3/24/20: With Beaches Closed, Encinitans Work to Stay Sane

March 24, 2020

How are you doing? Are you managing to keep your head above water?
The loss of our sources of joy is particularly difficult for many of us right now. For some, the closing of schools, gyms and work environments has been rough, for others the just-announced closures of beaches and the ocean is particularly gut-wrenching.

(Moonlight Beach this morning was virtually deserted. It’s tough medicine, but the better we hold the line by staying home, the sooner this crisis will end and the safer we’ll all be.)

Our coastline is of sacred importance to many who live in Encinitas. So many of us love to surf, swim, fish, paddle, walk, run and breathe at the beach. 

I have received lots of emails from those concerned that people or businesses need to do a better job strictly following the guidelines, and I’ve also received feedback second-guessing the decision to close beaches, saying that crowding isn’t that common on Encinitas beaches and the risk of transmission is low. After all, there is a lot of space on the sand, most of us are in family units, and people in the ocean are rarely closer than six feet from each other. 

But the reality is that wherever people are meeting is where the virus is spread. The more strict every single one of us can be with our commitment to “stay at home,” the quicker we’ll be able to get beyond this.

As this press release from California State Parks indicates, visitation at beaches reached record numbers last weekend. Several local water rescues created new opportunities for transmission of the coronavirus. And many beaches had groups of people around picnic tables, fire pits, or just simply hanging out on the sand.  

The beach closure decision was bigger than Encinitas. Carlsbad, Del Mar, Solana Beach and the City of San Diego have also closed their beaches. So if ours were the only beaches remaining open during this pandemic, you can imagine the overcrowding that would create.

Here’s a video of mayors in Italy (the European epicenter of COVID-19), all pleading with people to stay home, citing unusual and specific examples of the problem, including hair stylsts coming to people’s homes and too-frequent visits to cigar shops. It’s interesting to hear from leaders who are ahead of the United States by several weeks when it comes to managing the virus. (It’s also interesting that there isn’t one female mayor!)  

All of these decisions are painful – closing schools, small businesses and retail, restaurants, playgrounds, and beaches. But decision makers at all levels, from the governor on down, are committed to reducing the number of people who will die, after much suffering, from the spread of a disease that was preventable.

Why staying at home is crucial

Dr. Emily Porter has made this remarkable five-minute video that clearly explains why we need to quarantine ourselves now in order to save 47 million Americans who will die from lack of care if we don’t.

She sums up our predicament by saying, “I get it. Like, it stinks. My spring break got cancelled. My kids are devastated. I don’t wanna home-school children. I work full time. I’m not saying it’s ideal, but it’s what has to be done, the experts are saying, to prevent this [disaster] from happening. There’s a million reasons to be angry and unhappy and just think that this whole thing sucks, because it does. But what reallysucks is losing 47 million people.”

Coronavirus count continues to climb

This photo made me choke up a little bit. Hospital workers really are our heroes, working so hard and endangering themselves to save others. (Photo by Patti Schnick.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that California needs 50,000 more hospital beds — that we don’t currently have — on top of the nearly 74,000 the state already has, based on updated modeling of the state’s projected coronavirus patients. Hospitals and other facilities are working to create these additional beds.

The number of cases in the county continues to rise every day, with the total now at 242 confirmed cases. San Diego County officials announced this afternoon that a second San Diego County resident, a person in his late 70s with underlying health conditions, has died of the coronavirus. And two infants have been diagnosed, the first patients under a year old.

The number of Encinitas residents infected is at 7. (There had been some media reports that our number was 11, but apparently that had been Carlsbad’s number and was reported mistakenly.) At last count, Carlsbad has 13, and the City of San Diego has 141.

Listening to the county’s daily press conference today, I was struck by the clarity of this statement from the county’s public health officer:

“The wave has not crested.”

Helping our homeless

When it comes to our homeless response, the City of Encinitas has increased our support to the Community Resource Center to provide hotel rooms for people who are vulnerable but currently asymptomatic. We’ve placed about 30 individual people so far, with another ten checking in today. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus should call 2-1-1 and access the help the county is providing, which provides a higher standard of isolation.

Here’s a San Diego Union-Tribune story from the front page today about what the county and City of San Diego are doing about helping those experiencing homelessness: Convention Center will House Homeless to Curb Spread of Virus

The Community Resource Center has been very busy on-site, but anyone who needs their help should call them at 760-753-1156. They are also raising money to continue the very important work they do to help those most needy in our community. One of the most important things to do, if you can, is to donate. Please click here to donate to the CRC.

Supporting Encinitas businesses

Here’s a striking photo of our downtown Encinitas sign, above the shuttered La Paloma movie theatre with the hopeful message that “The Dove Will Fly Again.” (Photo by Craig Gertz.)

Unfortunately I’ve started to receive emails about layoffs. I know that the economic suffering is going to get worse and my heart goes out to people whose lives have been changed so quickly for the worse. 

Many of our local businesses are under extreme pressure and some are desperately struggling to stay afloat. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to both landlords and tenants in the last few days. I’ve been encouraging landlords to give their tenants reductions, putting in a good word for the long-term stability of local businesses being able to hang on, and the importance of everyone sharing the pain. Many are working with their tenants on this, but truthfully, most had not determined what they were going to do because it was all happening so quickly. Most have their own mortgages to pay, too.

Government and private financial assistance programs are also being offered.

Here’s a list of Encinitas restaurants that are open for pick-up and/or delivery. Your loyal patronage now will make a difference in their survival, insuring that they’ll still be here for us when this is over. Plus, great food!

Back to the garden

The new Blakespear family garden. Healthy therapy and food, all in one! 

In our household, our fifth-and sixth-grade kids are successfully working on their schoolwork from home. We’ve planted a garden, which is one way to feel that you’re increasing your self-sufficiency a little bit. Tilling soil, nurturing a fragile, growing thing and being part of creating something new, is fundamentally a soul-nourishing activity.

I encourage everyone to plant something, even if it’s only a small seed in a tiny pot on a sunny windowsill. 

This is dead serious – stay home

Please follow the guidelines and hunker down at home. If you typically go to the supermarket every two or three days, please try to extend that and go every week or ten days. The reduction in total number of contacts between people is what will make the difference.

The next few days will be critical. Each individual decision will determine our collective fate. Acting together, we can do this.

In service,

P.S. Let’s end on an up note, shall we? Here’s a little Pandemic Operette, a charming and timely parody of Mozart’s “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni.

Also, the Encinitas Educational Foundation has launched a Be Strong/Se Fuerte program as part of the Encinitas Union School District to provide support for students most impacted by the coronavirus. They are accepting donations here

Coronavirus Resources

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