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Free-dumb! 

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Dear diary, it's week five of the recommended quarantine, and I am desperate to leave my hovel, sit down and eat at a moderately priced restaurant, drink a drinky-drink, leave a tippy-tip, go get a haircut, enjoy a massage, and not wear a cloth face mask over my alluring visage, but alas, I have too much respect for my fellow citizens.

Am I truly alone, diary? On Monday, April 20, a group of citizens gathered in front of the SLO County Government Center to protest the ongoing "lockdown." Some on Facebook labeled them covidiots, noting that a gathering is called a covfefe. Their battle cry of, "Give us free-dumb or give us death," seems to have used the wrong coordinating conjunction, as "and" seems more appropriate than "or."

Even members of my own local government are now calling for SLO County to open things up sooner than state government wants. Yes, we've done a good job of flattening the curve, diary, but it's only been five weeks. Just 30 minutes south of us, the city of Santa Maria has more than 100 cases alone, and the novel coronavirus doesn't respect borders or boundaries.

As one astute social media meme-maker noted, opening some areas and not others is like having a peeing section in a public pool.

On April 20, New Times reported that Paso Robles resident Dylan Neff called for another protest on Facebook, this time for Sunday, April 26, from 8 a.m. until noon at the County Government Center. This reportage of local news was met by consternation and vitriol.

"Why are you giving this clown free advertising?" asked Jason C. Holland.

"Disgusting to see this get politicized like everything else in this country," said Ty Hudson. "Public safety isn't a partisan matter."

"Amazing that New Times took his bait," scolded Laurie Bryant.

"Quit giving this publicity," demanded Jeaneen Armstrong.

"Are you condoning this?" asked Rachel Raub.

Dear diary, why do people condemn reporters reporting local news? I am perplexed. If we report on government malfeasance, are we condoning said malfeasance? It reminds me of the time New Times reported on anti-vaxxers screening a film at Morro Bay Theatre, and pro-vaxxers went apoplectic, accusing us of endorsing anti-vaxxer views.

I know much of California considers us rural rubes, and it certainly doesn't help when we make the LA Times, which on Tuesday, April 22, published a story called, "Some sections of California are pushing to lift-stay-at-home rules before others."

Was the story referring to OpenCalifornia protesters like Neff? No, diary, the story spoke of our elected government officials.

"Leaders in the central California county of San Luis Obispo are confident they have flattened the coronavirus curve," the story begins. "The coastal county of 283,000 people recorded 134 cases and one death, and this week, there were only two confirmed infected people in hospital beds."

As noted, all seven county mayors, two county supervisors, and a state assemblyman sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for restrictions to be lifted in "a phased reopening of our local economy over the next three weeks." The letter added the county is well supplied with tests and PPE and has the capacity to care for 900 ill patients.

"We have put in the work and made investments to prepare for any type of surge or second wave," the letter claimed.

"Any type of surge," dear diary? California cases are still increasing, so while SLO County may look OK for now, we may be pulling down California's curve that would look worse without us, and if we're open for business and get infected by asymptomatic Californians from elsewhere who'll come rushing in to vacation here, our good fortunes could quickly reverse.

"The problem with counties coming up piecemeal is about whether they create magnets," UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. George Rutherford told the Times.

Even SLO County's own top health officer, Dr. Penny Borenstein, admitted she and other county officials "fully expect" to "see more disease" as restrictions are lifted. "What we're going to be looking for are trends."

Hmm. Sounds good ... unless you're part of a "trend" toward more illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, right dear diary? Doesn't it seem terribly unfair that those of us who respect the health recommendations and do our part will have our chances of contracting COVID-19 increased by people who recklessly disregard social distancing, masks, sheltering in place, and limiting interaction?

If only the disease could be limited to the covidiots and their gathering of covfefes—proving Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection correct. Alas, diary, this virus is a sly and slippery thing, and even those taking the utmost precautions can fall victim, especially considering estimates that up to 25 percent of carriers may be wholly asymptomatic. What an insidious thing!

If only we had enough tests for each and every one of our 283,111 SLO County residents to be tested at least twice or maybe three times, and then we could close our borders and party like it's 1919 after the Spanish influenza finally died down, but not until it had re-spiked, killing more people than its first wave and more people than World War I. Free-dumb indeed. Δ

The Shredder isn't interested in becoming a statistic. Send comments and suggestions to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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