Happy Thanksgiving and White Coat Supremacy Christmas

The coronavirus guidelines California issued on March 16 did not mention Cinco de Mayo, not an official holiday in Mexico or the United States, but for Californians a veritable “Cinco de Drinko,” as students at the University of California put it. On the other hand, Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Guidance for Private Gatherings,” issued on October 9, appears to target specific traditional holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

“All persons planning to host or participate in a private gathering, as defined above, must comply with the following requirements. Local health jurisdictions may be more restrictive than this guidance.” 

For what purports to be “guidance,” that sounds an awful lot like a mandate, and there’s more to it. 

“Gatherings may occur in outdoor spaces that are covered by umbrellas, canopies, awnings, roofs, and other shade structures provided that at least three sides of the space (or 75%) are open to the outdoors.” At such events, “mixing between group gatherings is not allowed” and “multiple gatherings of three households cannot be jointly organized or coordinated to occur in the same public park or other outdoor space at the same time” because “this would constitute a gathering exceeding the permitted size.” And at outside gatherings, “attendees may go inside to use restrooms as long as the restrooms are frequently sanitized.” 

Oh, but that’s not all! In addition:

Gatherings that include more than 3 households are prohibited. This includes everyone present, including hosts and guests. Remember, the smaller the number of people, the safer. Keep the households that you interact with stable over time. By spending time with the same people, risk of transmission is reduced. Participating in multiple gatherings with different households or groups is strongly discouraged. The host should collect names of all attendees and contact information in case contact tracing is needed later.

Newsom limits the number of people at a private gathering and, like Major Strasser in “Casablanca,” he wants “the names” of those who show up. That conscripts hosts into being informers, not the kind of duty most people seek out. 

Allegedly, this is for the benefit of contact tracers and, in times past, these were people with some medical and epidemiological background. By contrast, Newsom’s “trace force” is a squad of furloughed government workers, city attorneys, and tax assessors. Few Californians will be eager to compare notes with an attorney, government worker, or tax assessor with no health background. 

Those Californians may wonder about any effort to limit the number of arsonists, looters, and violent criminals creating mayhem in major cities across the state during the pandemic. If any contact tracer was taking the names of the “peaceful protesters” it has not come to light. By contrast, those at the truly peaceful private gatherings must submit to other measures.

Attendees must be on the lookout for “fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, night sweats, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, muscle or body aches, headaches, confusion, or loss of sense of taste/smell.” Those ills can be symptoms of other conditions, but the guidelines do not explain the science of how they apply only as evidence of COVID-19. As attendees might note, the guidelines provide no hard data about the number of cases, the number of recoveries, and so forth. 

Still, in other areas, the guidelines are more exacting. 

“People at gatherings may remove their face coverings briefly to eat or drink as long as they stay at least 6 feet away from everyone outside their own household, and put their face covering back on as soon as they are done with the activity.” The gatherings “should be two hours or less,” and “singing, chanting, and shouting are strongly discouraged.” People who do sing, chant, or shout are “encouraged to do so quietly (at or below the volume of a normal speaking voice),” and must stay six feet away from others. 

“Instrumental music is allowed as long as the musicians maintain at least 6-foot physical distancing. Musicians must be from one of the three households. Playing of wind instruments (any instrument played by the mouth, such as a trumpet or clarinet) is strongly discouraged.” 

That may sound a tad restrictive, but not to worry. California’s Assembly Bill 5 has already killed off musicians’ gigs by forcing establishments to hire them as full-time staffers. But as the Buffalo Springfield once observed, there’s something happening here. 

California’s government is exploiting a pandemic to deprive citizens of their right to assembly, to monitor their movements, and to restrict what they can do in their own homes. The next guidelines doubtless will outline what they are permitted to say and in what tone of voice. If Californians call it white coat supremacy, it would be hard to blame them. 

Since it gives politicians so much power, white coat supremacy surely will linger on after the pandemic. Should Joe Biden come out on top in the currently contested election he doubtless would deploy Dr. Anthony Fauci to lock down the “dark winter” he predicted during the campaign. 

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to one and all. 

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