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Bill Larsen: Disturbing responses to proven COVID-19 prevention measures

This letter addresses three interrelated issues pertaining to the pandemic and our society’s response to it.

First, there have recently been a spate of comments in The Union disputing the efficacy of the standard distancing-masking-sanitizing precautions being successfully utilized worldwide.

These uninformed writers say that precautions don’t work, even asserting the nonsensical claim that believers in precautions are “anti-science.” So, the virus will do what it will, these good neighbors assert. Let the weaker among us die off.



Well, despite this voice of humanitarian concern, the irrefutable fact is that precautions, when applied quickly with maximum compliance, do work. This isn’t an opinion. It is fact.

If the naysayers are truly interested in learning how aggressive national responses have limited the spread of infections, they can google “the best global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The reduction in the infection rates in countries enacting an immediate and effective national response is startling, and something we need to learn from (as opposed to of the lackluster, oppositional reaction of the Trump administration).




There may be arguments about what types of masks work best, how often and thoroughly they need to be cleaned, or how restrictions should be applied, but the data is in and the conclusions could not be more clear: Precautions, when instituted early and with the compliance of the public, are remarkably effective at limiting the spread of infection.

Second, watching how the social media giants Facebook and Twitter have revised their policies to either flag or deny intentionally false and dangerous claims, I wonder when mainstream media outlets like The Union might do the same.

I’ve never been a fan of censorship, but perhaps it’s time for news outlets to flag scientifically disproven claims that endanger public health. Maybe an editorial disclaimer needs to be included in the op-ed page (or the beginning of particularly misleading articles) stating that the claim being advanced is in direct conflict with the findings of science, and should be judged accordingly (as warnings on cigarette packages do).

This presents an interesting question as to what the responsibility of the news media is with regard to the publication of discredited beliefs that threaten the health and safety of our citizens

Third, where are the police when we need them? Recently, a mob congregated outside the house of the mayor of Nevada City, screaming and beating on pots and pans. Why were these people not confronted by law enforcement? Why were they not told to disperse, and if they failed to do so, why were they not arrested?

President Trump sent in armed federal storm troopers to break up protests in Oregon, where the vast majority of people were demonstrating peacefully. He also used tear gas and strong-arm tactics by his guards to clear an area for a photo shoot across from the White House (accosting individuals who were simply standing on a public sidewalk).

We’re entering a period when right-wing violence is being encouraged by Trump and other public officials. Our local law enforcement establishment failed once in their duty to protect citizens from mob violence on Aug. 9. Can they not even keep a neighborhood free of organized mob intimidation? I encourage Nevada City’s council to get control of the police and have them do their job before more politically inspired incidents occur.

One bonus point: My wife and I were in both downtown Grass Valley and Nevada City on Dec. 26, and three restaurants — Sergio’s, Elixert and Friar Tuck’s — were serving people contrary to the state mandated restrictions. Also, there was no police presence on the street, and several people in both cities were walking around without masks. What in the world is the point of having health restrictions if the cities aren’t going to enforce them? And what are our kids learning about disrespect for the law as they witness such rampant flouting of legal restrictions in the time of a worldwide epidemic?

William Larsen lives in Nevada City.

Editor’s note: Some of the writer’s contentions and assumptions are scientifically disputed. See how difficult this is? Perhaps it is best to characterize opinions about the evolving science and governmental decisions as being cautious with the current science or riskier. Certainly we recommend tipping toward caution and fair enforcement of ordinances.


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