Celebrate freedom by increasing personal responsibility

By Lindsay B. Call

The author is the Chief Resilience Officer of the City of Santa Monica.

“The best way to celebrate freedom this year is by showing your love for our country’s health.” — Santa Monica Chief Resilience Officer Lindsay B. Call

We’ve now surpassed 10 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and Monday, Los Angeles County had its highest daily case recording since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalization rates are also rising. Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the immediate closure of all bars at noon on Sunday in seven counties, including Los Angeles. LA County is now projecting the possibility of running out of hospital beds in two to three weeks. Likewise, the number of intensive care unit beds could be exhausted sometime in July. Santa Monica’s case count has surpassed 400. These benchmarks are a signal that we are very much still in this public health crisis.

As businesses reopen and more people venture outside the home and loosen some of their grip on quarantine, new case recordings are escalating after a plateau earlier this month. At the beginning of the pandemic, skilled nursing facilities were the most impacted but now there’s a 44% increase in cases among 18 to 40-year-olds. At the beginning of June, LA County had a 5% positivity rate. That number is now 8.8%, an alarming increase for public health officials and each of us. Recovering from a virus our best scientists don’t yet completely know and can’t entirely predict is a delicate dance.

Individuals and families whose pocketbooks have been deeply impacted need to get back to work. Businesses have significantly changed operations to keep customers and their employees safe. We’ve adapted our behavior to stay six feet apart and to wear a face covering whenever we are out and patronizing local restaurants, retail, and other services we depend on as we take steps towards something that feels more like normal.

As we’ve taken small steps toward recovery, there’s a large issue we must all take seriously and that’s personal responsibility. Every decision to wear a mask, not gather with those outside our home, and to check in and help neighbors at risk are vital to recovery. There’s no immediate hope that we will soon live absent the threat of COVID-19, so we must manage our every action to keep ourselves, our neighbors, and those each of us comes in contact with safe.

This becomes more difficult when we think about the social and emotional impact of spending our days inside without seeing our extended families and support systems in person. But, the consequences of expanding our quarantine with family and close friends is illustrated in cases where entire families have contracted the virus. Let’s build on the social creativity we’ve developed and continue to connect from afar.

As we approach the Fourth of July holiday weekend when gathering for BBQs, beach volleyball tournaments, and beloved parades are typically the norm, it’s important to remember we are a long way from normal. The best way to celebrate freedom this year is by showing your love for our country’s health and your neighbor by wearing a face covering and not participating in get-togethers and social events that threaten the very freedoms we hold most dear.

Remember that reopening does not mean gathering. Let’s be a model for how to care for one another by maintaining the separation that keeps us all healthy and safe. When you go out only with those in your household, wear a face covering and practice six feet of physical distancing from those outside of your household. It’s a sign of respect, especially for everyone putting their health on the line to serve the Santa Monica community.

As we head into the holiday weekend, know that LA County has ordered the closure of all beaches, beach bike paths, piers, and beach parking lots. Words to remember from Mayor Kevin McKeown: “Protecting each other, and each other’s families and friends, means keeping in mind three simple words: Don’t share air! Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, when you get too close or don’t wear a mask, you’re breathing air that’s just been in a stranger’s lungs. Avoiding that is easy. Stay six feet apart. Wear a mask. Keep Santa Monica healthy. Don’t share air!”

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