It’s that time of year, when rising Covid cases collide with holiday plans. Hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have nearly tripled in the past month, and the county is talking about a possible mask mandate.
It’s the same line of thinking that Los Angeles County leaders had when Covid cases rose this summer. And there was a time when masks were required at the county’s airports and on public transit even though state and federal requirements had been relaxed.
But a mask decree now would land in a region where social habits and emotions about Covid have greatly shifted since the previous two winters of rising cases.
Over the last several months, as people were finally getting to see friends and family, taking trips and eating in restaurants, their attention spans began to wane concerning Covid risks.
And when it comes to masking, many people are over it — an attitude we wrote about Wednesday.
Much of that is because vaccines and boosters have created what feels like a safer world. And for those who have already had Covid and survived, the virus has become less scary.
John Christianson, 37, a barber who lives in Inglewood, told me he had stopped wearing masks and was unconcerned about the virus, which he caught at the beginning of the pandemic when there were no vaccines.
“I’m young, healthy, vegan,” he said. “I’m not really worried about it because my body is doing what it’s supposed to do.”
Even the public health officials and experts I talked to said they were, very cautiously, enjoying social events and dining out — the sort of activities they had initially avoided. They are well aware of the shift in Covid consciousness and the fatigue that has settled in across California and the nation.
“San Francisco was probably the most careful city in the country over the last couple of years, and now you see masks maybe in a quarter of the people in the supermarket,” said Robert Wachter, the chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Most people are exhausted and just ready to be done,” he said. “I’ve been at meetings with other physicians who understand the data and science and say, ‘I just don’t want to do this anymore.’”
More on California
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- Remaking a River: Taming the Los Angeles River helped Los Angeles emerge as a global megalopolis, but it also left a gaping scar across the territory. Imagining the river’s future poses new challenges.
- A Piece of Black History Destroyed: Lincoln Heights — a historically Black community in a predominantly white, rural county in Northern California — endured for decades. Then came the Mill fire.
- Employee Strike: In one of the nation’s biggest strikes in recent years, teaching assistants, researchers and other workers across the University of California system walked off the job to demand higher pay.
I was struck by the reversal from the early days of the pandemic, when residents made public pleas for everyone to stay home, to wear a mask, to think of other people’s grandmothers and the immunocompromised.
Dr. Wachter said it was perfectly natural for people to shift from concern for a community to a more individualistic approach after nearly three years of a pandemic, especially now that there are vaccines, treatments and mitigation strategies that are known to be effective.
But he warned people not to let their guards down. “Exhaustion doesn’t feel like a great excuse to no longer take the precautions you would have taken for the same risk a year ago,” he said.
Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told me she wished people focused less on whether masks were mandatory and more on the fact that they help reduce the spread of transmission in the community.
“The question is: ‘Can you blunt the impact? What steps can you take to minimize the distress that can get caused during a surge?’”
What we’re eating
Savory shortbread cookies with olives and rosemary.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Pasqual V. Gutierrez, who lives in Walnut. Pasqual recommends a relaxing spot on the Central Coast:
“There are so many places to visit, but easily in the top five is the end of Ocean Avenue at Carmel Sunset Beach. I could sit there for hours, do nothing and enjoy — anytime from sunrise to sunset.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
We’re writing about how Californians celebrate the holidays. Do you relax by the beach, visit Disneyland or make tamales with your family? Maybe you always travel to a special spot within the Golden State?
Email us at [email protected] with your California holiday traditions and memories. Please include your name and the city where you live.
We may include your email response in an upcoming newsletter or in print. By emailing us a response, you agree that you have read, understand and accept the Reader Submission Terms in relation to all of the content and other information you send to us (“Your Content”). If you do not accept these terms, do not submit any content.
And before you go, some good news
Plump, persistent and paddle-tailed, beavers shaped the California landscape for thousands of years. Their dams built ponds, slowed runoff and cooled stream flow. But the animals were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s.
Now, however, the North American beaver is returning to the creeks of the Bay Area, The Mercury News reports. After being introduced in Los Gatos about four decades ago, they’ve expanded their range north to Guadalupe River, Coyote Creek, San Tomas Aquino Creek and, most recently, Matadero Creek in Palo Alto.
“There’s a resilience that’s built into their DNA to find a location, set up shop, find a mate and go to work on increasing the population,” said the naturalist Bill Leikam. Last month, his trail cameras captured proof that a pair of beavers — male and female — enjoy evening strolls together along the creek, just two miles from the global headquarters of Intuit and Google.
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back on Monday.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Soumya Karlamangla contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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