With coronavirus cases rising, Sacramento must enforce rules

Some of us may be done with COVID-19, but COVID-19 is not done with us.

Some of us may be done with COVID-19, but COVID-19 is not done with us.

Sacramento County’s spiking coronavirus case numbers have pushed our community back into the purple tier, meaning the infection threat has once again become severe. Now, after months of gradual reopening, Sacramento faces another round of restrictive closures.

State rules require a shutdown of all indoor dining, fitness and religious services. Malls, movie theaters and museums must also halt indoor operations. Schools that have not yet reopened must now postpone in-person classes.

These restrictions will have painful consequences for businesses, students and individuals, but they are necessary to prevent a dramatic rise in hospitalizations and deaths. It’s a price we must all pay because some in our community let their guard down too soon.

Sacramento County officials say the rise in infections is due to people violating the rules and guidelines in both public and private spaces.

“In Sacramento, more people have been gathering indoors in groups, notably at house parties and family gatherings, but also at bars, although drinking establishments that do not serve food are not allowed to be open,” according to a story by The Sacramento Bee. “In many cases, those people are defying state requirements to wear masks.”

The worst may be yet to come. More than 240,000 Americans have died, including more than 18,000 Californians. In Sacramento County, COVID-19 has claimed more than 500 lives.

If a terrorist attack took this many lives, the grief and fear would be overwhelming and persistent. Yet despite the fact that an invisible virus is ravaging our nation, our state and our community, some people still can’t follow basic safety rules.

The fault, however, does not belong to individuals alone. City and county officials have taken a relaxed approach to the enforcement of coronavirus rules on defiant businesses, relying on toothless warning letters that carry no consequences.

Rulebreaking, like the coronavirus, can be contagious. When business owners and their patrons see others openly violating the rules, it encourages others to do the same. If people see Sacramento’s public health orders as meaningless, more people will die.

Sacramento County public health officials like Dr. Peter Beilenson and Dr. Olivia Kasirye along with embattled county CEO Nav Gill — must avoid repeating past mistakes. They must abandon their meek “educational” strategy and make it clear that rules will be strictly enforced.

The same goes for Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan and his code enforcement officers, who have largely followed the county’s practice of simply standing by as businesses defy coronavirus restrictions.

In September, for example, Zuda Yoga announced plans to reopen in defiance of public health rules. The county shrugged its shoulders, saying it was the city’s problem. The city issued a warning to the midtown yoga studio but took no further action, allowing the business to remain open.

What will happen now that indoor fitness studios are required to close in Sacramento?

“Back to speakeasy Sacramento,” wrote Zuda Yoga teacher Stephanie Birch in an Instagram post, raising questions about whether the business may continue to operate despite the resurgent public health threat.

If Sacramento’s public officials aren’t going to do their jobs and enforce the rules, they should at least be honest about it. That way, every citizen will know that they are completely on their own when it comes to protecting the health and safety of their families.

It would be better, however, for our government officials to earn their paychecks and uphold their responsibilities. This means enforcing the rules and holding scofflaws accountable.

The coronavirus nightmare won’t end unless we all do our part. That means wearing masks in public places, avoiding large group settings and boycotting businesses that selfishly jeopardize public health.

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