subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

Oakland is the new epicenter of COVID-19 in the Bay Area


The big news in Alameda County and Oakland, the county seat where I live, is that coronavirus is pretty much out of control. Infections are rapidly rising, hospitalizations are up, and so are deaths.

The center of the superspreading seems to be Lake Merritt and the adjacent Lakeside Park, which have aptly been called Oakland’s Crown Jewel. Unfortunately, the park continues to draw thousands of people, especially on weekends, who are coronavirus scoffers. They refuse to wear masks or to socially distance; with our beautiful weather, and with so many places of employment shut down, they gather early each day, their numbers swelling, until by afternoon the entire 122-acre park is basically one huge party.

The city and county have already issued requirements for masks and social distancing. The city has outlawed weekend parking around the park’s perimeter, and has instructed food trucks and kiosks that they can no longer do business there. But nobody’s listening. On a walk yesterday, the food trucks were gone, but there were literally hundreds and hundreds of kiosks, selling everything from candy and barbecue to clothing and jewelry. Cars were parked bumper to bumper even though every streetlamp bore an official city of Oakland notice prohibiting parking. Thousands of people were out and about, enjoying the 78-degree sunny weather. Some brought their dumbbells with them and were working out; many had boom boxes blaring loud music. In Snow Park, a smaller little city park across Lakeside Drive from Lakeside Park, some sort of organized activity was in progress: perhaps 500 young people jammed together, and barely a mask to be seen.

This situation naturally has caught the public’s attention. Many people, including me, are asking why the city is issuing regulations if it has no intention of enforcing them. Debate has erupted on social media, especially The two sides, if I can summarize their claims, are, one, the city should absolutely ban these gatherings and, if necessary, shut down the entire park. The other side is saying, basically, fuck off. In the words of one person who was replying to me specifically, “Mind your own business.” I don’t reply to such silliness, but someone else did, a woman I don’t know. “This is my business,” she informed him, adding that she’s a person of color and that the “fan effect” of epidemiology means that no one is safe, even if they make a point of staying away from the park.

How sad, how tedious it is that we’re having this conversation. I look around at all the people not wearing masks—young, old, Black, White, LatinX, Asian—and here’s what I see: smug, arrogant people. They may believe themselves to be “liberal” but in fact they’re playing the Trump game. (The person who told me to “mind your own business” even said that claims that Lakeside parties are spreading COVID-19 are “fake news.”) It’s pathetic that the President of the United States of America refused to take coronavirus seriously from Day One, and gave cover to the ignoramuses who don’t care if they’re party to the spread of sickness and death. One wants to approach these unmasked people and ask them what the hell is wrong with them, but one can’t, of course: these people are angry and rebellious anyway, and to challenge them is to risk a physical confrontation. So those of us who venture to the Lake must do so cautiously. And, of course, it’s not just the Lake that is the problem. These same morons who are contemptuous of public health at the Lake must be equally contemptuous in their own neighborhoods and homes.

This virus is spreading uncontrollably in my city and thousands and thousands of people just don’t give a damn. But pressure is mounting on our incompetent, politically ambitious mayor to do something about it. In my judgment the police are going to have to start citing people in large numbers. They have to ticket the illegally parked cars. They have to fine the kiosk vendors. And they definitely have to give citations to unmasked people.

I fully understand that this may not the best use of the police and that, in a city like Oakland, where so many people hate the cops, it could lead to flash points. But who else can stop the virus spreaders from their irresponsible behavior? The city has announced they’ve hired “ambassadors” to patrol the Lake. I go there every day (masked and keeping social distance) and have yet to see one. There can be nobody in the city of Oakland, or anywhere else in America for that matter, who doesn’t know exactly what’s going on. A boob who’s partying by the Lake is not going to suddenly “see the light” because some minimum-wage “ambassador” in an official shirt tells him to please wear a mask.

I fear for my city.

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments

Recent Posts