October 9th, 2021Covid-19 care factor zero in California
A FEW Fridays ago I went out for lunch with a vaccinated friend. Isn’t that a sign of the times – I don’t describe him as an old friend, a good mate, someone I’ve known since high school, who I’ve shared many adventures with over the years. No, he’s a vaccinated friend.
adventures with over the years. No, he’s a vaccinated friend.
So anyway, it’s a nice little restaurant with a menu that features Caribbean flavours and styles from the US south: Cajun jambalaya, Cuban pulled pork, fried catfish po’ boy sandwiches, fried corn dogs, hush-puppies, fried green tomatoes and fried chicken sandwiches – you know, health food. It also has several beers on tap. You can tell my vaccinated friend and I are a couple of keen sportsmen.
It wasn’t busy in the restaurant, a few tables occupied, the cooks in the kitchen, and two staff to look after the customers. We sat at the bar and ate our lunch. We finished eating and, when I suggested we have a second beer, my vaccinated friend declined and suggested we adjourn to the tap house where they pour only the brand of beer he likes. I’m not the argumentative type so I said yes and off we went.
The tap house is small: just a dozen seats at the bar and a few small tables. But the beer is good and the place was busy on this Friday afternoon. We had a few beers and then I headed home in time to listen to the Coodabeen Champions on ABC Radio.
On Monday afternoon my vaccinated friend texted me. He’d been back to the restaurant but found it closed with a homemade sign taped to the front door, informing would-be customers that a restaurant employee had Covid-19 and so they’d decided to close for a few days while everyone was tested.
It was all informal – no mandated shutdown, no mention of contact tracing. If a government inspector had found mouse droppings in the Cowboy Nachos (flour tortilla chips topped with pimiento queso, corn salsa, jalapenos, Peruvian cream, cotija, scallions – extra if you add chicken or pork) there would have been an official health-department notification posted on the door, but this was only another Covid-19 scare, so no big deal, right?
Anyway, my vaccinated friend on Tuesday decided to have a Covid test so he went to a local facility that had free testing. The next day he received his result by email: negative. Despite being vaccinated too, and taking into account his negative status, I decided to take the test too.
The lab was in a small, nondescript building in a big office park. I joined the eight people standing in a ragged queue outside along the footpath, some wearing masks, others not. Some were holding plastic clipboards and filling out forms.
After a while, a masked woman wearing a nurse uniform came out through the office door and handed us new arrivals clipboards, biros and forms to be completed. She then began admitting people into the office, two at a time. Two by two, they entered and then left.
Something I noticed about these forms we were filling out: we were asked if we thought we had Covid symptoms, and if we knew or suspected that we’d been exposed to Covid. But we were not asked where this alleged contact had taken place, or who we’d been with.
When my turn came, I entered the room and was told by the nurse to sit in one of the two available chairs. She took my form off the clipboard, checked that my email address was legible, and then used a cotton swab to wipe around the inside of both my nostrils. Nothing too intrusive – it wasn’t the kind of swab that tickles the backs of your eyeballs. When it was done, she told me my result would be delivered by email within 24 to 48 hours and I left through the same door I’d entered by.
As I was leaving, the nurse tossed my clipboard and pen onto a shelf by the door, and I wondered if they were going to be cleaned before she handed them out to the next group. I wasn’t filled with confidence as I drenched myself in sanitiser up to my elbows as soon as I got back to my car.
For me the story has a happy ending – test: negative.
But it’s not so great for the seven people who died from Covid-19, the 310 people who tested positive, the 89 in hospital, in the week ending September 9 in Shasta County, California, population 180,000, vaccination rate less than 50 per cent despite plentiful supplies of free vaccines being readily available.
In November 2020 the Shasta County Sheriff issued this statement: “The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the compliance of any health or emergency orders related to curfews, stay-at-home orders, Thanksgiving or other social gatherings, inside or outside the home, maximum occupancy, or mask mandates within the private or business communities.”
What the heck, that just about covers it, right there.
After many happy years living in Victoria and working at The Age, Jeff Glorfeld went back to California, the land of his birth, where in the past three years he has survived bushfires, snowstorms, Covid-19 and drought. And Trump. The cicadas and locusts didn’t arrive. Well, not ye