Say goodbye to asking your neighbors over for a drink or a barbecue any time soon — such activities could be prohibited for quite awhile because of the rising coronavirus rates statewide and in Santa Clara County.
Is it a wise move by the government, or is it just a mean ban on socializing with our friends and family?
During our stay-at-home period, I've been very conscientious about avoiding contact with others, mostly because I know I have less immunity to the virus than when I was 30 or 40, and because this is a ghastly, painful disease that I just don't want to suffer through. I wear masks when I am near others, and we haven't had a single person socially come in our home or backyard.
Yes, every once in a while (like Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays), I either go stir crazy or figuratively climb the walls.
Some of my friends have entertained in their backyards, telling me they "make all the food, everyone wears masks, and we socially distance ourselves when together." I think they are just trying to make themselves feel virtuous.
Two Saturdays ago, for the first time in four months, my husband and I went over to visit a friend whose wife recently died. He was starving for company, too. We had a delightful, fun time and intended to observe all the rules.
We came with our masks on, did not walk through his house and sat on the patio with a pleasant breeze blowing. He served us wine.
I haven't yet figured out how to drink red wine through my mask. I couldn't quite get the liquid into my mouth. So off the mask came. Back on after the first sip, then off, then on, then a "hell with this" response on my part.
He served takeout pizza and a salad. Although we were sitting 8 feet apart, we all had to pull our chairs to the table to eat off plates. Our social distance collapsed to 2 feet.
By the end of dinner, and starting on my second glass of wine, my mask stayed around my neck. Then we talked about food, travel and the election and the virus for more than an hour.
When I came home, I realized that I certainly didn't properly distance myself all evening long.
That's why I support the county's ban, which may expand to other counties, because as well intentioned as we may be, social distancing is near impossible when you eat or drink with another person. In fact, under the county's mandatory directive for outdoor dining, meeting friends or family from another household for outdoor dining is prohibited. It states: "Everyone sharing a table must be from the same household." I agree with this measure because I don't want more people dying.
The federal government certainly has not helped in clarifying any rules about how best to avoid contaminating others — only "wash your hands." But there's not a national wear-a-mask requirement or even consistent rules on how many people can be together at the same time.
County responses are completely uncoordinated. Two weeks ago, I could eat indoors in a Menlo Park restaurant but only outdoors in Palo Alto. I could get my hair cut in some nearby cities, but not Palo Alto until Monday, July 13, and then by Wednesday, July 15, hair salons were closed again. Last Tuesday the rule was I could get a haircut or pedicure outside.
As we all know, this virus knows no city, county or even country boundaries, so just because a pedicure is available in one city doesn't mean that salon is protected from the virus while a mile away another salon is not.
Bars should be closed because people drink and talk at bars and sit next to each other, and there's no way we can protect ourselves from one another.
One of my grandsons had the coronavirus, which he picked up at a newly opened bar in "college town" — luckily a very mild case. As he was getting better, he said, "Now I can go to a bar because I have immunity from that virus." I replied, "For two weeks, the doctors say."
I also think the virus continues to spread because many think if they feel OK, then they don't have to worry, without ever realizing they can be carriers — silently spreading the virus among us. That's why we have to wear masks, to protect ourselves, but more importantly, to protect all those around us. NBC reported recently that doctors think 51% of the new virus victims are the result of being exposed to people who didn't know they transmitted the disease.
Americans, I think, tend to take things less seriously than people in Europe. America has soaring death rates — the fourth-highest in the world — but we don't seem really alarmed. One 25-year-old on Memorial Day said, "I just want to party all weekend and see my friends and go to bars because I am tired of this coronavirus."
With that attitude, the virus will continue to spread.
We have no real solution yet to ridding this country of the virus, except by a yet-undiscovered vaccine. But polls so far show that only 50% of the population said they would get a vaccine.
The only temporary solution is wearing a mask. So wear a mask. Don't harm others.
If we get California under control, maybe we can be a model for other states to do likewise.