Living with the Pandemic

Here in Mendocino County, by my non-empirical estimate anyway, barely a majority of folks comply with Pandemic Orders.

It seems people living in unincorporated areas practice social distancing only in regards to Public Health Orders: They stay as far away from them as possible, out of sight is out of mind. When mixing with others, it’s mostly bear hugs and unmasked faces. Lots of parties with lots of young people, all of them COVID non-believers.

As one person in a letter-to-the-editor put it, “Stupid is as stupid does — people riding bikes wearing face masks — people outdoors in the fresh air and nature wearing face masks — and what about the dummies who ride by in cars with face masks on…are they afraid they are going to get covid-19 from their seat belts? This is what fear and ignorance does to people.”

Another person sent me this note: “Remember at the beginning we were simply supposed to flatten the curve? In nearly every location across the country, that’s been done. Public health officials owe citizens and business owners a justification for the continued restrictions and threat of penalties in the context of true COVID-19 risks, not simple case numbers.”

At the Board of Supervisors meeting this past Tuesday, in a draft letter written by Supe John McCowen to state public health officials, the Supes addressed COVID Orders and overly restrictive provisions on small businesses. This is actually a letter within a letter since McCowen incorporated a note from a businesswoman and mother who expended a mere hundred words capturing completely the fiat-created dilemma of so many small businesses:

“As you know, Mendocino County was officially placed on the State Watch List on August 17 retroactive to July 25 based on the case rate per 100,000 population. We agree that the increased case rate is a serious concern and are confident that our Public Health staff are fully committed to the Targeted Engagement process with CDPH staff and to following through with all identified and agreed upon Action Steps. However, we are concerned that mandated Watch List restrictions, which prohibit the indoor operation of specified business sectors, may not be appropriate in all situations. We respectfully suggest that our local Public Health Officer, in consultation with CDPH staff, is uniquely qualified to make case specific decisions to impose greater or lesser restrictions than those mandated by the State … As stated in a recent letter from Shirley Matilton, a self-described Native American female, minority multiple small business owner/entrepreneur, certified cosmetology instructor, working stylist, distributor, mother and wife: ‘I have witnessed first hand the devastation of this pandemic in our community. From a mother’s standpoint with three small children and newly remote learning. As a consumer in a small town with closed small businesses everywhere and worse yet permanently closed small businesses. I have felt the fear at night over health, the mental wellness of community — watching crime rates and domestic violence rise, to financial fears — how are we going to pay these bills? Having a family to support, I see and feel the direct ramifications of an unstable economy and unprecedented challenges.’ She asks: ‘Why can’t we find a balance to allow people to make a living and push forward?’”

So there you have it, four insightful perspectives that cover quite a bit of ground on this Pandemic that’s hopefully not transitioning into a new norm.

Church wins lawsuit on pandemic health order

Everybody’s a Supreme Court Justice when it comes to this Viral Plague and related health orders that close businesses, declarations about who’s an essential and who’s a non-essential employee, and, of course, “who says I have to wear a damn mask.”

At some point, the real Supremes will be deciding these and many other Coronavirus-generated constitutional disputes. Until then, we’ll have to accept multiple lower court rulings, from multiple jurisdictions rendering multiple conflicting case law. Got that? Good, let’s take a quick look at what one judge just decided when a church argued its First Amendment rights were violated by public health orders promulgated by city, county and state officials.

An L.A. Superior Court Judge ruled last week that a SoCal church can hold indoor services if attendees wear masks and stay at least six feet apart.

The judge issued his decision after hearing pleadings for a temporary restraining order against Grace Community Church sought by Los Angeles County.

The church sued and the county counter-sued over C-19 health orders prohibiting houses of worship from holding services indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The church and its Pastor, John MacArthur, sued Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County health officials, alleging the officials demonstrated unconstitutional bias in the administration and enforcement of C-19 regulations to the detriment of churches.

The county’s lawsuit against the church asked that MacArthur and his staff be ordered to comply with health orders banning indoor, in-person worship, and that congregants attending outdoor services wear masks and abide by the six foot distancing rule.

Realizing they were in a no-win position, the county downplayed its suit, explaining in a statement it “reluctantly” filed suit “after working with the church for several weeks in hopes of gaining voluntary compliance with the health officer’s orders, which allow for religious services to be held outdoors in order to slow the spread of a deadly and highly contagious virus.”

But the church’s attorney would have none of the politicians’ soft-shoe, blasting Newsom for his alleged unconstitutional actions and the state’s efforts “to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment.” Church attorney Charles LiMandri said that it is particularly offensive when the government “has given free rein to protesters and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories and abortion providers.”

What do you think will happen if and when a C-19 vaccine is developed by one of our consumer-friendly Big Pharma monopolies, and state and/or federal governments order compulsory vaccination? Think there will be more than just an uptick in litigation?

Don’t think for even a fleet second of what the anti-vaxxer response will be. Will they seek their day in court or will they hold court in the streets?

Who knows what they’ll do, but one thing is for sure there’s no sign of C-19 going away any time soon.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)

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