Community members are invited to share their opinions on BenitoLink. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Community members are invited to share their opinions on BenitoLink. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

This community opinion was contributed by resident Terry Butler. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

According to information contained in this article published July 8 on Benitolink, our county is being placed on the state’s County COVID-19 Monitoring list.

If everyone complies with Health Department orders as outlined therein, we will be able to slow and even stop the spread of the virus. But that seems like a big ‘if’ nowadays due to the varying reactions of our citizenry to the restrictions required.

None of us likes to wear a mask, so some grudgingly wear them while others simply refuse. Many people take the advice of health care professionals and comply, while others claim a hoax, or believe the orders violate their civil rights. Some even float conspiracy theories and unproven alternative means of fighting the virus that don’t require masks. The L.A. Times published an article entitled “No, a Chiropractor can’t cure Covid 19.”

These reactions are not surprising given the stubborn personally independent streak that has always prevailed in our society. Not a small factor in this disparity is the sourcing of our news and opinion. There has been conflicting information provided by media outlets since the beginning, as evidenced in this article from the Brookings Institute on May 7 of this year:

“Amid a catastrophe, new information is often revealed at a faster pace than leaders can manage it, experts can analyze it, and the public can integrate it.

“In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting lag in making sense of the crisis has had a profound impact. Public health authorities have warned of the risk of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation, while the World Health Organization has even gone so far as to call the problem an ‘infodemic.’ And while the current moment has certainly lent itself to ample conspiracy theories, scams, and rumors spreading quickly over social media, the information problem we are facing right now is less one of moderation (of identifying and removing content that is demonstrably false and/or harmful), and more one of mediation (identifying what information is credible, when, and how to communicate these changes).”

Even the initial response of the federal government downplayed the need for masks as shown in this tweet from the Surgeon General in February.

Later this mistake was remedied, but for some the remedy came too late. They are no longer with us. This article points out that the slow response by the federal government was instrumental in the early numbers of deaths:

“More than 120,000 Americans have now perished from COVID-19, surpassing the total number of U.S. dead during World War I. Had American leaders taken the decisive, early measures that several other nations took when they had exactly the same information the U.S. did, at exactly the same time in their experience of the novel coronavirus, how many of these COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented?”

Now, after four months of increasing illnesses and deaths we have to admit the numbers don’t lie. The places that have reopened after not making a strong effort to enforce lock down strategies are now experiencing strong spikes in all their numbers, as these words as reported in the New York Times from Dr. Anthony Fauci attest:

“I would say this would not be considered a wave,” Dr. Fauci said. “It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline that really never got down to where we wanted to go.”

“On Monday, Arizona surpassed 100,000 cases as its tally rose to 101,505 according to a New York Times database. Cases there have doubled within the last two and a half weeks. Officials in Idaho announced more than 400 new cases, the state’s most on a single day. Case numbers have more than tripled since mid-June in the county that includes Boise. More than 1,000 new cases were announced Monday in Washington State, a single-day record in the state that was the site of the country’s first known case and first major cluster.”

“And more than 8,800 new cases were announced across Texas, the largest single-day total of the pandemic. Those figures included daily highs in Dallas County and in Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth. But the spike on Monday was also influenced by a flood of newly announced cases in some places that reported little or no data over the holiday weekend.”

The news from California is no better. In an article on the L.A. Times digital site on July 9, staff writers provided this information:

  • “The coronavirus pandemic has spread rapidly across California. Experts say the true number of people infected is unknown and likely much higher than official tallies.
  • “To better understand the spread of the virus, The Times is conducting an independent, continual survey of dozens of local health agencies across the state. So far today, four of the 61 agencies we’re monitoring have reported new numbers.
  • “Most of the state is on notice. Deteriorating conditions have prompted the governor to put 26 counties on his watchlist [32 as of July 9]. Together they are home to 79% of the state population.
  • “Cases and deaths are increasing. Records have been shattered in recent days, with a new highest single-day death toll and 24 counties failing the governor’s standard for new cases.
  • “Hospitalizations are going up. Patient counts are climbing in 10 counties, threatening a goal of the stay-at-home policies.
  • “The reopening is rolling back. Some areas have have returned to stricter lockdown, and masks are required across the state.
  • “The highest toll is among seniors. Roughly 77% of the dead were 65 or older. At least 3,213 were living at a nursing home. California’s totals still sit far below those of New York, where more than 32,200 people have died.
  • “The number of cases in California is now on pace to double every 27.2 days, a number used to measure how quickly the virus is spreading.
  • “Coronavirus can infect people so rapidly that it has continued to spread despite shutdown orders aimed at slowing the growth of new cases and flattening this line.
  • “Local governments announce new cases and deaths each day, though bottlenecks in testing and reporting lags can introduce delays. For instance, some agencies do not report new totals on weekends, leading to lower numbers on those days.”

Locally we are seeing increased numbers after reopening. We had remained stable until July because of our early compliance with the state guidelines.

In the instance that you may not have read the press release from our own San Benito County Public Health officials, I have excerpted these few words from the longer original:

“California Department of Public Health Officials placed San Benito County on the COVID-19 County Data Monitoring Project watch list in response to elevated disease transmission as indicated by San Benito County exceeding the state’s 14-day case rate threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 residents.

“San Benito County continues to work with local businesses, hospitals, clinics, and congregate living facilities to quickly identify and isolate individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.

“It is imperative to remember, wearing a face covering when out in public, staying physically distanced from people outside of your household, washing hands frequently, and staying home when sick will assist in stabilizing the case rate and protect the most vulnerable populations.”

My personal countywide experience with the public compliance is limited as I’m a 78-year-old man with a compromised immune system, so I rarely venture out beyond necessary trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, the post office and other such errands. I see 99% compliance and good humor among the folks I encounter, and it feels almost like the winter holiday season when everyone makes an effort to be nice to each other.

Perhaps if I were younger I might miss dining out, attending concerts, going to bars and ball games but I feel that since I’ve lived this long and have liked it, I’d be foolish to take chances on sharing enclosed spaces with folks who may be asymptomatic carriers or devil-may-care youthful risk takers. I’d like to see us ‘get back to normal’ as much as the next one of us, but I only see one way to do that until a vaccine is provided: follow the rules.

But the fact remains, and it truly is a solid fact of life, that we may never get back to that ‘normal’ we were experiencing just seven months ago, and given the challenges we face as members of a global populace, even after the pandemic is vanquished we might be completely surprised by what next year’s ‘normal’ will be. We may need to lean on each other in ways we’ve not considered yet.

Let’s take care of each other now. Keep a safe space, wash hands, follow the advice of credentialed experts, be ready to cooperate and work together for a shared future. Stay alive, if only to see what happens next!