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August 15, 2020

Crowds flock to beaches | About Town

Masks and social distancing: these are the chief issues of the day, according to scores of medical experts, as to how we get out of the huge coronavirus mess we’re in. And in some places people observe the safety guidelines of masking up around other people, in stores and crowded areas, while trying to maintain six-feet of space from others.

But there are clear examples — in vast numbers, like drunken Florida beach parties, where folks appear to blatantly disregard any of it. On some of the news footage I’ve seen it looks like the Party Channel took a brief pause, starting in March, but has now zoomed back in big numbers.

And the numbers are staggering: Over 200,000 new cases in Florida in a two-week block; 2.93 million cases in the U.S.with 130,000 deaths; California has 273,577 cases with 6,640 deaths. 

Santa Cruz County has 459 cases, Monterey County, 2,151 and San Benito, 284.

On top of these numbers, with some states going back to varying stages of shutting down again, President Trump tells us that it is going away and that the virus will just one day disappear.

Last week I took a quick walk through the Capitola Mall on 41st Avenue to gauge how the indoor string of shops — including retail giants like Macy’s and Kohl’s — were doing in these reopening days of the pandemic. It was next to empty. Most stores had 2 people in them, and it was usually clerks standing around checking their mobile phones. It felt awful to be in that cavernous shell of what once was a thriving business hub.

In downtown Santa Cruz I do admire the restaurants and cafes that have adapted their seating to accommodate outdoor tables. Some have made efforts to create some semblance of atmosphere. But others have their dining areas defined with clunk concrete K-rails (usually used to corral traffic on the highways), large road signs (ROAD CLOSED), road cones, yellow crime scene tape and huge plastic water-filled traffic barriers — hardly an invitation to waltz in, grab a seat and settle in to a relaxing meal and a nice drink.

Someone spray-blasted the statue of George Washington in Watsonville Plaza with Silly String during a weekend Black Lives Matter protest downtown. The web of glowing colorful strings was later removed. The act falls in line with the flurry of attacks on statues around the U.S. that glorify Confederate war heroes. Washington, by the way, was a slave owner, including over 100 children. As I’ve learned, he gave up “ownership” of them in his will.

Monday marked the end of the Stay at Home order that was set in place March 17 as a way to combat the coronavirus.

I walked through a section of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk over the 4th of July weekend, making sure to keep a healthy distance from other folks. Security guards made sure everyone was wearing a mask as they entered the amusement park, whose rides and other features are still closed (some food and drink places and retail shops are open). I noticed a lot of people, as soon as they got out of the view of security, pulled their masks off and continued on their way like any other day. Looking around, it seemed about  a third of the people wore masks.

Dr. Asish Jha of Cambridge said: “We need a national strategy and every state should have a mandatory mask policy.”

My stepson was just visiting from Sacramento and he said he noticed right away that people in Santa Cruz appeared to be far more responsive to wearing masks than in the state capital.


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