By Douglas Moran
Open Letter to SCC Public Health on excessive restrictions, esp NurseriesUploaded: Apr 18, 2020
I was shocked to see (garden) nurseries become delivery-only businesses in recent update of the Shelter-In-Place (SIP) Order (^2020-04-15^). I believe it not just to be unwarranted, but counter-productive: It is contrary to local policy on healthy lifestyles and green house gas reduction (details below). The decision seems to represent tunnel-vision that is so narrowly focused on isolation that it doesn't consider the cost that could substantially out-weigh those benefits, both immediately but especially in the long-term.
Confidence in government rules declining:
This is but one instance of a larger trend of people losing confidence in government pronouncements, and consequently their willingness to cooperate, both now and if there are future needs for SIP.
Until a few days ago, I was getting emails from around the country pointing out various individual absurdities of state and local government rules about COVID-19: inconsistencies, contradictions, disregard of commonsense, ... Now I am receiving lists. Also rules written with little apparent knowledge of the situation -- the goal being to get them out quickly and make them easy to enforce, with little seeming regard for making them useful and effective.
Add to this the massive drop of over 96% in projected deaths in the US: from over 2 million to now 60-70K. I realize that the projections were based on bad or absent data, but it was presented to us with unwarranted confidence, even certainty.
The stated concern of governments at all levels -- federal, state and local -- is to try to preserve small businesses, but their actions heavily favor large corporations. For example, nursery annexes attached to big-box stores -- Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, ... -- are treated as part of an essential business, but an independent nursery is not.
The nurseries driven out of business by these restrictions will not be replaced by similar businesses -- that just the reality of costs of land here. Similarly for many other types of small businesses. Have you factored into your decisions the likely blow-back against government for what will be perceived as unnecessarily closures??
----Nurseries: Risks and Benefits----
From what I have read, the typical nursery presents very low risk for someone becoming infected.
- Open air environments -- most nurseries -- have reportedly been found to present little risk of transmission. The risks of lingering in indoor spaces, even with careful social distancing, was illustrated by the "^Choir practice turns fatal. Coronavirus is to blame - LA Times^". 60 asymptomatic participants attended, 45 were sickened, 2 died. In between is standing in line in a sheltered location outside for 15-60 minutes, for example, at a grocery store, a Costco, ...
- There is typically little in a nursery that people touch that they don't take with them (except the cart).
- Normal etiquette in nurseries is already social distancing and more. When SIP doesn't naturally smooth-out the arrival of customers, the simple measures already used by other stores should suffice.
--Benefit - Healthier Lifestyle--
A healthy lifestyle promotes a strong immune system, and that may be more important to containing the disease than the minor transmission risks of nurseries being open. Gardening promotes stress reduction, exercise, being outdoors, and for vegetable gardeners, more and better fresh food in the diet.
Many of the gardeners I know, myself included, regard gardening as extended low-stress exercise for muscles, stretching, and promoting flexibility. Almost as good as a dog pleading to be walked, a garden can be constantly beckoning with tasks. This is especially important for seniors.
There may also be shortages of fresh food in the coming months: Farmers whose produce normally flows to restaurants and other commercial food operations have reported severe difficulties redirecting it to grocery stores, food banks, ... To highlight (hype?) this, media stories have pictures of farmers plowing ripe produce under.
On-line?? Many of the ones I have used for items I couldn't get locally are shutdown, out-of-stock on many items, or have expected shipping delays of weeks. Not unexpected if you think about it. National closing of nurseries shifted unprecedented demand to them. Sick employees and preventive measures lowered productivity.
The appendages to the big-box stores? My experience has been that they don't carry the items I want. For vegetables, they carry few heirloom varieties, few of the tastiest varieties (often heirlooms), and few of the "fun" varieties. There are even large categories that they don't carry.
--Benefit: not increasing Green House Gas emissions--
Eight years ago, there were three nurseries/garden supply stores within 3 miles. A year ago there were still two. In a few months, there may be none. And most of the nurseries in the miles beyond that are gone. If that remaining nursery (SummerWinds, Palo Alto) closes, I am either going to have to abandon gardening, or take long excursions to for what are often small purchases. Similarly for others all over the county.
Before you suggest that I could use public transit, please check with VTA about how they would respond if someone showed up at a bus stop with six 1-cubic-foot bags of chicken manure (on a dolly). By the way, normally I would be purchasing other items at the same time, so a single 3-mile trip becomes 2-3 round trips by VTA, assuming that VTA goes anywhere near the nursery.
Yeah, like that is ever going to happen.
In addition to adding your perspectives in the comments, feel free to adapt the portions relevant to you for an email to County officials:
- Sara Cody, M.D., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Joe Simitian, Santa Clara County Supervisor for District 5 (northern county), Supervisor.Simitian@bos.sccgov.org
There is also a Change.org petition: ^Please keep Santa Clara county nurseries in business^.
^Statement from owner of Yamagami's Garden Center in Cupertino^
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.
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