By Dean Haddock
If you aren’t already aware that San Diego County went into the “Purple Tier” of California’s increasingly criticized lockdown protocol on Saturday, you soon will be when the local businesses you rely on start closing their doors again.
Though some will be operating outdoors or at 25% capacity, many already struggling businesses will not be able to weather this new round of closures and will keep their doors shut forever. This round of closures could persist through the holiday shopping season, which many businesses were counting on to recover from a challenging year.
A recent Yelp report shows as many as 60% of COVID-related business closures will be permanent, with restaurants, gyms, retail, hospitality and entertainment among the hardest hit.
The emails we receive from yoga studios saying we’re not allowed to gather for our practice and the empty tables we see at restaurants all represent the economic and social costs of a blunt and increasingly contentious ongoing executive order based on arbitrary benchmarks.
Whatever toll COVID-19 has taken in terms of lost lives must be looked at in the context of other lives lost to imperfect and aggressive public health mandates. We can no longer ignore the destructive effects of lockdowns and business closures or see them as a toll of the virus—they’re a toll of policy.
And while our elected officials stand transfixed only on statistics for contact tracing, positive PCR tests, hospitalizations and deaths, their backs are turned to the business closures and job losses they are creating in the wake of these policies.
These fresh losses of jobs and businesses will also mean more metaphorical death — that of our culture — and also the loss of life from poverty and depression, which are fairly accurate predictors of overall health and life expectancy that our elected representatives seem to have forgotten.
These same officials shuttering our businesses are earning healthy paychecks while flickering the economies on and off in our counties. It won’t be long until all of our communities are in shambles — not from a virus, but from terrible and destructive public policy.
San Diego’s County Supervisors earn about $180,000 annually, the Governor of California earns about $200,000, and the Mayor of San Diego earns about $206,000. California elected officials are some of the highest paid in the country, while many residents find California a hard place to earn a living.
For comparison, a yoga instructor might make $30 per class, a server makes $20,000-$50,000 per year, and a gym owner might be lucky to bring in $140,000 per year. A decent profit margin to aim for as a small business owner is 3%-15%. The rest of a business’ income goes to pay for things like rent and salaries. Few businesses are lucky enough to earn a profit ever.
And while our businesses and communities suffer, there is no talk whatsoever of pay cuts and furloughs for our elected officials, no taking-it-on-the-chin or spirit of togetherness in their day-to-day work.
Do they realize how many servers will be laid off? Will they sacrifice their paychecks to support those people? Or will they just order take-out after a hard day of counting COVID cases and creating new signage and rules to demonetize the local mom and pop stores?
Destroying the economy is a path that leads to one of two directions for Californians: either we stand up to a state that’s closing our businesses, or through breadlines and handouts we become subservient to it.
We have to find another way through this trying time, and that work is best left to local communities. It’s time to start managing the pandemic locally and trusting Californians to make the right decisions for our health and that of our communities.
Dean Haddock is a San Diego resident with a master’s degree in political science.
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