Individuals and industries with dubious justifications rush to claim entitlement to special ‘essential’ statusThe Mercury News, by Daniel Borenstein, April 4, 2020
Essential means essential.
We are under orders to stay home. But there are exceptions. These are generally the functions that we need to keep people fed, healthy, housed and informed, and to maintain a minimal level of government and critical public services.
For Bay Area county health orders, and for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s separate statewide directive, the goal is to preserve “essential” services. Similarly, President Donald Trump’s nonbinding coronavirus guidelines make exceptions for critical infrastructure industries.
Now, we’re seeing individuals and industries rushing with dubious justifications to claim that special status. Come on, folks. This has got to stop. We are in the middle of a pandemic that could kill millions around the world, including an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 people in the United States.
Bay Area and state health officials have had to make tough choices. For our own health, and that of everyone else in the region, state, nation and world, we must respect those decisions.
We must use common sense.
Without widespread and effective testing that would allow identification of those infected, the only way to slow the spread of the coronavirus is self-isolation across the nation and the world. Just because you’re feeling fine doesn’t mean that you’re healthy – up to 25% of infected people don’t show symptoms.
Which is why it’s so appalling that, as of Thursday, 12 states still had no statewide orders to stay home. And some leaders show stunning ignorance of the threat.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp finally issued a stay-at-home order on Wednesday, but only after claiming that he just learned about asymptomatic carriers of the virus, something health officials had been warning about for two months.
Wisconsin plans to hold its primary election on Tuesday, but its Republican-controlled Legislature has refused the Democratic governor’s request that all voters be automatically mailed ballots so they can vote at home.
Meanwhile, in the Bay Area, which led the nation with its shelter orders, we’re smarter than that. But it’s critical that everyone follows the rules. And stop trying to wiggle out of them. We’re talking about:
• Firearms dealers who filed a federal lawsuit claiming they have a Second Amendment right to stay open. Apparently, they haven’t noticed that the First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble have also been jettisoned. During a global health crisis, there’s no essential need to purchase weapons, even if Trump seems to think there is.
• A Lodi church that refuses to end services, claiming First Amendment rights to exercise religion. Members of Cross Culture Christian Center should consider what happened at Bethany Slavic Missionary Church near Rancho Cordova, where, according to the Sacramento Bee, 71 members have contracted the virus, one parishioner has died and the bishop and other church officials have been hospitalized.
• Operators of Golden Gate Fields racetrack who prioritized people’s ability to play the ponies rather than the public health – until the Alameda County district attorney on Thursday ordered the operation shut down.
• Attorneys for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who asked a federal judge to deem them an essential service so they could serve subpoenas and interact with witnesses before her criminal fraud trial, scheduled to start this summer. The judge, in a teleconference hearing, wasn’t buying it.
• Labor leaders for the Bay Area construction trades, who want to keep working. The Bay Area health orders allow limited construction for critical public services, affordable housing and other essential reasons. But that’s not good enough for the members of the local and state Building and Construction Trades Council, who insist they’re better at sanitizing and social distancing than other occupations.
This is hard. People are making huge sacrifices, including often their jobs and income. But we must all put the common good ahead of our personal interests – as difficult as that might be in many cases. People’s lives depend on it.
The more exceptions to the health orders, the more the coronavirus will travel, the more our hospitals will be overwhelmed and the more people will die. It’s that simple.