Just a Few Miles from Home
Just hours into what is hopefully our final lockdown order, it’s deja vu all over again. I’m worried about my mother in Los Angeles and my in-laws cooped up in assisted living at Maravilla. As we head into the holidays, I’m missing my family and friends, I’m feeling bad for my kids, and I’m concerned for our local businesses that depend on the holiday season to make their yearly nut.
But this is not the time to get fed up. Nor is it the time to lighten up. With the promise of a COVID vaccine around the corner, we have reason to be hopeful. But with the holidays coming up before that vaccine can be distributed, we also have reason to be vigilant. There’s no such thing as a person who looks like they have COVID. Too many people on ventilators seemed perfectly healthy… until they weren’t. As we learned from the Thomas Fire and debris flow, the threat is not over when you’re tired of the threat. So even with the end in sight, this winter is the time to double down on caution.
Don’t Fudge the Bubble
For starters, don’t “fudge” the bubble. It’s hard to be 100% COVID kosher, but I know so many people (myself included) who make “special allowances” for the hairdresser or the tutor or the “friend who hasn’t seen anyone” and I think we all can and should try to do better in terms of domestic crowd control – especially hard around the holidays.
Another important way we can pitch in is by supporting our local businesses. That book may be cheaper online than at Tecolote or Chaucer’s, but that’s because our one-off shops are paying fair wages and competitive rents. They have legitimate personalized customer service, they know their clientele, and they have unique local character. These beautiful local stores are part of what we love about our village and we want them to be here when COVID is over. So please support them when possible.
Our shops remain open and set up for safe, socially distant shopping. Or, if you’d prefer, pick up the phone and call. Most of our local businesses will be happy to wrap and send out your holiday gifts for you. And don’t forget, gift cards!
Another way you can pitch in is to CALL or WRITE your ELECTED OFFICIALS and demand that Santa Barbara be allowed to form its own Central Coast COVID grouping along with our Tri-County sisters Ventura and San Luis Obispo.
The problem with our current grouping is that we are tied to the massive Southern California COVID Region, which has much higher infection rates and fuller ICU wards than we do. As a result, our ability to ease restrictions is tied to the rest of Southern California rather than the real life (and better) COVID performance we have going on locally. Allowing the Tri-Counties to meet the state’s thresholds for COVID locally rather than bundling us with half the population of this state will help save businesses by evaluating us regionally. To me this seems only fair. So if you agree, please let our State Senator Monique Limón, Assembly Representative Steve Bennett, and Governor Gavin Newsom hear your call for a Tri-County COVID grouping.
For anyone who’s ever received a moving violation and opted for a stint in traffic school in lieu of a ding on your record, you know there’s little memorable about those mind-numbing hours of penance. But I learned one statistic while “doing time” that I’ve never forgotten: 1/3 of all car crashes occur between one and five miles of the driver’s home.
There’s a comfort associated with driving in one’s own neighborhood. Drivers become lax because they feel like they’re almost home – abuzz with what awaits them. Seat belts come off, texts are checked, minds wander.
The same is true with this pandemic. The end is in sight and we can almost feel the prick of that vaccination that we hope will enable us to resume “normal” life. We love the holidays and we want so much to feel normal and joyous and celebrate with our loved ones, but please don’t take off your seat belt just yet. We’re so very close to home but we’re not quite there yet.
We have come so far and as a community we’ve done so well and we’re almost there, so be safe. Continue to take this virus seriously. Wear your masks. Keep your distance from others outside your home. Don’t gather in large groups, especially indoors. We MUST remain diligent. And count your blessings. Because if this community is the place you call home, you have many.
Oh, and did I mention… shop locally?