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April 19, 2021

On My Mind: Slowly returning to normal

Last week my wife Sarah and I joined our friends Craig and Norma for dinner at Johnny’s Harborside restaurant in the Santa Cruz Harbor. It was the first time any of us have enjoyed a sit down meal indoors since November due to pandemic restrictions. What a treat it was.

The folks working there took precautions, such as asking us to wear masks when we weren’t eating or drinking, keeping the dozen tables about 10 feet apart, leaving the windows open and operating at only 25% capacity. And all four of us have had the Covid-19 vaccine.

Sarah and I have braved some really cold evenings dining outdoors, hunched beneath a patio heater at various restaurants during the phases of the pandemic when that was allowable. Sometimes it was a stretch to say it was an enjoyable evening out. We finally learned to bring small lap blankets for such outings and that made a huge difference.

But that meal at a table overlooking the waters of the harbor at Johnny’s simply reopened a wonderful world for the four of us. But it just wasn’t the meal; on a grander scale, it was a sign of things improving, of some degree of normalcy returning, of stepping in a direction of hope and trust that things can improve.

Earlier that day I drove around downtown Santa Cruz and spotted several restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments with patrons sitting at tables and bars indoors due to our county entering the red tier, or less restrictive phase of the state’s reopening plan. It was certainly warming to see that. And Watsonville has not missed a beat since officials shifted our county from the purple tier on March 10. Now I hear talk of our county moving from the red to orange tier, meaning even less restrictions, but even greater, less deaths and less patients in the ICUs.

A friend recently attended a conference in Georgia. He said hundreds of people gathered indoors, many not wearing masks. He heard some of their reasoning—that if they hadn’t gotten Covid-19 by now, that meant they just probably won’t get it. That would be like saying, “Since I haven’t gotten hit by a car by now, it probably just won’t happen and that now I can wander into traffic with a blindfold on.”

We hit a milestone in the pandemic last week: It’s been an entire year since it became official. I recall being terrified by hearing Dr. Anthony Fauci saying in March 2020 that we could see as many as 250,000 deaths. Now, a year later, that toll has more than doubled that projection. California has just hit 12.3 million doses of the vaccine being administered, and counting.

I’m relieved to see large numbers of agricultural workers getting vaccinated. I heard someone on the radio say recently, “If these people are the ones that put food on your table, they also deserve a seat at the table.”

On the other hand, I’m amazed at hearing of some folks that seemed to kind of slip in the rear door to get the shot. One woman I know, a nurse who retired and hasn’t been a nurse for 10 years, qualified and got the shot. One friend’s son, in his 20s, who once took an EMT class also qualified. Another friend drove all the way to Modesto to get a shot. While sitting there in the car, the folks said, “Well, since your wife is here, why don’t we give her the shot as well?” So they did.

Sure, I’m glad people are getting vaccinated. But there seems to be some slippage in the protocol, some degree of randomness.

Above all, though, officials, including Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel and Dr. Fauci, bluntly warn us to not rush into our recovery and drop our guard. Some parts of Europe did and they’re plunging back into another surge of cases. I hope we move cautiously and deliberately in taking care of each other and others.


Contact Pajaronian photographer and reporter Tarmo Hannula at [email protected]

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