Bottom line: Don’t mess with surfers.
About two weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom sent a directive to Orange County City Councils to shut the beaches down. While Laguna Beach had been closed for weeks, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach were still open. But after the widespread circulation of one misleading photograph showing a crowded Newport Beach – shot admittedly by the O.C. Register photographer with a telephoto lens so subjects appeared closer – Gov. Newsom decided to force O.C. beaches to close.
Orange County has always been a thorn in the side of Gov. Newsom because of the region’s conservative and libertarian leanings. Prior to the April 30 announcement, it was widely speculated Gov. Newsom would shut down all beaches in the Golden State. When the official memo came, only Orange County beaches were to be closed, with the Governor citing “specific issues on some of those beaches [that] raised alarm bells.”
I guess Gov. Gruesome felt COVID-19 only attacked beaches where conservatives swam.
At the time, the total COVID-19 death rate in Orange County was 22 per million. Contrast this number with New York City, where it’s approximately 2,338 per million and you’ll get some sense of regional scope.
It’s true, at least in Newport Beach, the residents were eager to enjoy the region’s abundant springtime sunshine and fresh air, and did not stay indoors. They were also hesitant to wear face masks, as soaking in salty, ocean air is quite refreshing on the lungs, and has vast known health benefits. The atmosphere in Newport Beach was as laid-back as you’d expect for a coastal California surf town, a far cry from the mask-enforcement, draconian measures enacted just 50 miles north in Los Angeles.
And on the subject of wearing a mask, does it really prevent the spread of virus anyway? It’s been well documented that viruses can spread through the eyes, ears and even the skin, so what does a mask really do?
In a revealing 2016 article for Oral Health Group, John Hardie, BDS, MSc, PhD, FRCDC, intellectually critiques the notion that face masks are “capable of providing an acceptable level of protection from airborne pathogens,” as is the widely held belief. Unlike new medicines, the practice of wearing a face mask has admittedly not been subject to the same strenuous investigation to determine actual efficacy. Most of the studies conducted have “limited clinical applicability as they cannot account for such human factors as compliance, coughing and talking,” said Dr. Hardie.
Traditionally, as Dr. Hardie notes, face masks were recommended to protect the mouth and nose from the “droplet” route of infection (greater than 5 microns), as they are of no use against airborne transmissions (less than 5 microns). These small particles, transmitted via air currents, can be dispersed over long distances and might even be inhaled by someone who had no contact with the original host.
Even these “droplets” upon emission “undergo evaporation producing a concentration of readily inhalable small particles surrounding the aerosol source,” according to Dr. Hardie. As he explained: “[The] efficacy [of face masks] must be re-examined in light of the fact that aerosols contain particles many times smaller than 5 microns.”
Not only did Dr. Hardie eloquently argue that these particles are too small for masks to protect but he also showed, through a study of dentists, how exposure to aerosol transmissible pathogens can strengthen the immune system.
The respiratory tract’s ability to thwart pathogens was evident, Dr. Hardie said, in a study of dentists, medical professionals who are readily exposed to pathogens as a result of their everyday work. The study found dentists had “significantly elevated levels of antibodies to influenza A and B and the respiratory syncytial virus. Thus, while dentists had greater than normal exposure to these aerosol transmissible pathogens, their potential to cause disease was resisted by respiratory immunologic responses.”
But back to Newport Beach, where a sunshine-loving, sometimes-mask-wearing population was told by Gov. Newsom they could no longer be on the beach, effectively criminalizing “surfers and families digging in the sand,” as Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill wrote on Instagram, adding, so there would be no confusion as to where he stood on the beach closures: “This is sick.”
Closing the beach was like declaring war on surfers, on sunshine, on the basic right to walk freely in the open air and salty breeze. Try as they might, the barriers blocking all entrances to the beach in Newport that were dutifully inspected each night by city workers would mysteriously disappear by morning. (“It was the wind,” one resident overheard a group of surfers explaining.)
The barriers became more elaborate each passing day, with more sandbags, more reinforced fencing, more zip ties to affix the fencing and still, they never lasted more than a few hours, especially as Mayor O’Neill and Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes announced they would not be enforcing this directive. (Even the city signs around the beach were laughably tongue in cheek: Beach temporarily closed by state order or Beaches closed by the governor.)
Within hours of Gov. Newsom’s directive, a walk on the beach became a chance to claim back newly stripped American freedom. Beachgoers sat with their umbrellas and American flags. Skywriters etched “Fire Gruesome Newsom! Open California!” into the heavens above. Huntington Beach citizens marched in peaceful protest along a main intersection of Pacific Coast Highway.
While much of the state and country seemed to mock this pushback over a simple beach closure, the defiance erupted over more than the right to stand by the sea. Orange County residents were standing up to defend the Constitution, which has lately taken a back seat to modern gubernatorial dictatorship, a new kind of power-wielding that strips Americans of the centuries-old rights this country was built to espouse, defend and protect.
Bolstered by overwhelming local support, Mayor O’Neill publicly disagreed with Gov. Newsom’s order and pointed out in a conversation with Tucker Carlson that Newport Beach hospitals were not overwhelmed – only 28 beds were being used. There was no wave of deaths that ever happened due to coronavirus in Newport Beach.
Huntington Beach, Dana Point and several local private businesses in Orange County requested a temporary restraining order against the directive in the Orange County Supreme Court. Newport Beach City Councilman Kevin Muldoon personally sued Gov. Newsom in federal court. The lawsuit stated: “Defendants have shown by their actions a willingness to ignore and to violate the fundamental civil rights of California residents.”
In both Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, police forces refused to arrest or ticket anyone in violation of the state directive.
“This is a war between the city and the governor, so we don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” one resident was told by a Newport Beach policeman after the cop politely asked him to step off the beach. (He did, returning to the sand as soon as the police vehicle departed.)
To enforce the order, Gov. Newsom sent ten California Highway Patrol (CHP) units to Orange County, which meant, of course, there were that many fewer officers patrolling the roads. With CHP busy on the beach, another group of rebels, the California car culture enthusiasts, turned the highways into their own version of the California Grand Prix, with average speeds approaching 100 mph on mostly deserted and no-longer-patrolled roadways.
Also during this time, Gov. Newsom released seven high-level sex offenders from prison. These convicted criminals roamed free while Newport Beach residents were punished for merely living by the ocean.
Finally, after six long days of mayhem, a cease-fire was reached: Orange County beaches could be open “for active recreational use only,” though Mayor O’Neill made it clear this model was not the preferred choice of the City Council.
If you follow the data, the beaches should absolutely be open, and never should’ve closed in the first place. Even after the so-called “crowded” beach day two weeks ago, there has been no surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations or deaths in Newport Beach. As of May 9, there are 105 known cases of COVID-19 in Newport Beach, which has a population of 80,000. When Gov. Newsom’s beach ban was put into place, known cases were at 89. No statistician would argue that 16 new cases can be defined as a surge, especially when this increase could just be the result of additional testing. Plus, “cases” does not mean sick; it’s possible these patients exhibited mild symptoms of the virus or, as with many COVID-19 cases, are asymptomatic.
The statistics do show that as of May 10, COVID-19 fatalities in Orange County, which has a population of more than 3 million, increased from 50 to approximately 70. It should be dubiously noted the 20 deaths recorded due to COVID-19 during this timespan did not require testing for the virus to be confirmed, so completely unrelated medical factors could have caused someone in Orange County to die but this untimely death would have still been recorded as a COVID-19 fatality.
What’s the moral of this sad story? As the new saying in Newport Beach goes: Newsom don’t surf.