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Community Responsibility

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A friend of the Journal recently said that opening one part of the country — or one part of the state — amid the COVID-19 pandemic is akin to having a peeing section in a public swimming pool. The analogy is crude but accurate.

We were reminded of this July 13 when, faced with soaring statewide caseloads, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was re-imposing some one-size-fits-all restrictions. Effective immediately, bars were to be shuttered throughout the state and a host of other businesses — from restaurants and breweries to card rooms and movie theaters — were to cease all indoor operations. The order was the same in Butte County, which reportedly saw each and every one of its ICU beds filled over the weekend, Imperial County, which was transferring COVID-19 patients out of overflowing hospitals to neighboring counties, and Humboldt County, which as the Journal went to press July 14 did not currently have a single COVID-19 patient hospitalized. That's caused some — including at least one member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors — to suggest the order is unjust and should not be followed.

That's as silly and selfish as pretending that your peeing in one corner of the swimming pool doesn't affect the rest of us. The truth — and it's proving a very hard truth for some of us to swallow — is that we are, in fact, all in this pool together.

You can shake your fist at Newsom and the rest of the California, but you also have to realize that it's largely the state that has given us the security of robust testing, a 100-bed alternate care site, should we need it, and stockpiles of personal protective equipment.

Yes, things are looking OK here (knocks on wood) but that means we owe it to our neighbors to keep it that way, as California barrels toward a zero-sum-gain reality, where testing equipment at one site means another will go without, where one nurse's PPE comes from another's backup supply, where having available medical staff in one county is contingent on another not burning COVID red. We are a part of this state and we have a responsibility to start acting like it. But it extends way beyond that.

Now four months into shelter in place, we realize everyone is struggling to some degree. Business owners are watching in horrifying slow motion as their life's work goes under, desperate to keep their doors open. Many out-of-work employees are eyeing July 31, when federal unemployment benefits will dry up and they'll have to stretch to make ends meet for their families. Our children desperately want to play together.

But no matter what we face individually, it's imperative we look across the pool at our neighbors. They're counting on us, as we are them.

Sure, you can shirk the rules because you miss people and have some friends over for dinner, or gather to celebrate a birthday or a wedding. But that might mean spreading a cluster of infections that prompts officials to close your neighbor's business. And maybe it doesn't open back up. You can refuse to wear your mask and insist on getting together with a few friends for some drinks, but maybe one of your friends is sick and, before you know it, everyone in all four of your households is infected, including your friend's spouse who works at a skilled nursing facility. Maybe that cluster spreads and, before you know it, officials decide not to open your neighbor's kid's school in the fall.

We're all tired and we're all frustrated and there's simply no end in sight. Times are hard and uncertain. But that's the reality of living through a pandemic and there's an inescapable truth we really need to all embrace: We're all in this together. We are a community, here in Humboldt and here in California. In ways they never have before, each of our actions have the power to reverberate with cascading impacts for those around us.

We're all in the same pool. Please — for the love of your neighbors, their health and their livelihoods — don't pee in it.

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