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San Diego restaurant lock-downs need nuance

Lazy reporting at best

Rally outside Carlsbad City Hall during the January 5 City Council meeting
Rally outside Carlsbad City Hall during the January 5 City Council meeting

Contagious regulation

So much of the backlash against these shutdowns could have been averted if they were approached with even one iota of nuance (“Carlsbad and Encinitas rebel against restaurant lock-downs,” Cover Stories, January 20). In the spring, the shutdowns were understandable as we were all still learning about the nature of the pandemic. Months later, taking the same approach even after the relative safety of outdoor dining, is simply draconian and almost vindictive.

It seems as if Covid restrictions have taken on the same political calculus as being Tough on Crime did in the 1980s and 1990s, with officials competing over who can be the toughest. A glaring problem with their outbreak metric (and why they were so reluctant to release it, until journalists managed to expose it), is that it is anything BUT scientific.

The current metric basically defines an “outbreak” as any place that two individuals managed to be tied to over non-specific period of time. For example, if two individuals test positive, and both went to the same restaurant within 2 weeks, that place is in danger of being labelled as an outbreak location -- no matter how high the traffic is at that specific site. Correlation does not imply causation. What many state and local officials refuse to acknowledge is that you can be safe, while also allowing the economy to get moving again -- at a reduced level (just look at South Korea and Taiwan, two nations that have managed to keep moving while keeping the spread down).

The Covid threat is very, very real. I take it seriously as the husband of a physician frequently in contact with Covid patients. That being said, it doesn’t take an Ivy League graduate to realize that no two public places of business necessarily share the same level of risk. Why can’t county officials create a task force to investigate and identify which restaurants are relatively safe in comparison to others? This would incentivize those institutions that have been less than willing to adhere to basic safety precautions to get it together, and reward places that operate safely.

Health officials already inspect places that serve food, so it’s not like the basic structure isn’t already in place. A tier system that would outline how safely they operate, and subsequently dictate the nature of how they are allowed to operate in the midst of this pandemic would be an impressive and less controversial approach than these draconian measures. We all know the answer, though. Nuance takes work.

  • Name withheld
  • Normal Heights
Justin Jachura, owner of a North County restaurant company whose flagship is Senor Grubby’s in Carlsbad, says he’s had enough. “For me it’s just pedal to the metal – there’s no turning back,” he says. The ban on outdoor dining, he says, “is just another example of government overreach.”

Blindly noncompliant

Your article entitled “Carlsbad and Encinitas rebel against restaurant lock-downs” published January 20th is one of the more biased pieces I’ve seen in the San Diego Reader in years. The author covered all of the reasons business owners are justifying violating the Health Code in a DEADLY pandemic but none of the pleas by citizens for the Carlsbad City Council to do something to protect the community.

There was zero coverage of the January 19th meeting where concerned citizens countered restauranteur complaints, nor did it bother mentioning the Mayor’s vested interested in small business and how in the first “emergency” meeting he was cheering on violators who spoke in favor of ignoring Health Orders. It was lazy reporting at best, and purposefully empathetic to noncompliant restaurants at worst. This should have been an opinion article, perhaps written from an indoor table at Vigilucci’s!

  1. Sherri Sullivan
  2. Carlsbad
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Rally outside Carlsbad City Hall during the January 5 City Council meeting
Rally outside Carlsbad City Hall during the January 5 City Council meeting

Contagious regulation

So much of the backlash against these shutdowns could have been averted if they were approached with even one iota of nuance (“Carlsbad and Encinitas rebel against restaurant lock-downs,” Cover Stories, January 20). In the spring, the shutdowns were understandable as we were all still learning about the nature of the pandemic. Months later, taking the same approach even after the relative safety of outdoor dining, is simply draconian and almost vindictive.

It seems as if Covid restrictions have taken on the same political calculus as being Tough on Crime did in the 1980s and 1990s, with officials competing over who can be the toughest. A glaring problem with their outbreak metric (and why they were so reluctant to release it, until journalists managed to expose it), is that it is anything BUT scientific.

The current metric basically defines an “outbreak” as any place that two individuals managed to be tied to over non-specific period of time. For example, if two individuals test positive, and both went to the same restaurant within 2 weeks, that place is in danger of being labelled as an outbreak location -- no matter how high the traffic is at that specific site. Correlation does not imply causation. What many state and local officials refuse to acknowledge is that you can be safe, while also allowing the economy to get moving again -- at a reduced level (just look at South Korea and Taiwan, two nations that have managed to keep moving while keeping the spread down).

The Covid threat is very, very real. I take it seriously as the husband of a physician frequently in contact with Covid patients. That being said, it doesn’t take an Ivy League graduate to realize that no two public places of business necessarily share the same level of risk. Why can’t county officials create a task force to investigate and identify which restaurants are relatively safe in comparison to others? This would incentivize those institutions that have been less than willing to adhere to basic safety precautions to get it together, and reward places that operate safely.

Health officials already inspect places that serve food, so it’s not like the basic structure isn’t already in place. A tier system that would outline how safely they operate, and subsequently dictate the nature of how they are allowed to operate in the midst of this pandemic would be an impressive and less controversial approach than these draconian measures. We all know the answer, though. Nuance takes work.

  • Name withheld
  • Normal Heights
Justin Jachura, owner of a North County restaurant company whose flagship is Senor Grubby’s in Carlsbad, says he’s had enough. “For me it’s just pedal to the metal – there’s no turning back,” he says. The ban on outdoor dining, he says, “is just another example of government overreach.”

Blindly noncompliant

Your article entitled “Carlsbad and Encinitas rebel against restaurant lock-downs” published January 20th is one of the more biased pieces I’ve seen in the San Diego Reader in years. The author covered all of the reasons business owners are justifying violating the Health Code in a DEADLY pandemic but none of the pleas by citizens for the Carlsbad City Council to do something to protect the community.

There was zero coverage of the January 19th meeting where concerned citizens countered restauranteur complaints, nor did it bother mentioning the Mayor’s vested interested in small business and how in the first “emergency” meeting he was cheering on violators who spoke in favor of ignoring Health Orders. It was lazy reporting at best, and purposefully empathetic to noncompliant restaurants at worst. This should have been an opinion article, perhaps written from an indoor table at Vigilucci’s!

  1. Sherri Sullivan
  2. Carlsbad
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