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Don Rogers: Where COVID danger isn’t

First, let’s just get this out of the way: None of the restaurants in Nevada County are exactly infested with COVID-19.

The disease is not spreading through our dining places at all, not the ones keeping their heads down and not the ones banding together to advocate for more reasonable measures to match actual health and safety conditions in our communities. These latter ones haven’t recorded any cases, by the way.

The greater danger to health in Nevada County has come from going too far with statewide mandates designed for the urban hot spots and as a consequence creating worse problems for us.

Loss of business affects government services, affects health care, affects employment, affects mental health, affects the ability to get treatment for illnesses a lot more pervasive and virulent than COVID-19. Think cancer and cardiac disease for starters, many orders of magnitude more deadly than this coronavirus.

So far since March, around 500 people total in this county of 100,000 have tested positive for COVID-19. On any given day there have been 45 to 65 active cases and zero to five patients hospitalized with the disease.

Five have died, all elderly and with underlying health conditions. Observing this isn’t to diminish their humanity but to note a fact of frailty in the human life cycle. Thank God this disease doesn’t target the young like the Spanish Flu and the swine flu pandemics did.

COVID-19 certainly is serious enough, six to 10 times more deadly than the regular flu. On a per capita basis, this week it has reached the 1958 Asian Flu toll in America, factoring for the doubling of the U.S. population since then. Lockdowns couldn’t keep coronavirus surges in several big cities from overwhelming some hospitals and morgues.

Still, in Nevada County, suicides have outpaced loss of life from this disease. We’re more at risk getting in our cars and driving.

Friar Tuck’s is not recklessly endangering anyone for leading an effort to give all the restaurants a better chance of getting through this — safely, as well as surviving as businesses. They and the others in the Nevada County Restaurant Coalition are following the rules while advocating legally for more sensible ones. What’s to criticize here?

It’s not like the virus is saying, OK, packing in the grocery store is perfectly safe, while oh my god eating indoors socially distant at a restaurant in Nevada County is akin to testing the rope of a gallows by slipping your neck through it and pulling the lever.

What happened to following the science? I mean actually following the science, the evidence, the facts. Full indoor dining with the appropriate habits would be perfectly fine here if that were the case.

Coalition of the dining

A few restaurants, including Friar Tuck’s, Sergio’s and the Old Town Café, went rogue for a while with a statewide ban on indoor dining before some relatively patient conversation with county authorities and the specter of fines brought them back into the fold.

It wasn’t that Nevada County restaurants suddenly became dangerous. They didn’t. The governor frankly made a bad call lumping the whole long state with a population of 40 million as one, treating our lightly touched area the same as saturated Southern California and the spiking lower Central Valley. Recent changes leading to county-by-county degrees of restriction make a lot more sense.

Friar Tuck’s Ken Paige and Sergio’s Sergio Martignago haven’t taken the pandemic lightly, from what I can tell talking with Ken and son Chad, and reading Sergio’s comments for a recent story. They get that the disease is serious and their customers’ health paramount. Their patrons are everything.

I feel for them knowing they were as safe before, too, only now we’ve arbitrarily added to their challenges and made the community a little less safe as a result. You’d want to form a coalition too.

Political poison

A friend asked if I thought Democrats might see political advantage in playing up the pandemic. I do see that. More dangerous, though, has been Republicans playing it down, especially with being all too slow to put on their masks.

Ironically, we can blame the public health experts for a lot of that. We can’t lay the World Health Organization’s political decision to discourage masks in an effort to keep more for health practitioners on President Trump. The CDC and America’s favorite public health official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, did the same for the same reason.

None were following the science, however earnest their motives. Political considerations infected even the public health experts, sowing lasting confusion.

I suppose it can’t be any surprise in the stretch run for the presidency that this poison has sapped us of the perspective we need to best deal with the pandemic.

What other than partisan inflammation would have anyone outraged at a budding coalition of restaurants seeking to correct a perceived wrong through proper democratic means while following the rules? After all, there’s nothing in the actual science to merit that.

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


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