As the coronavirus continues to surprise us with new variants, many folks are flummoxed by mandates and protocols that are vague, confusing, and changing daily. In this series, our correspondents around the country report on their region’s messaging and management of the latest stage of the pandemic.
– PERSPECTIVE –
In late December, our kids’ school in Newport Beach, CA, sent out an email encouraging families to self-test for COVID-19 before classes resumed. According to emails we received from the school, more than a dozen kids stayed home that first week of January, and the numbers continued to rise in the second and third week. With Zoom lessons mostly eliminated, a COVID-19 infection now means double the work for a child to catch up with their classmates.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) — who survived a recall last September — remains deeply unpopular in this enclave and has ruffled the feathers of staunchly conservative local officials. A considerable number of Newport Beach residents refuse to be “inconvenienced” by indoor mask mandates and CDC guidelines.
While vaccination pleas still fall on deaf ears for a variety of reasons, most parents I know who won’t vaccinate their children cite health concerns: fear of the “novelty” of the vaccine and its unknown long-term effects. With the introduction of booster shots — meaning more doses of an already-feared substance — those teetering on the edge are now leaning towards opting out of the vaccine altogether. Add to that the overall dismissive social behavior — from crowded indoor gatherings to gyms and restaurants not requiring masks or proof of vaccination status — and it’s no surprise the virus has been spreading like wildfire.
Angry parents show up to city council and school district meetings to speak of “traumatized” masked children; “I Don’t Coparent With the Government” and “Masks Are Child Abuse” signs are common at protests. Most schools have so far chosen to follow the CDC guidelines, however, easing tensions and closing the door on nay-sayers. With the coming implementation of a statewide vaccine mandate for all schools, public and private, many are considering homeschooling or uprooting their families and moving out of California.
The incessant stream of bad COVID-19 news has left an indelible mark on everyone’s psyche, no matter their politics; we are all exasperated. In that sense, I can understand — albeit disagree with — why some have abandoned every measure of caution. Most stores display signs asking patrons to kindly wear masks, but half the customers simply ignore them.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to long lines at COVID-19 testing sites and a shortage of tests at some urgent care facilities. The sharp rise in infections, coupled with testing requirements for certain schools and businesses, is creating frustration with delayed test results and a lack of available appointments.
Like everyone else, we cannot wait for this pandemic to be over, but it certainly is not looking good right now in the OC.
Aline B. is a mother and language professional living in Newport Beach, CA.