Morgan Hill, California—In the U.S. alone, there have been 2.7 million cases of Covid-19 and it has caused more than 130,000 deaths. Currently, New York state has reported more coronavirus cases than any other country outside the United States. With no vaccine in view, the only choice to curb these numbers is by putting in place strict stay-at-home, mask and social distancing orders. However, many people don’t know the thinking behind these orders, so the mayor of Morgan Hill, California, Rich Constantine, met with me and explained how these orders are helping to calm the coronavirus crisis.
Me: When you became mayor, did you expect to respond to something as widespread and influential as a pandemic?
Mayor Constantine: Well, short answer, no. I have served on the city government for almost ten years now, but no one could have predicted what we are going through right now.
Me: Do you think that the stay-at-home orders being put in place so quickly and strongly made a difference in the spread of cases?
MC: I definitely do. The numbers really support that. If you look at the curve that Santa Clara County has compared to other counties in California, our curve remains relatively low. The fact that we did clamp down as soon as we did made a big difference. I’m sure when we first put in place the orders people were thinking, “Why are we doing this? Nothing is happening.” No one but the doctors and scientists really understood how potentially dangerous this could be. I think we are seeing the benefits of having shut down as soon as we did.
Me: The quarantine orders of Santa Clara County have recently been relaxed, allowing outdoor dining, summer camps and other small gatherings, but cases are still rising. How do you feel about this?
MC: It’s an interesting dilemma. My daughter is actually in a gymnastics camp right now. I understand that people want to get back to normal life. People have never gone through this before; it’s something that we are not used to. People are accustomed to doing what they want, within the law, of course. On the other hand, you can see the rise in cases and you can see that the only thing that’s keeping covid from decimating the country and the world is social distancing. There is no cure, no treatment, no vaccine. The only thing we can do to fight the spread is social distancing. It’s a shame, but it’s the only thing we can do. So, I am apprehensive that we are opening up, but I am hopeful that if we open up the right way, social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands, doing all the things that doctors are telling us to do, we can slowly open. It’s going to take time to get people in those habits, but if we do those things, we can start to open. If people don’t social distance, start throwing parties and try to get back to normal too quickly, we may have to go back, but we just have to be smart about it.
Me: What do you think will be the deciding factor in the reopening of schools, restaurants and other public spaces?
MC: I’m hopeful the doctors and scientists say it’s safe. I don’t want my kids to go to school if it’s not safe. I don’t want other people to put their kids in that position as well. When the doctors say it’s safe, and hopefully if there is a vaccine, then we might see things start to open up completely.
Me: Going forward, how do you think the coronavirus pandemic will continue to impact communities even after cases are no longer widespread?
MC: I think we will see many more people much more conscious of spreading germs and wearing masks daily may become a much more common practice.
I learned a lot while interviewing Mayor Rich Constantine of Morgan Hill. It really opened my eyes as to why politicians and health experts make the decisions they do. Although people may be missing their family and friends, hopefully knowing why they make these decisions makes it more palatable.
A Two Sided Story
By: Madelyn Duong
[DATELINE TK]—In the midst of COVID-19, people have been in outrage about both the police brutality against Black people and about the looting that sometimes occurred after in some areas. Protests have happened all over the country and have had an impact, but some say certain people have been using these protests for their own benefit, not for the country.
Critics think that the protesters and others are using it as an opportunity to loot. But many people feel that critics are clumping the protesters and looters together, overly focusing on the looting and judging the impact of the protests unfairly. “I think it’s a double standard to judge the protestors by the looters, but not to judge the police by the murderers,” Ethan, a Writopia instructor says. He participated and demonstrated in protests around New York City. He says that some stores were taking precautions against potential looting. “I saw when we were walking down to midtown, there were shops that were all boarded up,” but that’s a small part of the story.
“The protests have been incredibly moving and beautiful expressions of solidarity. There were white people, Black people, brown people, and there were speakers, and the general vibe of it was deeply moving and very peaceful,” he shared.
However, he isn’t sure if the protests will lead to the country erasing its racial discrimination in the near future. “I think we can one day, but I don’t think it will happen that fast because it is so deeply engraved in our society.”
Emily Klein, a professor at Montclair State University agrees. “I didn’t see any people looting. The people who spoke at the protests talked a lot about how the protests should be peaceful and had to be responsible for all the young people that were there, too.” In her experience, the protests were powerful and moving, and not at all violent.
She says that some people were slightly misinformed about the protests. She stressed about how the protests, protesters and police were all peaceful. “In Nyack the protests were powerful. It was really led by young people and people of color. I thought that it was really inspiring to see young people have their voices heard as they expressed what they wanted.” There were babies, young people, all showing their support. Klein thinks that “people are already listening to the protesters and we have to follow it up with really concrete solutions.”
The protests were peaceful, and the police were peaceful, and the protesters were peaceful. Look at the trees, not at the forest.