Don Rogers: Signal of safety, togetherness

We must live in two worlds now.

In one: Many, maybe most, of the restaurants still open in Grass Valley and Nevada City have gone rogue.

Sure, the staffs work masked up, only the occasional nose slipping free and not for long. Waiting guests maintain their social distance, also masked, until their party is called. Then they are seated inside, no problem, Purple tier be …, well, you know.

These diners aren’t shy and there’s no shortage of them. Sometimes they fill the room. Certainly did on Valentine’s, everywhere. It’s been this way for weeks.

If you are inclined to cluck, bear in mind there has yet to be any outbreak among the customers at a restaurant in Nevada County. The incidences of COVID among restaurant workers match other workplaces. If going by the data, there’s much more to worry about attending large social and family gatherings. Think birthday parties and the like.

The ski towns seem more disciplined. But outdoor dining there might as well be inside, the way some of those tents are sealed against the cold.

So the risk surely has leaped, even if daily cases are dropping steadily and steeply right now in our county, our state, our country, the world.

A whole ’nother reality is emerging more and more on the trails — outdoors with nothing but space between nature lovers. The number of people who wear masks out there has to have risen to a good half. Some fumble as if in a fright to get theirs on at the approach of another hiker, or a jogger or mountain biker. Some stand off the trail, facing away, until the other passes.

I can’t help but wonder at the logic. If spring breaks on the beaches, BLM protests and freedom rallies on the streets, if these activities outside didn’t touch off outbreaks, what is it about a lonely trail that might?

But I’m not about to argue. Here are the safest people in the land. If everyone were so careful, there’d be a lot less COVID, a lot less death.

The toll has nudged close enough to the annual count from cardiac disease, which is neck ‘n’ neck with cancer for the top killer in the United States. COVID follows at No. 3, our exceptional country accounting for a quarter of all the cases and all the deaths around the globe.

I dunno, but I’m pretty sure the indoor diners and the masked hikers live their lives worlds apart.


With respect to the impeachment trial, I probably relate most to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s remarks afterward on the Senate floor that had so many scratching their heads.

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” he rumbled. I know you know which day. But why vote for acquittal, then?

McConnell only inflamed his own party, which still stands solidly behind an unpopular president who lost the House, lost the Senate and then lost the presidency in one term. That happened last in 1932, to Herbert Hoover. Oh, the socialism that followed.

Of course, McConnell also infuriated the Democrats. But he could say hello to one for that, the way things are today.

A rejuvenated ex-president this week called him a hack, and the pundits characterized the Senate minority leader as a calculating worm always wriggling for survival. But his speech made no sense in that light. The path for worms was clear from the start.

I think McConnell was speaking to history rather than for today, neither worm nor hack.

I think I agree with him that impeachment is a tool in danger of being wielded far too easily. It could imperil democracy even more than that horde swarming over the Capitol. I, too, wonder if the case might be better tested in a real court, by judicial standards rather than political.

McConnell and I, though, we seem to be in our own world on this. At least for now.


But there is one very obvious viewpoint we share as a community: Wearing a mask is a good idea inside public spaces: stores, government buildings, the office.

Rare these days is the fool with something to prove by refusing. Whether by belief, rule following, good manners, consideration for others, this habit has grown nearly universal in our towns and downtowns.

And hey, the science supports the practice. At least the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the other institutions have come to this conclusion. Their basis? Laboratory research, investigations of outbreaks, case control studies, close observation of larger populations.

The Science of Masking to Control COVID-19

Masks limit the spread of droplets, the primary way the virus spreads. The main value of a mask, though, is not to protect myself from you. It’s to protect you from me.

I may not think I have the disease; I probably don’t. But taken at scale, plenty of us don’t know it but do. The evidence is clear enough in reality that mask wearing helps and certainly doesn’t hurt.

In any case, the practice around here is not only universal, but loving. Maybe there is some hope for this cruel world, after all.

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at or 530-477-4299.

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