I was in the market, refilling my water jugs, gloves on as they have been for the past month whenever I go out in public. Most of the people around me were wearing gloves and/or masks, except for one woman, who was laughing out loud as she passed the meat counter on her way to the dairy case.
“Where’s your mask and gloves,” she asked as she got closer to me.
I pulled my hands out of the grocery cart to show her my gloves.
“I was kidding,” she said. “This is so stupid, and it’s getting stupider by the minute.”
“Well, there are a lot of people dying,” I said.
She said, “No there aren’t.”
“No!” she said, “The CDC is exaggerating the numbers to make it look worse than it is.”
Grocery stores across northern Santa Barbara County are providing special shopping services and hours to accommodate the elderly and those at high risk for the coronavirus including delivery, online ordering, drive-up and go services, and placing limits on the number of shoppers in the store at one time.
I couldn’t help challenging her remark, so I asked why would the CDC want to make it look worse than it is.
She said, “To turn us into scared little lambs, and to take away our freedoms.”
“Give me a break,” I groaned.
A woman in front of me in line filling water bottles, shook her head incredulously. I wasn’t sure if she was shaking it at me, until she subtly rolled her eyes in the direction of the other woman, who then asked, “Have you verified people are dying? Do you know who these people are?”
As I was contemplating whether or not to bring up people like Ellis Marsalis Jr., Wynton and Branford’s dad, or James T. Goodwin, the neurosurgeon who separated conjoined twins, or William Helmreich, the scholar who wrote a book about every block in New York City, or Joe Diffie the country singer, or Li Wenliang, the first doctor to warn of a SARS-like virus spreading in Wuhan, China, all of whom reportedly died of coronavirus, the doubting woman said, “A million people a year die from flu. Who’s to say this isn’t the flu?”
A request for National Guard troops was placed by Santa Barbara County Foodbank officials, who now seek help as the demand for food has surged from cash-strapped individuals recently laid off after businesses were shuttered to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Fact check: Since 1976, an average of 32,000 people a year die in the United States from flu, and worldwide it’s estimated between 290,000-645,000. Still, an awful lot.
Maybe someone else would’ve let this incident go, and passed it off as two people with different points of view, but when I got home, it nagged at me.
I mentioned I had an earlier encounter along these same lines. That one involved two women who accused me in public of perpetuating fear because I was wearing gloves. Perhaps because I knew them and was familiar with their brand of politics, I felt the attack was just them being defensive against anything that might reflect badly on President Trump. This latest one felt bigger and more dangerous than that.
What made it harder to dismiss it is that I’m not unfamiliar with or unsympathetic to conspiracy. I mean, I’ve read pages and pages of documents that reveal the terrible corruption and greed at the Environmental Protection Agency and Monsanto Corp. surrounding the approval of RoundUp weed killer, and the various players who concealed, misrepresented and disregarded the negative impact it would have on human health — all for money. I’d call that a conspiracy.
In Lompoc, the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt across several sectors, including government, restaurants, grocery stores, bars and nightclubs, cannabis dispensaries and even noncommercial gathering places like churches.
But that doesn’t mean everything the government or large corporations do is nefarious. I think we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
As for the claim the coronavirus and protective measures put in place are a conspiracy intended to take our rights away, either it’s true or it’s not. Whichever, I doubt the woman at the market came up with it all on her own. Someone told it to her, and someone beyond that is the source. The questions are who, why, and who’s benefiting from it?
Anyone care to venture a response?
Regardless of why or why not, I feel the best thing I can do is be aware but not afraid, to energize my immune system and my loving heart.
In Monterrey County, Pebble Beach Golf Links, which is one of the most renowned golf courses in the world, closed for the first time since 1919 due to a statewide shelter-in-place order, while 120 miles to the south, the Paso Robles Golf Club remained open.
KEVIN MERRILL As I went out to work recently, I was greeted by a beautiful crisp morning. The hills surrounding the vineyard were a verdant green, with small patches of wildflowers starting to show off their spring colors.
Three local growers were fined thousands of dollars after a banned pesticide was detected on strawberries sold at a Fresno grocery store and traced back to a field outside Santa Maria, according to state regulators.
Ron Colone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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