Christian value to be a source of spreading a deadly virus?”

Another commenter responded, ” … the deadly virus is called fear coercion deceit and manipulation. The virus has a 99.7% recovery rate.”

Love and Logic, COVID style

What we need is to apply some Love and Logic, that famous parenting program that operated on the premise that parents love their kids so much that they’re willing to set and enforce limits.

We need Love and Logic on steroids.  We need leaders with the ability to adult-up and  communicate with compassion, information, intelligence and empathy to our people that these rules are literally in place for the public’s welfare, and there will be consequences for unwise decisions. Borrowing language straight from the L&L website, our grown-up leaders can assure citizens that “the quality of their lives depends upon the quality of their choices.”

And if some leaders are so invested in sticking to their anti-mask policies that they refuse to enforce the rules, they need to be removed from office, replaced by leaders willing and able to protect, serve and uphold the laws, even the ones they don’t like.

Regarding the majority of people here in Shasta County who disagree with the mask requirements, perhaps we can find some middle ground, a way for them to simultaneously go on the record as hating and distrusting the masks, while still complying with the CDC mask request, just in case the virus is real. How about special masks created that display special messages?  Hate Newsom; Love my Grandma. 

Meanwhile, whether some people believe in the virus or not, the fact remains that COVID-19 quietly, ruthlessly continues to claim victims everywhere. It brings illness, death and grief, but it also brings sharp, painful division between friends, families, neighborhoods, co-workers, businesses, cities, counties, states, countries and entire continents.

All is not lost, though. Shasta County citizens have an opportunity to join forces and do everything in our power to adhere to public health guidelines to put a lid on the simmering pot that is COVID-19, with hopes that perhaps the places that are closed will reopen soon.

The best news so far is that presently, we’re not on the list that contains counties that have had pretty much everything shut down. There’s still time to do the right thing so our county doesn’t suffer any more shutdowns that will further damage our local economy.

Please, mask-deniers. Hold your noses, swallow your pride and wear a mask as a symbol that you care about this place and its people. Please.

Unless we join forces to do everything humanly possible to help keep the virus at bay, we don’t have a prayer.

Do you want to eventually return to your favorite restaurants and bars? Wear a mask.

Do you want to continue visiting your gym? Wear a mask.

Do you want to continue in-person church services? Wear a mask.

Do you want schedule hair appointments, or get manicures and pedicures? Wear a mask.

Do you want to shop at the mall? Wear a mask.

Do you want your kids to return to school one day, and be able to play sports and see their friends? Wear a mask.

If you want any and all of those things, there’s a simple way to help. Follow the easy rules. And just wear a damn mask.

Please. I’m begging you. Wear a mask.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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