CA Update: Shut Down and Told to Stay Home

Let us start this latest update on some positive notes and then delve into the why’s, wherefores and results that accompany them.

Firstly, if you are fortunate to have savings or retirement funds based in any securities, 401’s and IRA’s you’ll likely be enjoying the positive news as markets are UP and the DOW has surged to record heights.

Next there’s a couple of (US) approved vaccines out there and already in distribution.

Greater clarity is now afforded into the Pandemic risks by increasingly available Coronavirus accounting, which helps us all to better research our own liabilities.

The Christmas Star has been on view across the world, enriching the Holiday Season.

And another US Stimulus Package is hopefully nearing Government-approval for action. (At least it is moving).

So, we begin on a broadly positive footing and have reasons for hope hurtling into 2021.

I have not been journeying out on extended travels recently; rather staying locally in my hometown of Santa Cruz and heading up North for boating out of Alameda on the weekends.

The Financial Market bounce has been stimulated by perceived DEADLOCK in Washington. Although election news drags on the Markets had their needs satisfied quite shortly following the Nov. 3rd polling.

The House has a more balanced party participation and to all intents and purposes a Senate already approximately tied leaves the occupancy of the White House far less relevant. It seems that as politicians are notoriously and primarily focused on retaining their seats in two years, all the big-ticket, controversial bills and positions are already largely “off the table.”

The political desire to be controversial and take personal career risks will wane and so we have practical Deadlock, as near as dammit.

Financial Markets like this Washington Stalemate, hence the surge, which was stimulated further by the promised, expected and predicted arrival of the first Vaccines.

It is sad to reflect that investors are markedly uncomfortable when Government can be more active; a stunning practical reaction and perhaps a condemnation?

Locally I share the California lockdown currently in effect through Christmas with 40 million others. Gatherings of any size are not allowed. Some other States are equally burdened, boding poorly for a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday Season and New Year.

The motivation to travel out of State is lessened as my preferred North Dakota travel destination is currently topping the Infection and Death-count charts for both long-term and 7-day Covid-19 Stats. The ND distinction of just recently being recognized as the ONLY State that grew economically during this Pandemic is quickly receding to the background as it’s minimized closure actions now seem more suspect.

More distant in-State CA travel seems rather hopeless too, as closures are everywhere, dining freedoms are universally rescinded and Essential Travel Only restrictions are back in-play, affecting hotel-stays.

Local restaurants again offer only take-out options, some allowing self-serve in their temporary outdoor facilities and others now dismantling these recently built dining areas to conform with spotty local ordinances.

The surfers still swarm Pleasure Point just down the street, wandering passed the newly posted prominent blue sign asserting STAY HOME ORDER ENFORCED. ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY.

The word ENFORCED was obscured with surfing-related stickers almost immediately and locals mill around the area as usual, largely unmasked. It is unlikely the local Sherriff will police this area at all.

Published Stats say that Santa Cruz County has indeed had a surge in Virus numbers. It has reached a total local death-rate consistent with a bad flu season.

Some people mask-up outdoors as required locally. Mostly these seem to NOT be locals, are elderly or probably have underlying health issues.

I have heard young, mid-20’s service workers say they just wear their masks to keep people happy as there is almost no chance they could die from COVID. They seem willing to guard others, fulfil their job requirements and protect their employer’s conformance interests.

Recent weekends locally feature a 7-man rock band set up on one of the busier Santa Cruz intersections at Portola and 41st. They show up afternoons on Saturday and Sunday, plug in under the canopy of a mostly vacated Auto-repair building and entertain standing groups of 30-40 mostly mask-less people, or whomever shows up.

I suppose this is Civil Disobedience during a period of an enforced Stay Home order.

As I have driven by these performances on at least three occasions I assume no enforcement will be forthcoming.

And so, health risks and dictates are accepted differently in several quarters.

Hereabouts, if you are not in the 70-80, 80-90 or 90+ age brackets, in a care facility or part of the 30% Hispanic population the risks of death from COVID are extremely low. But few people want to be the exception, caught out against the odds.

The Pandemic thrives as temperature drops; this bodes badly for the encroaching and lengthy Winter months still to come when vaccinations are not immediately available. And many other States face far worse weather outlooks than California.

The great majority of deaths in CA occur in just FIVE of the Southern California Counties. Of these LA County is >6x worse than each of the other four. The remaining 53 CA Counties have spotty ups and downs but are largely under the same increased lock-down rulings employed across 5 newly defined regions.

The restrictions placed across California State by Governor Newsome have been poorly received because of his own, well-publicized ignorance of his own edicts. Dining out, keeping his OWN business interests open and making questionable personal grabs on first round COVID-relief funds have won him no friends.

He faces another growing push for his RECALL which might stick in this case, given some from his own party are reportedly showing interest. 

Newsome has a poor image with locals who knew him where he grew up in Marin and he is a nephew of Nancy Pelosi. There is currently rumor he has personal interest in the Senate Seat of Kamala Harris as an escape chute from Recall, should it become necessary.

I used an on-line NYT vaccination queue predictor for my own situation. There appear to be about 120 million people ahead of me in line. Firstly, health workers and those at high risk, also posing politicians and now even incarcerated felons in some States.

Interestingly the outcome of the Presidential Election continues in the news. The Electoral College has already given Biden the nod, but the Citizenry apparently largely (some 70%) accepts that large-scale voter-fraud was in play; yet courts remain unconvinced despite a recent confirmatory Government report and >1000 sworn affidavits being registered in predominantly Battle-ground States.

Even overseas Bookies that make a living on being right offer good odds that Trump’s last day in office will be January 2025. These beliefs are further fueled by VP-Elect Kamala Harris’ continued refusal to vacate her Senate seat.

This is a truly epic Banana-Republic Soap Opera scenario. When and How will it all end?

Internationally it seems that every dog has its COVID Success Then failure (or vice versa) Story.

Once-envied Sweden touted its Herd Immunity approach yet has now replaced that with recent high-level government acceptance that (quote) whatever we did, has failed miserably.  As I write Sweden’s internal lock-down restrictions have just been increased and extended into the New Year.

But now previously underperforming neighbors Denmark, Norway and Finland are claiming successes, based ironically upon their ability to quickly conform and follow instructions, buoyed-up (in Norway) by substantial North Sea Oil reserve revenues fueling their economy.

Germany is now under stringent lock-down restrictions. Schools are closed and those picturesque Christmas Markets are cancelled both there and across much of Europe. Holiday Season celebrations will be bleak or none outside the home.

The UK has detected the FIRST reported Virus Mutation across their Southeast territories, an oddly less-infected region at the beginning of the year. A second variant has subsequently emerged in England; this initially being tied to South African travel.

It seems few Countries test for or can quickly discover Mutations, so who knows where the rapidly spreading first version emanated or will travel next? Virologists claim that more contagious mutations are usually less deadly. As for the Second Mutation, who knows?

Fingers crossed on all accounts; time will tell.

Some European Countries are closing flights to and from the UK. Today the EEC is calling for that practice to cease. Where will this settle?

I saw a Satisfaction Survey polled for Europeans contemplating how SATISFIED they are with their own government’s decisions in protecting them from COVID. The aforementioned Scandinavians (in Norway, Denmark and Finland, w/o Sweden) are currently somewhat happy, with those in France and Spain posting the highest levels of dissatisfaction.

A bright influence on the world has been the Christmas Star, visible low in the Southwest from California soon after sunset and appearing through Christmas day. What appears as a single Star is actually a regular conjunction of the two largest Planets in the Solar system, namely Jupiter and Saturn. Although their orbital proximity happens every 20 years it is rarely seen so bright and close to earth; things last looked this good in 1226 AD. Worth a look, with or without binoculars.

More locally a San Francisco Renaming Committee has decided to ditch a few dozen names from local schools. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s will be gone as she came down on the wrong side of an argument on permitting a Confederate flag to be raised one day in 1984; someone got some long-awaited revenge.

And Lincoln is OUT, too; despite the Emancipation Proclamation he is not sufficiently WOKE, viewed through the retrospective, revisionist lens of time.

Speaking with a couple of still active local garage owners, I am told things are continuing adequately for them. Their Automotive businesses are surviving well enough to keep the lights on, pay rent and avoid layoffs.

Some unusual things flare in the Press. I read a Transgender Activist is pushing for ALL children to receive Puberty Blockers so they can avoid the great trauma of puberty onset until they are ready. It seems a little out there for many today, but 20 years from now, who knows what might be dictated and embraced?

Those people in any form of Care Facility must be suffering in their lengthening separations from friends and loved ones. Even the best Social Media and Communication tools leave us isolated, longing for human touch and contact.

It is a daunting challenge for all Caregivers to satisfy this basic need and fully relieve the misery.

And there are also inevitably many small households across the Globe where the latest STAY HOME Orders have condemned occupants to potentially miserable isolation.

On a personal note, I grow tired of the constant hand sanitizing and masking-up activities required while shopping for essentials but doggedly persist, anyway. I have even received Text Messaged Stay-At-Home Alerts as I have lined up to enter a store, while simultaneously watching un-masked groups of energetic runners stream by.

These days the contradictions are many and diverse. The path to exit this unwanted anomalous lifestyle feels interminable, even with an end in sight.

However, it is now time to figure out WHEN I might expect my vaccination. I am not one of those who will shy away, especially given my distance back in the queue; any short-term vaccine risks will be WELL in the past by the time my turn ever comes around.

And my inoculation will likely soon end up being an official requirement for the travel I so desperately yearn.

How about you? Finding any joy in your life and outlook?

The Holiday Season and New Year are upon us. It is a long way till things return to any flavor of normal. So, are you making enough effort to eke out a level of fulfilment and happiness in your own situation?

There are always things out there to savor. Take a thoughtful look and be sure you are making the absolute best of these challenging times!

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.

CA COVID: Restrictions, Mandates with an Election on Top

My latest escape to the less-COVID climes of Northern CA highlights some interesting anomalies.

And the results from Federal and Local Elections are still raining their bounties down upon the citizenry.

Firstly, let us consider the travel…

I unexpectedly found my hotel in Red Bluff (CA) to be in a more COVID-restricted town than its larger neighbor (Redding), just 30 miles away. This created the need for a daily commute for indoor dining and services.

Despite the existing local restrictions our arrival at the hotel front desk had reception personnel scrambling to even locate their mask supply when we entered sporting our own, gangster-like facial coverings.

The very visible cleaning staff never masked-up throughout the 4-night stay.

Our Hotel was initially largely empty but picked up activity as CA firefighters and power distribution workers came and went with overnight billeting; local fires were reaching containment.

Most guests wore masks around the hotel.

We were Drift Fishing locally and further South (on the Lower Sacramento River), while driving North for meals, purchases and off-road ATV adventures alongside the Shasta Dam.

No masks were requested or required during either outdoor activities or excursions up to Redding for indoor food and drinks.

There are spectacular views from dedicated ATV trails winding up the towering hills and mountains overlooking the Shasta Lake and Dam. And drift-fishing the Lower Sac for Steelhead and Trout was a treat.

We are already booked for a return visit to this region next week but will stay further North in Redding to enjoy the lesser COVID restrictions and indoor facilities.

And now back to Santa Cruz, my hometown…

The few visitors wander about outdoors with more now wearing masks, while areas mostly frequented by locals feature few facial coverings.

Overall, outdoor mask usage seems to be on the increase though it is not mandated hereabouts. Perhaps there are just more COVID-sensitive visitors drifting down from Silicon Valley to capture the last vestiges of warmer weather as it trails away? Perhaps it is a Pavlovian response?

More local restaurants are featuring restricted indoor seating and those who invested in makeshift outdoor seating areas are beginning to construct increasingly elaborate shelters to protect diners from the coolness of an encroaching Winter clime.

I hear of restauranteurs feverishly scouring the country to acquire outdoor heaters. Their solution may be viable in warmer States but will prove a difficult proposition to sell diners in more Northerly locations.

Temporary windbreaks and propane heaters are not viable business options where cold winds swirl, snow can fall and the indoor dining options are COVID-limited or none.

Today I heard that local restaurants having any indoor seating will be hit with increased social distancing requirements by the weekend.

I recently returned from a weekend journey to Alameda for a regular weekly boat outing.

In that County the accommodations for COVID restrictions continue to expand with outdoor masking requirements still in place.

More tall, wide plastic barriers appear between clients and cashiers everywhere; washbasins, urinals and toilets have alternate stations closed to help enforce separations.

It is common to see people line up rather than enter stores and restroom facilities when they perceive too many others inside. There are often no signs posted to enforce or recommend this behavior; people just do it.

The UK has just entered another lockdown. Public facilities, bars, restaurants etc. are all closed again, for a month. Restaurant food is again take-out only; folks are to stay indoors and avoid all gatherings. Only essential work and shopping is permitted.

They too have seen plastic screens and separation safeguards springing up everywhere.

When people are controlled long enough and required to wear masks, distance, not gather in even small groups, avoid humans from other residences and so on, they become increasingly compliant.

Societies are surprisingly easily moved to new programming standards.

Most humans follow and comply. It is their nature and destiny.

And then, along came the Election…

People turned out in droves, mailed ballots in record numbers and even voted from their graves.

Of course, we do have election fraud. It is as American as apple pie throughout the centuries of US voting experience.

ALL Countries who have permitted voting have election fraud woven through their histories. Even early Romans voting for their Republic experienced these problems.

Surely, everyone knows this?

And mischievously, let me loosely quote Joseph Stalin who said:  I do not care who votes, only who counts the votes.

Election fraud is Inevitable, Expected and Historically Consistent.

The only truly certain thing in Elections is that the leaderships of BOTH sides are lying. The real challenge is to determine exactly How Much?

This current election result remains contested. Did malfeasance determine the outcome? It is unlikely we will ever know precisely. Whomever prevails will write that history.

Our existing voting system is the laughingstock of most Western and Industrialized Nations.

Establishing a more secure, robust, LESS corruptible modern voting methodology and mechanism is relatively easy to accomplish. As a Nation we have repeatedly chosen to pass on this readily achievable option.

Obviously, this approach is simply NOT WANTED by controlling government officials, their prevailing influencers and special interest groups.

So, as I write it appears we have a new leader laying claim to the Presidency. The contest continues.

And the Politics of the Country continues a flirtation with both Socialism and Communism.

I personally come from a background where Socialist and left-leaning policies and practices have held sway from time to time, leaving their legacy and marks.

In fact, most industrialized Nations are at some level already Socialist. If you have national social programs, Welfare, Unemployment benefits, Large Workers Unions, Food Programs, Medical Assistance, Government Mandates and Controls etc., etc., your toes are already deep in the water.

The issue with Socialism is simply how far do you dive in?

To me, Socialism always seems analogous to a Black Hole.

There the excretion spins ever closer to entry, to be eventually and inevitably drawn in. You can never escape back through the event horizon and may only glimpse what was before; the top of the abyss is forever out of reach.

Socialism seems much the same. Has anyone seen a Nation enter and escape? Has anyone witnessed such events and seen other than a general national decline into mediocrity, or much, much worse?

And the comparative failures of Communism are equally strikingly visible to us all… unless you are situated in the very top percentile of privileged beneficiaries.   😊

Then there are also those warning signs that foretell Cultural and National decline.

Certainly, our Domestic Chaos, Political Unrest, Internal Polarizations, International Ridicule, escalating National Debt and diminished Global Status are obvious warning signs of decay.

It seems we may be witnessing an early progression along a catastrophic path.

And now, tragically, the happy early discovery of an effective COVID vaccine has become the latest political football; even while people sicken and die. Who can seize credit? Who must not?

I personally know far too many people who have already or are trying to find another place to live because of just such observations and concerns.

There is a palpable fear of unpredictable domestic restrictions emerging; mandates suddenly escalating and appearing for no measurably valid reason.

Might new policies have dire consequences?

But on the lighter side…

There is always next week.

Today, I can bury my head in the sand, again.

Tomorrow may look a little different. We will see.   😊

How is the outlook for you and yours in these troubled times? Is it now appropriate to review what lies ahead or establish new plans? Might there be a personal impact? Should you have any concerns?

Acting too early or needlessly can be both foolish and wasteful. However, Reacting too late may well eliminate your best options.

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.

Life Viewed From COVID California: Travel, Local & National Updates

Who would have thought after almost 10 months we’d still be wondering what daily local COVID-19 ordinance twists the day would bring?

Madrid (Spain) is re-entering lock-down and flagging what might be expected as the pandemic keeps on giving.

Since a New Years visit to Time Square to start 2020, I have been on 3 additional domestic trips, just recently returning from Alaska.

The crucial Alaskan mid-year tourist season was destroyed by COVID-related restrictions. Visitor numbers were down severely. The sparse crowds were great for guests but underscore the harsh economic realities in play for Alaskans.

My own late-season September visit still panned-out well and we shipped a freezer full of Salmon and Halibut fillets back to CA. The clear views of Denali, scenic flights, landings on glaciers, biking, fishing, dining and sightseeing were as spectacular as advertised, perhaps more than envisioned.

We spoke with many locals and countless immigrants who have found their home in the State. They came, they saw and they stayed.

And then the return to California…

Locally, the reinstated masked fishing trips are more sparsely attended in the touristy areas, though things have become busier in the Northern Areas of San Francisco Bay.

Dine-outside-only arrangements keep many local restaurants afloat using parking-space conversions for seating. Inside seating never received general approval. As the Fall comes on temperatures will decline and this whole al fresco approach will become increasingly less viable.

Journeys to less sternly COVID-restricted States and towns can be joy. Only the deflation of an imminent return to your own neighborhood can diminish the experience.

Air travel itself is not too painful: Keep masks on, expect diminished (but less crowded) services at layovers and then on-board; just keep washing your hands. The constant avoidance of touching and nearing, well, everything, increases the dehumanization.

Air traffic is light. Industry layoffs are looming. Temporary work for those furloughed will be harder to find as so many facilities are shuttered and closed. Small, regional airports will not survive unharmed.

We are all more isolated. Even bike-rides, days sailing, simple walks, dining out and short daytrips have become more solitary pursuits. Social activities are generally stalled or sputter along.

Many folks appear to make an effort, but the isolation and small groupings of people outdoors amplifies the separation between us all.

I know of a group of young adults, friends who simply mix completely mask-less regardless of the consequences. Some got COVID, did their sick-time and the group continues. I have no idea how or if the virus spread between the participants propagated elsewhere, if at all; it is unclear how they manage their subsequent interactions with outsiders.

Families, older citizens and those with compromised health are generally far more cautious.

There are less people out and about. The sustained Summer throngs never really materialized along the Coast and local Ordinances seemed to appear to minimize any looming gatherings tied to traditional Holidays and breaks.

It’s easier to get around on less crowded streets but parking problems are often exacerbated when restaurants have commandeered parking spots with temporary seating arrangements.

Occasionally there seem almost normal clusters of traffic on Freeways, but now they disperse, move and flow. Only occasional accidents and breakdowns impede travelers with temporary delays. The police appear mostly uninterested in enforcing speed restrictions, perhaps risking currently difficult encounters.

A BART train rides past above a homeless encampment on 5th Street between Bush and Castro streets in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Homeless people increasingly encroach upon the busier road systems and interchanges. New structures constantly appear: Tents, rows of small Manufactured Sheds, Porta-Potties and dirt-stained Tarps cover acres of seemingly quiet encampments.

The nightly rampage of violent demonstrations has either slowed in the 40+ States affected, or the reveling media outlets have tempered their coverage in the wake of strong public opinion denigrating the MSM role and the events themselves.

Life seems stalled. Everyone waits: The Presidential debates, the SCOTUS appointment and the Election. Everything is staged for the next phase of bad behavior and debilitating action.

Those tied to areas with family, homes and work must wonder what will happen next. Will destruction and unwanted division consume their world more directly?

Folks in neighborhoods previously harmed and degraded must wonder if, when and how the misery will return, perhaps even amplified.

And for those still amongst the daily and nightly turmoil, tomorrow looms large. When will it end?

I live in a quiet suburban pocket with its own temperate climate and moderate ways, distinct and separate from the still over-heated turmoil of Silicon Valley just 40 miles away.

The flow of humanity that spills over the Santa Cruz mountains into this area seems somehow more subdued. It is as if people arriving tread lightly, needing and wanting to be accepted to this more tranquil clime; often visitors appear reluctant to mention they are not locals.

The multi-State Western Fires have now faded in the news. They dumped thick ash on we to their South and Bad Air Days blew Eastwards, reaching the Midwest. Occasional columns of fire-fighting vehicles fill lanes on the Freeways as they return to SoCal.

And now Napa (CA) has tens of thousands of acres consumed in uncontained flames. Stained air has begun to pour into this area, again; the sun looms orange from midday on and can be viewed with the naked eye, hanging like a giant, reddening moon. Perhaps those tired firefighters from the South will be required to return?

There is a nightly hang-out I visit in the picturesque Santa Cruz Harbor following a bike ride. It attracts locals, people from the Valley and some displaced from the burned, surrounding hills. Many are eager to talk and interact with others.

Everyone who engages seems to yearn for a return to their norms. They do not want to settle for a NEW NORMAL; that is unwanted by all I meet.

People seem to be holding their breath, waiting for an Election among fools to free them from their impositions.

The same appears to be true in several European Countries. Yet they must be praying some different National trigger will set them free.

And now the US President and FLOTUS have become the third National Leaders to fall victim of COVID-19. They began a quarantine reportedly A-symptomatic.

The hope surrounding vaccine availabilities is now under attack: “Can they be trusted,” “Are they safe,” are questions hung over us like a sword of Damocles by compliant media agents.

The facts surrounding COVID infection and resulting restrictions have become irrelevant. Where I live the controls are disproportionate to the disease.

In this County I am 4X more likely to contract and die from influenza than COVID-19; medical professionals hereabouts warn that we overinflate numbers for the few (COVID) deaths that have occurred.

And yet the global CA restrictions and controls live on here, locally.

Most people are searching for a silver lining.  Will the elections mitigate societal unrest or facilitate essential, reasoned change? Likely not.

Conservatives win and the immediate unrest will probably grow. Democrats win and their internal factions will quickly split in search of greater gains. Either path brings increased unrest. We will likely have an unappetizing immediate outcome no matter what.

The vast majority of people living in this and other countries are being fed a meal they do not want.

The puzzle is this: How many more triggers and escalations will there be before enough is enough?

How bad does food have to be before it is returned?

Perhaps we only become passionate and active when the meal is in front of us, personally?

It will be a lot easier to send this swill back to the kitchens while restaurants remain open. So, cast a vote. Then hope a strong accepted majority halts the rot, stabilizes unwanted unrest and smooths any agreed and desired transitions.

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.