Dumping the State is Not the Way to Escape Purple

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Not one Shasta County resident wants to reside in California’s more restrictive purple tier. Yet the proof is in the map. As of Tuesday, like it or not, see for yourself, there Shasta County is, the state’s northern most purple county, looking like a crestfallen purple kite. By Friday, Shasta County businesses are mandated to comply with the purple tier.

While I understand the concept behind the tiered system, it seems unfair.

It’s unfair that here in Shasta County, the COVID-19 spikes from a few — Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (321 cases since September) and Windsor Redding Care (100 residents and employees since August) — have caused restrictions on the many.

It’s unfair that restaurants in particular have jumped through hoops to adapt and survive, despite the roller coaster of changes. Every time that roller coaster gears up again and takes off with the latest wild ride with updated mandates, some low-hanging small businesses fall off, never to be opened again. How long can business owners – especially the little local guys – hang on? It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed.

As horrible as this situation is with shutdowns and mandates and the COVID-19 four-color tiered system, it’s crucial to remember that Shasta County did not create the tiered system. The state did, and because of that, Shasta County is stuck with it – stuck in it – along with 57 fellow California counties.

Enter Supervisor Les Baugh, and his Tuesday suggestion that Shasta County divorce itself from the state’s tiered coronavirus system.

In some ways, his proposal is a cruel tease, because it gives false hope to desperate people – especially his yelling, screaming, threatening followers – many of whom have verbally abused supervisors and made the same demands for months.

“OPEN! OPEN! OPEN!”

To my knowledge, no other county has done what Baugh proposes.

Look at the map. Look at the company we have in the purple tiers; some counties with far more wealth, influence and resources than Shasta County. If there were a benefit to doing as Baugh said, don’t you think those other bigger, more powerful counties would have tried it by now?

The reality is that Shasta County cannot just open, because it’s under the umbrella of the state. Likewise, within the state are all kinds of agencies, such as Cal-OSHA, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, and many others.

Those agencies are well-oiled machines on a mission, and they will keep on keepin’ on, slapping fines and warnings on businesses that fail to comply with state COVID mandates.

If Baugh’s plan works, and those state agencies come after Baugh’s business buddies, will Baugh coach those people to say, “Hey, Cal-OSHA, you can’t fine me! Shasta County has defied the tiered system. We don’t identify with purple! We’re free!”

You know what Cal-OSHA will say? “We see the map. And the map says Shasta is purple. Here’s your fine.”

The dreamy pre-pandemic way of living that some people long for and think will happen if – BIG if – Shasta County were to unhitch itself from the state wagon, is not remotely based in possibility or reality.

The fact is, saying we don’t like purple or saying that we don’t believe in purple will not make it so. Rebelling against being in the purple tier still doesn’t change the fact we’re in the purple tier. Even if somehow Shasta County is able to leave the state system, the state map of California will continue to show Shasta County in whatever color we are at the moment, whether or not we’re officially part of that system.

Granted, it’s no fun to be the bearer of bad news, as the public health folks do on a daily basis, and as the good supervisors have done as they explain week after week that they only have so much power and authority, that the rest is out of their hands and over their heads.

However, it is super fun and satisfying to be a bright beacon of light and hope, even if it’s false hope. It feels good to have people say you’re their hero, that you’re the only one doing anything, even when, in his heart, that hero knows his ideas being pitched lack a snowball’s chance in Redding on a hot August sidewalk of working.

That brings us to the special Oct. 22 meeting, all happening because of a monkey wrench of an idea Baugh seemingly pulled from his thin air toolbox.

Many people have their hearts set on something wonderful happening at that meeting. I wish I had the same confidence it it. To me, it’s a waste of time and hope, because in the end, there will be some mightily discouraged people.

Here’s why I say that: First, county counsel would have to say yes, it is possible to secede from the state’s coronavirus tiered system. Second, the proposal would have to be voted upon. Third, to be approved, two of the five supervisors must side with Baugh.

No matter what, Baugh would come out a winner, smelling like a rose. If the idea doesn’t go to vote, then Baugh’s followers will be angry at the supervisors who voted against it, but they’ll say Baugh stood up for them. Same outcome if it goes to vote, and fails. His people will be outrage, but appreciate him for trying.

If the idea does go to vote, and two supervisors take leave of their senses and actually vote with Baugh, then Baugh comes out a hero, at least for a little while.

The approval for Baugh would sour when people realized that most businesses never stopped complying and behaving as if they were in purple – or whatever color – to avoid hefty state fines.

“Who’s dumb idea was that?!”

Meanwhile, Shasta County will have lost state resources that come with being within the system, a lose, lose, if you will.

Baugh’s plan is like telling the National Weather Service to quit reporting North State weather, because 108-degree forecasts scare tourists away. But that wouldn’t change the reality of the temperature. It would still be hot here. And the National Weather Service would still know it’s hot here.

Or it’s as if I threw away my scale, because I don’t like the numbers, but I eventually must face the truth that lack of a scale doesn’t equal lack of weight gain.

Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss. Sometimes, ignorance is just ignorance.

What’s worse than ignorance is when leaders grandstand, pontificate and play on people’s hopes, fears and desires, despite having access to unpopular truth and facts.

My hope is that the most rational supervisors will soundly reject Baugh’s idea.

In the meantime, there is a direct way for Shasta County to escape purple, but there are no shortcuts. The quickest, most direct path through purple, then red, then orange, and finally, yellow, is entirely up to us.

It’s so simple: Wear masks, wash hands frequently, maintain at least six feet apart from people you don’t live with, and steer clear of large gatherings. Please try it, even if you don’t believe in any of it.

Our way of life – and death – depends upon it.

 

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is 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 lives in Redding, California.
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