Here we go again. California is back on coronavirus lockdown.
And we have no one to blame but ourselves.
With the harshest of initial pandemic closures lifted around Memorial Day, many Californians seemed to think the danger from the novel coronavirus was over and rushed out to make up for three terrible months of quarantine.
We partied, we protested, we patronized salons and stores. And too often, we did so without maintaining a safe distance from others or wearing a face mask. Businesses ignored infection-control rules in large numbers, and some county sheriffs refused to enforce the rules.
And — surprise, surprise — the virus took full advantage of our lowered defenses. COVID-19 cases have risen steadily over the past month, with Los Angeles as the hottest hot spot in the state. More troubling: Hospital admissions rose, too, as did the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive. Health officials said they expect to see the COVID-19 mortality rate, which has been decreasing, start rising again in the next few weeks.
It was just a matter of time before Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state back on lockdown.
On Monday, he did just that, announcing a significant rollback of the state’s reopening plan in an attempt to flatten this new curve. Lockdown 2.0 is not as extreme as the first version. For one thing, Californians will still be able to enjoy dining out — but only if they remain outside. Indoor dining, as well as wine tasting and movie going, are prohibited statewide.
Things are more strict in the 30 counties that have been on the governor’s COVID-19 watch list for three consecutive days, which includes all of Southern California.
Short version for SoCal: No tattoos. No touch ups. No pedicures. No Pilates. No movie premieres. No barhopping. No Sunday Mass.
What’s a Southern Californian to do?
Newsom likened the new orders to lowering the dimmer switch on reopening. It’s an analogy he’s quite fond of using when discussing pandemic restrictions. But it feels as if the lights just went out. Again.
Some of the restrictions seem reasonable. Bars, for example: Drinking alcohol generally makes people less cautious, and crowding a bunch of drinkers together seems like a particularly bad idea right now. But why pick on salons and tattoo parlors? I haven’t seen any evidence suggesting they are a major source of transmission.
If it’s any consolation, California is not alone. The coronavirus is surging in 39 U.S. states. Florida has had more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than most countries. Hong Kong is also closing gyms, movie theaters and indoor restaurants and banning gatherings of more than four people to get control of a sharp increase in new cases.
Barbara Ferrer, the public health director for Los Angeles County, tried to lift spirits Monday as she closed a briefing on the latest cases and deaths. “We flattened the curve before, and I know we can do it again,” she said.
We have to, because we’re not getting out of this second shutdown until then.
This time, however, let’s do it the right way. State, county and city officials must make the rules clear to everyone — and then enforce them. With fines if necessary. During the 1918 flu pandemic, San Francisco authorities fined individuals $5 or $10 if they refused to comply with the face-mask requirements. That’s the equivalent of $100 or $200 in today’s dollars.
Newsom has tried being the nice governor. But he must get tough now. We can’t keep going through a closing and reopening cycle until there’s a vaccine — assuming there will be one. The episodic shutdowns will destroy the economy, not to mention the will to get out of bed in the morning.