The Town That Didn't Lock Down

A Reason reporter went to Paso Robles, California, where many businesses defied state orders to close. He enjoyed it. He also got COVID.


Spring 2020 was supposed to be a good season for Brooke Johnson, a longtime resident and upstart business owner in the wine country town of Paso Robles, California. 

Brunch, her 2-year-old restaurant, had grown steadily throughout the latter half of 2019 at its new downtown location alongside the city's collection of other trendy restaurants, bars, and hotels. The slow winter months would soon be giving way to warmer weather and waves of out-of-town customers. 

"We were getting excited to go into spring and summer in the new, larger location and really kind of have this be our year and just explode," Johnson recalls. 

That trajectory changed in March, when COVID-19 became the only thing in the world that mattered. On March 18, San Luis Obispo County, which contains Paso Robles, issued its first shelter-in-place order, requiring people to stay in their homes unless engaged in a few essential activities, like getting food or going to the doctor. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom followed up with his own statewide order a day later. 

Restaurants in California had to close except for takeout and delivery service. Johnson went from predicting record growth for her business to just barely hanging on. 

"[During] the month of April I looked back and I made $4,000 when I typically make anywhere from $36,000 to $40,000 a month," she says. She was forced to cut her staff of 12 people down to just two. 

The following months proved to be tough but survivable. In late May, Johnson was able to open up for outdoor dining, although the summer heat and haze from wildfires limited its appeal. A loan provided to her through the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped keep her afloat as she was raking in about 60 percent of her usual sales. 

Late September brought nicer weather and the return of limited indoor dining. Customers proved eager to return, giving Brunch some of its busiest days in months. 

Things were looking up again for Johnson until early December. That's when Newsom surprised the state with his regional stay-at-home order. 

The governor's order divided up California's counties into five regions, and imposed a raft of new restrictions in any region where intensive care unit (ICU) capacity fell below 15 percent. That included a ban on all on-site dining, indoor or outdoor. 

The idea was to preserve hospital capacity across a wider area so that the hardest hit counties could send patients to get medical care farther out of town. In practice, it meant that places like San Luis Obispo County, where spare ICU capacity hovered around 30 percent during the worst of the pandemic, were lumped in with much harder-hit Los Angeles some 200 miles to the south.  

It also meant that Brunch would have to close its doors right before the busy holiday season. For Johnson, who'd spent the past nine months navigating ever-shifting public health orders that had brought her business to the brink of ruin, this was the last straw. 

"I knew that I would not be able to survive," she says. "It was also three weeks before Christmas. I wasn't going to lay off the majority of my staff again. I wasn't going to lose more revenue." 

Johnson made the decision to defy Newsom's shutdown order and keep her business open. She wasn't the only one. 

Across California, the reaction to the governor's order was swift and negative. Videos of business owners pointing out the absurdities of the new restrictions went viral on social media. Sheriff's departments across the state, including in Los Angeles and Orange counties, said they wouldn't enforce the order. Trade associations and local governments readied lawsuits. Nine months into a deadly pandemic that had left hundreds of thousands of people dead nationwide, and everyone else stuck inside their homes away from family, friends, and colleagues, the risk was clearly real, as I would find out myself. But patience for another lockdown had been depleted.

Nowhere was this more evident than Paso Robles, where most of the businesses in town came to the same realization as Johnson: Another shutdown could mean their doom. 

But instead of accepting their fate, they got organized. Through Facebook groups and clandestine in-person meetings, a coalition of business owners decided to defy the state's latest order and keep their town open.  

It was an exercise in COVID-era civil disobedience. And in many ways, it worked. 

For the near two months that the regional shutdown order was in effect, Paso Robles became a bubble of quasi-normality in a state and a country still contending with reams of pandemic restrictions. The crackdown that did eventually come for Paso Robles came just days before Newsom issued a surprise retraction of his regional stay-at-home order. 

The experience of California's second (attempted) lockdown, and the town that refused to comply with it is a lesson in how the response to the pandemic has rested more on the voluntary behavior of individuals than the dictates of government officials. Paso Robles also offers a kind of alternate history of what might have happened, economically and epidemiologically, if more businesses and localities had been allowed to make their own decisions about the risks and rewards of staying open amid the pandemic. 

The emergency powers claimed by Newsom during the pandemic gave the governor a remarkably free hand to prescribe whatever reopening conditions he and public health officials felt were necessary to fight the pandemic. But that largely unchecked centralized authority soon provoked bottom-up resistance. Ultimately that resistance proved to be the regional stay-at-home order's undoing. 

Golden State of Emergency 

The stay-at-home order Newsom issued in December that provoked Paso Robles business owners into open rebellion was the governor's most controversial exercise of emergency powers, but it wasn't his first. 

That came on March 4, 2020, when Newsom declared a state of emergency by invoking California's Emergency Services Act. Passed in 1970 with unanimous support and little debate, the Emergency Services Act is intended to give the governor the ability to marshal state government resources to respond to sudden crises. 

The law gives the governor sweeping powers, including the ability to waive regulations that might interfere with disaster response, commandeer private property, and, more generally, to assume "complete authority over all agencies of the state government" including the ability to exercise "all police powers" needed to bring the act into effect. 

Those are very broad grants of authority, but they're not unlimited, as Keith Paul Bishop noted in a June article for the National Law Review, writing "the Governor's authority under these provisions is limited to carrying out the provisions of the [Emergency Services Act] and not as a general grant of authority to make laws on any subject." 

And indeed, the governor's first emergency declaration was mostly limited to giving marching orders to state agencies, enabling them to ink contracts to obtain needed supplies, and allowing them to waive regulations that might restrict hospital capacity for example. 

Then on March 19, the governor issued his first stay-at-home order. It instructed Californians to shelter in place except when going to an essential jobwhich included operating federally identified critical infrastructure as well as other tasks deemed essential by the governor like delivering food or growing cannabisor shopping for essential needs. That order went far beyond the governor's first emergency declaration. It effectively shut down the state, save for those industries and activities that the governor explicitly allowed. A year later, it's still in place. 

Newsom's order effectively forbid everything that wasn't explicitly allowed. That approach would continue throughout the pandemic, and it would give rise to an ever-changing set of restrictions and reopening conditions. 

In late April, the governor announced his "Resilience Roadmap" which created a four-stage process for gradually reopening the state's economy, beginning with low-risk businesses and hopefully culminating in the lifting of the state's stay-at-home order. 

The summer saw progress. By mid-May, individual counties were receiving clearance to allow the reopening of restaurant dining rooms. Yet by mid-July, rising case counts saw those dining rooms shuttered again statewide

Then on August 28, the governor ditched the roadmap. He replaced it with a new "Blueprint for a Safer Economy," which placed counties in one of four color-coded tiers based on the rate of new COVID-19 cases (the case rate) being reported, and the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive (the positivity rate). 

These tiers ranged from purple (the most restrictive) to yellow (the least restrictive). Unlike the previous roadmap, there was no green tier where things would be allowed to return to normal. Instead a press release from the governor's office described the blueprint as a "slow, stringent plan for living with COVID-19." 

In September, this blueprint was modified to include an "equity" requirement. Counties could only advance into a less restrictive tier if their case and positivity rates were meeting state targets both across an entire county and in designated disadvantaged communities. 

These ever-changing orders were complemented by equally mercurial industry guidance laying out what kinds of pandemic mitigation measures businesses that could open had to adopt. Non-compliant businesses risked fines, revocation of their licenses, and even criminal charges, from state regulatory bodies, city governments, and county health departments. 

The combined effect has been to centralize California's response to COVID-19 at the state level generally and in the office of the governor and the California Public Health Department (CPHD) specifically. That centralized response to the pandemic created two related problems; one constitutional, the other more practical. 

"He's effectively making law and that's the prerogative of the legislature," said Luke Wake, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, in an October interview about the constitutional problems with Newsom's orders. "This very complex, mechanized color-coded system, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, it looks very much like what we'd expect the legislature to have done—except the legislature wasn't involved at all." 

The Pacific Legal Foundation is currently suing Newsom on behalf of two business owners over the governor's blueprint, arguing it's an unconstitutional usurpation of the powers properly left to the legislature. 

The governor's exercise of so much unilateral authority has also produced a practical problem. His ever-changing orders are hard to follow for both local officials tasked with interpreting and enforcing them, and for business owners expected to comply with them. 

"It's been tough because these orders have come back and they've been very, very arbitrary," says John Peschong, a San Luis Obispo county supervisor. "The governor's orders have changed so drastically that it's going to whiplash small businesses. Small businesses will call up their chamber of commerce or they'll call me as their county supervisor or somebody in the office and try to figure out what the order is in that day." 

Kat Turner, a cafe owner in Los Angeles, says "it's impossible," to navigate an ever-changing web of state restrictions. "I want to be able to provide the best information for my guests and my staff, but we're looking at each other scratching our heads, what does this mean, I don't understand. It's so murky and it's deeply frustrating." 

This centralized approach, meanwhile, ran only one way. Localism was permitted, but only if cities and counties were imposing harsher restrictions than what was coming out of Sacramento. 

Despite the frustrations, resistance to state pandemic control measures was relatively muted for most of 2020 heading into the winter. That changed with the return of lockdowns, first at the initiative of several county governments, and then with Newsom's regional stay-at-home order. 

Closed Patios, Open Rebellion 

When the regional stay-at-home order went into effect, banning outdoor dining in the newly demarcated region of Southern California, Gessica Russo experienced a profound, if exasperated, sense of deja vu. 

"I was just like, I can't believe this is happening again [but] okay, I guess we have to do what is being told," says Russo, who owns the Italian restaurant Flour House in San Luis Obispo. 

The ever-changing business restrictions that have accompanied the pandemic in California have been hard on restaurants like Flour House. The industry's thin profit margins mean even slight reductions in capacity can turn a profitable operation into a money-losing endeavor. An inventory of perishable food makes opening and closing on a dime a costly proposition. 

The regional stay-at-home order added insult to injury by shutting down outdoor dining patios, many of which restaurateurs had sunk significant money into. Those patios were presumed to be a relatively safe bet, since even the most restrictive tier in the state's blueprint reopening system allowed for outdoor dining to continue. 

Russo personally spent a lot of time and money transforming her side alley—once just a place to park cars and dump trash—into a spot people might want to spend an evening. "We spent about, I want to say $6,000 or 7,000, repainting it, cleaning it, hanging lights, putting music out there… we had to get heaters," she says. 

With the stroke of a pen and a press release, the state rendered all that effort worthless.

The state didn't have to dwell too much on the consequences of its regional stay-at-home order. But Russo did. 

A ban on outdoor dining meant she would have to lay off her staff once again. Russo put substantial effort into providing a safe, legally compliant environment to her customers. Even still, she was being shut down. Yet big box stores like Target and Walmart down the road were operating with few restrictions. 

"I don't know, I just got angry and tired," she says. "Everything in my being said this is wrong." So, a week into the regional stay-at-home order, Russo decided to reopen.

Russo became one of hundreds of business owners who'd simply had enough. These business owners represented a new kind of resistance to the state's stay at home orders, serving notice that California was not going to lock down twice. 

Newsom issued his first stay-at-home order in March when the pandemic was new. At the time, the organized resistance came predominantly from either committed conservatives or fringe conspiracy theorists. 

The conservative Orange County community of Huntington Beach was one the first to see sizable in-person protests, with the goal of reopening public beaches that had been closed by the state. Late April and early May saw the Freedom Angels, a stridently anti-vaccine group, stage demonstrations at the closed California Capitol building in Sacramento, where people brought banners comparing Gavin Newsom to Adolf Hitler and gave impassioned speeches about the physical dangers of 5G internet service. 

December's negative reaction to lockdowns brought in people who seemingly had no larger agenda than just saving their businesses from destruction. 

The sudden reversal on outdoor dining helps explain the changing face of resistance, as does the fact that this time there was no guarantee of additional federal support for businesses or staff. (Congress did eventually pass a pandemic relief package in late December that extended unemployment benefits and provided more PPP loans to businesses.) 

The sheer arbitrariness and carelessness with which state and local officials wielded their powers to shut down whole industries also contributed to the anger. The day after Newsom issued his regional stay-at-home order, Los Angeles saloon owner Angela Marsden produced a viral video showing her establishment's tent-covered tables and chairs shut down—and a TV studio with an identical catering set up across the parking lot from her. The studio's catering spread was legal. Her restaurant was not. 

"I'm losing everything. Everything I own is being taken away from me," said a tearful Marsden in her video. "And people wonder why I'm protesting, and why I've had enough." 

Courts, meanwhile, agreed with business owners that state officials had acted in ways that were arbitrary. On December 8, in response to a lawsuit brought by the California Restaurant Association, a superior court judge in Los Angeles ruled that the Los Angeles County Health Department's ban on outdoor dining was "an abuse of the Department's emergency powers, [and] is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic." A week later, a San Diego superior court judge similarly ruled that restaurants in that county were allowed to open in response to a lawsuit brought by two strip clubs. 

Multiple law enforcement agencies also made clear that they had better things to do than harass businesses. 

"I want to stay away from businesses that are trying to comply the best they can," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to FOX11's Bill Melugin. "They bent over backwards to modify their entire operation to conform to these current health orders, and then they have the rug yanked out from under them, that's a disservice. I don't want to make their lives any more miserable."

"Compliance with public health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement," said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes in a press release in response to the regional stay-at-home order. 

Restaurant owners, in turn, started to reopen in defiance of the state's orders. The success of these efforts varied based on location and whether the business owners attracted attention from the numerous agencies and regulatory bodies tasked with enforcing public health orders. 

The Emergency Services Act makes violation of the governor's emergency orders a misdemeanor penalized by $1,000 fines and up to six months in jail. Violations can be enforced by city police departments, county sheriff's offices, and county district attorneys. 

Non-compliant businesses also run the risk of having their licenses and permits revoked by city code enforcement agents and county public health departments. And state agencies have a role to play, too. Nail salons have to contend with the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Restaurants that serve alcohol also run the risk of having their liquor license suspended by the state's Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). 

Most agencies enforcing pandemic restrictions say that their primary goal is to educate first, and only penalize the most egregious violators. At the state level at least, the numbers bear that out. The ABC reports that it has conducted 154,000 site visits related to enforcing health orders, but has issued citations or referred businesses for prosecution in 220 cases as of February 1. 

Sacramento-based Capital Public Radio reports that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has issued roughly the same number of citations, while the state's Board of Barbering and Cosmetology has revoked two licenses from just one of the 54,000 businesses it regulates. In New York, for comparison, the state has fined some 1,900 restaurants and bars for violating pandemic regulations. 

Those numbers, however, don't capture the enforcement activity that happens at the city and county level. They also don't include the numerous ways that businesses can be pressured to comply with the state's health orders that fall short of bona fide citations. 

Russo, for instance, says that her decision to reopen netted her a $1,000 fine from the city of San Luis Obispo. In January she was also told that she was no longer eligible for various recovery grants and promotional programs run by the city. Ironically, this news came the same week that she received an "Award of Excellence" from the county's Environmental Health Services agency for "exceptional effort in food safety and sanitation." 

Sometimes agencies are at war with themselves over how much educating or enforcement they want to do. 

Take the case of Jan Holguin, owner of the upscale seafood and steak restaurant Casa Bella in Ventura, California. The one-two punch of Los Angeles County's ban on outdoor dining being struck down followed by the state regional health order banning outdoor dining going into effect prompted Holguin to reopen her outdoor dining area for a one-day protest. 

She says that she reached out to Ventura County's health department beforehand and was told she'd only receive a warning. When she did reopen on December 10, she says a health department employee came by at around 3 p.m. and gave her a warning just like they said they would. "It was an amicable, good conversation," she says. 

But then at 10:30 p.m. that night a different employee from the same department showed up and temporarily suspended her license. She was able to get that suspension reversed the next day, she says, but only after repeated phone calls and speaking with the head of the county's Environmental Health Division. 

Both Russo and Holguin struggled to reopen in part because local authorities weren't willing to tolerate their protests. The two were also isolated incidents; Russo made the decision to reopen on her own, Holguin was only joined by a few other neighboring restaurants. They lacked allies that made them vulnerable to enforcement agents. The story was different in Paso Robles. 

The San Luis Obispo County Small Business Coalition 

There's not much about Paso Robles' Cider Creek Bakery & Deli that would label it as a hotbed of resistance to California's emergency pandemic orders. Yet it's from inside this nondescript storefront, nestled in the corner of a small strip mall next to a nail salon and smoke shop, that owner Brad Daughtry has been waging a not-so-quiet war against the state's ever-shifting restrictions on his business. 

For the first few months of the pandemic, Daughtry's story tracked pretty closely with that of most other business owners. He shut his doors when ordered to do so in March, limped along through April and early May on about 40 percent of his normal revenue, before finally being allowed to reopen on-site service later that month. 

By August he'd had enough. That month, Newsom introduced his reopening blueprint, which reaffirmed a ban on indoor dining imposed in mid-July. August was also the month that the Salinas wildfire filled Paso Robles' air with smoke, giving it some of the worst air quality in the country. 

"The smoke was so bad here that I said screw it, and I let people come indoors," he says. He's been open ever since. Emboldening Daughtry's decision to reopen was the experience he'd had with code enforcement officers over his masking policy. 

Twice during the pandemic, county officials sent him warning letters about his failure to require his employees to wear masks. Daughtry says that his employees do wear masks, but that he doesn't require this of his customers. 

In phone calls with enforcement officers, Daughtry asked what evidence the county had that his employees weren't wearing masks. He says he was told frankly that the county didn't have the manpower to investigate individual violations, and was instead limited to conducting drive-by inspections in response to complaints. 

"They just do a quick drive-by and that's it. I'm like, well, that's a lot of harsh accusations for very limited proof," he says. Because the county wasn't able to provide proof of his supposed violations, Daughtry wasn't too bothered by the idea that they would follow through on their threats to fine him or revoke his business license. 

That experience, and his growing cynicism about the continually changing restrictions being placed on his and other businesses, meant that when the state once again told restaurants to close indoor dining in November, Daughtry was not only ready to resist this order, he also wanted to encourage others to follow his lead. 

A few nights before the new indoor dining ban was officially imposed, Daughtry said he and a handful of other business owners started messaging each other trying to figure out what they would do when the ban came down, and what would happen if they chose not to comply. 

"We were just messaging back and forth all night, like about 10 to 15 of us, until about 4 in the morning," he says. "I finally just said, 'Look guys, clearly we have a lot to talk about and nobody really knows what to do. Let's get together and talk about this.'" 

They all agreed to meet a few days later at the Alchemist's Garden, a cocktail bar in downtown Paso Robles. During those few days, word had spread to other business owners in town. Instead of the 15 or so people Daughtry was expecting to show up, 45 people assembled on the bar's patio eager to discuss strategy for avoiding the losses that would come with a second lockdown. Daughtry got up and told the crowd that he was committed to keeping his business open. 

"I had already made the decision that I was opening and that they were literally going to have to take me to jail to shut me down," he says. "I had no more reserves, and if I close my doors again and I go back to 50 percent capacity or 50 percent sales, I'm going to lose my business." 

"Everybody basically was just in the same boat and they were just trying to figure out how to do it," he says.  

It was out of that meeting that the San Luis Obispo County Small Business Coalition was born. Through repeat gatherings and discussions on their Facebook group, the coalition started to function as a sort of mutual support society. People would share their experiences about enforcement with the group and then strategize before responding.  

"It's just a question-and-answer type thing. So, somebody will stand up and say, 'Hey, I had code enforcement come to my place' and [we'd] be like, 'Okay, well tell me what happened,'" says Daughtry, describing a typical meeting of the coalition. "So, they'll tell the group what happened with the interaction and what the end result was. So, then we start to learn a game plan on how to attack and fight back." 

Over the course of repeat meetings, the initial group of about 45 business owners grew. By the next meeting, their numbers had swelled to around 60, and by early January, over 120 people were showing up at these gatherings. 

Their organization started to score policy wins too. On December 10, the Paso Robles City Council met for a special session to discuss the regional stay-at-home order that had been issued a week before, and how the city would go about enforcing it. 

At that meeting, roughly 40 business owners—many of whom were members of the coalition—called in to express their opposition to the new order and beg the city to do whatever was in its power to not enforce the new regulations. 

Their message appeared to sink in. The city council, in guidance issued the next day and reaffirmed by a formal vote on December 15, said that it would continue with its enforcement approach that relied primarily on "empathy and education," and promised to continue to pressure the state government to lift the regional stay-at-home order. The city council also declined to revoke permits it had issued that allowed restaurants to serve customers in city-owned parklets, despite these now being illegal under the state's new order. 

At the same time, the city council made clear that while the city was largely declining to enforce the regional stay-at-home order, there was nothing they could do to keep county or state regulators at bay. 

Between the city's hands-off approach and the efforts of the growing coalition, Paso Robles stayed open while the rest of the state was shutting down.  

I visited the town one weekend in mid-January. The most remarkable thing was just how unremarkable it was. Everyone was behaving more or less normally, despite a state emergency order largely requiring them to stay in their homes. 

Newsom's order forbade California hotels from renting rooms to people not traveling on essential business. Yet the clerk at my hotel casually asked if I was in town for vacation. Businesses around town sported signs assuring potential customers they were indeed open for business, both indoors and outdoors. 

When I stopped by the Cider Creek Bakery & Deli, customers were sitting around inside, happily eating sandwiches and drinking coffee. The nail salon a few doors down, which technically had been required to shut down by the state order, was busy as well. 

On Saturday night, the city's downtown restaurants were filled with families and friends meeting up for meals, couples sharing drinks together, and other typical signs of nightlife that existed pre-2020. Absent the servers' masks and tented outdoor dining on the streets, there was scant evidence that there was a pandemic, or that the state had ordered the hospitality industry to shut down in response to it. 

Even the local dive bar in town was hopping with unmasked, mostly college-aged patrons drinking, playing pool, and entertaining each other with karaoke renditions of country songs and Afroman. Customers were required to buy a taco, supposedly to comply with state health regulations requiring drinkers to also order food, but that appeared to be the only pandemic precaution being taken. 

This was in contrast to San Luis Obispo, about a 30-minute drive south of Paso Robles. The city government there hadn't agreed to be as hands off. The result was a downtown that wasn't quite dead, but was far from thriving. 

Saturday evenings there were decidedly tamer, at least. A few retail shops remained open, but with imposing signs warning about capacity limits. The main theater downtown was closed, its marquee bearing a message urging everyone to stay healthy. Most restaurants were open for business, but only for takeout and delivery. 

A few scattered diners were eating meals out of takeout containers in parklet spaces, which the city allowed them to do on the condition that restaurants don't offer them table service or sell them alcohol. Their presence added some life to the streetscape. Still, those conditions also meant that restaurants couldn't make money selling high-margin drinks, servers were shorted on the tips they would have made from providing table service, and bussers and hostesses didn't have jobs at all. 

The city "did that to…throw us a bone," says Russo of the takeout meal arrangement. But for her it just became more evidence that the people making decisions about her business had no idea how her industry really worked. 

Pandemics and Prohibitions 

People convinced of the merits of business closures as a means of fighting the pandemic probably won't find the example of Paso Robles all that inspiring. 

And indeed, in interviewing business owners who had decided to reopen, I came across a range of attitudes and practices. Some proprietors were sincerely interested in protecting both their business from ruinous lockdowns and their customers from COVID-19. Others were far less concerned about the health implications of staying open.  

Still, the course of the pandemic in San Luis Obispo County while the stay-at-home order was in effect, and an after-the-fact analysis of the order's impact, lend credence to the idea that small business owners operating their outdoor patios wasn't a major driver of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. 

When the regional stay-at-home order went into effect, about 40 percent of the county's ICU beds were free. By early February, a week after the order was lifted, the county had about 50 percent of its ICU beds open. 

It's hard to blame business owners for chafing at restrictions being imposed by virtue of their being lumped in with a region that included Los Angeles, 200 miles to the south, where ICUs did eventually run out of room for COVID-19 patients. 

True, that chafing resulted in some businesses reopening under conditions that were not ideal for preventing the spread of coronavirus, with customers eagerly flocking to them. 

Yet for some public health experts, this was a predictable consequence of state officials constantly falling back on bans and prohibitions to fight the virus. 

"Some of the things they're telling you not to do are incredibly low-risk," said Brown University economist Emily Oster to the Los Angeles Times in early December. "When you are so strict about what people can do, they stop listening." In other words, the longer you tell people not to eat outdoors, the more likely they will be to crowd into a dive bar. 

Speaking of dive bars, a few days after my visit to Paso Robles, I came down with a case of COVID-19. 

All in all, it turned out to be a relatively mild episode. I had a fever and cough for a couple days, followed by a couple weeks of fatigue and shortness of breath. It wasn't a pleasant experience, and certainly outweighed the enjoyment I got from spending a night in a crowded bar. But it also wasn't the worst illness I've had. 

Proponents of lockdowns and business closures could reasonably take this as evidence that Paso Robles-style reopening is a bad idea. 

Without proactive enforcement of public health orders, dangerous, virus-spreading environments operated in the town unmolested. Without the theories of some harm reductionists, safer outdoor drinking and dining environments didn't absorb everyone looking to spend a night out. When given the option, plenty of people were still happy to congregate in a place where the chances of transmission were high. 

The lax attitude of Paso Robles' officials and residents plausibly explains why the town has had almost twice the number of COVID-19 cases per capita as neighboring San Luis Obispo.*  

Nevertheless, the trajectory of the pandemic in both cities rose and fell in tandem. The latter's lockdown probably moderately reduced the per capita number of cases the city saw. 

San Luis Obispo County's death rate—77 deaths per 100,000—is also unremarkable, and certainly much better than the state's overall death rate of 125 deaths per 100,000 people.    

To the extent that the town's excess cases when compared to its neighbors looked like mine—a mild infection of a younger, healthier person—it doesn't seem like an unreasonable trade-off to prevent the collapse of the city's hospitality industry. Indeed, everything we've learned about the regional stay-at-home order has confirmed that it was an incredibly costly policy that yielded little in the way of public health benefits, at least compared to other means of combating the pandemic. 

A week after Newsom lifted his regional stay-at-home order—a decision largely attributed by both supporters and detractors to mounting political pressure—California public health officials proudly declared that an estimated 25,000 severe cases of COVID-19 were prevented by the policy over the near two months it was in effect. 

That's an impressive number that pales in comparison to the 155,000 cases of COVID-19 the state was preventing each day through its vaccination campaign. Those vaccinations, mind you, did not require business owners to submit to having their enterprises ruined. 

Ultimately, Paso Robles' experience with reopening in defiance of the state proved to be a mixed success. In the face of large-scale resistance, city and county authorities proved unwilling or unable to bring the hammer down on the town. State regulators were not so easily cowed. 

On one day in late January, ABC agents called up noncompliant businesses in downtown Paso Robles and let them know in no uncertain terms that if they continued to operate in violation of the state's regional stay-at-home order, they would have their liquor licenses suspended and be hit with massive fines. 

That proved to be enough to quash the town's stab at mass civil disobedience. Save for one or two holdouts, the threatened businesses bowed to the state's threats and closed up shop. 

But then on the following Monday, Newsom announced, to the surprise of almost everyone, that he was lifting his regional stay-at-home order, and that the state would return to operating under the color-tiered reopening blueprint. Businesses in San Luis Obispo County would be allowed to open up for outdoor dining again. 

It was a big victory that came on the heels of a big defeat. When push came to shove, Paso Robles on its own wasn't able to resist the state's authority. But the resistance sparked by Newsom's regional stay-at-home order ultimately proved to be its undoing. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom has claimed sweeping emergency powers over the state's economy, businesses, and individual citizens. Those emergency powers, with a few notable exceptions, have gone unchecked by courts and legislators. 

That autocratic power liberated the governor from having to consult with or obtain consent from the parties that would ultimately be required to enforce or comply with his dictates. That had the benefit of allowing Newsom to impose exceedingly complex pandemic regulations backed by the "science" and the "data." 

With each new scheme of restrictions cooked up by Newsom and state public health officials, there was less and less buy-in from the people that would be expected to comply with it. Arbitrary power could only be pushed so far before it became impotent. 

Update: San Luis Obispo County reports COVID cases by ZIP code, not municipality, meaning that Paso Robles' case numbers include all cases reported in the 94336 ZIP Code. A county official told Reason that San Luis Obispo City's case numbers include all cases reported in the 93401 and 93405 ZIP Codes.

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  1. Science!

    1. If you want more science (a larger sample with direct comparisons to a control- Norway, Finland and Denmark) you can look at Sweden. The had by far the highest per capita death rate while their economy fared almost 2% better than their locked-down neighbors. It really depends on what you consider successful. If it’s only individualistic and the “other” doesn’t matter, it’s by all measures a success. If you look at it in terms of a society it’s not as good as its peers. I don’t think you can look at it in a vacuum unless you don’t care about (or have no) elderly family members or care about the long-term benefits of a cohesive society that get through together while making personal sacrifice. It really depends on a personal viewpoint and whether you want to take part in a society and exactly what that society is. The pandemic was unlike just about anything else in its ability to violate all seemingly uncrossable societal lines. You can gate a community but you cannot gate a virus. With the vaccine in widespread use it will be debated among social scientists for some time.

      1. But, no matter how you look at it, each of us would be free to go out amongst society or, avoid doing so. We each should have a choice.

        If I care about my family members, I can elect to just stay home. Which is pretty much what I, and most of them, did through this whole pandemic.

        I don’t need you to tell me what I can and cant’ do with the “facts” as they are known.

        Did you ever see the list of proclamations that Fauci made throughout this fiasco which he later said the opposite? But he never once said, I was wrong.

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        2. Completely agree. There should have been a little more ‘we dont’ know what we don’t know’ and have should fared on the side of cautious but not militant. And yes, Fauci moved the goal posts all year long. Well-intentioned he may be, I pay no attention to him now.

      2. “…I don’t think you can look at it in a vacuum unless you don’t care about (or have no) elderly family members or care about the long-term benefits of a cohesive society that get through together while making personal sacrifice…”

        I don’t think you understand the costs of the lockdown, including the ‘social’ costs like losing jobs.

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      3. Put another way, I think YOU are ‘looking at it in a vacuum. This long ago stopped being a purely medical issue; you need to read the
        Great Barrington Declaration.

      4. Sweden has relatively low per capita death rate. What you wrote was counter factual. For some reason those neighboring countries had less than normal mortality.

        1. Afactual, not counterfactual.

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        2. Right you are – Sweden did great. But even if Sweden did poorly, so what? You can’t do science by comparing two #’s of many & attributing the difference to one variable for REASONS. This is all pseudo-science cult stuff.

          Might as well argue that color TVs spread in 1960s at same time deaths from childhood infectious diseases declined, so color TV stops deaths from childhood infectious diseases. The facts don’t even matter – the point is wrong even if the “facts” were true.

          It’s illogical to argue from Sweden, regardless of facts from Sweden. We have data from world & it shows no relationship between masks/lockdowns and COVID deaths because those “remedies” don’t work. Period.

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      5. But why compare Sweden to Norway, Finland, and Denmark? Why not compare it to the EU average? Nearly all the anti-lockdown countries look bad compared to Australia. Nearly all the lockdown countries look bad compared to South Korea. Without knowing how to normalize, everything is just cherry picking.

        1. You know who has really great COVID #’s? Nigeria. They’ve suffered about 10 per 1MM in deaths; by comparison, Italy’s like 1600 per 1MM. Do you think that lockdown/masks account for this discrepancy?

          If you were doing science rather than advocacy you’d wonder if something other than masks/lockdowns explain any differences. You’d realized that demographics were different (Sweden had more elderly who had not been killed by prior flu seasons).

          Also you’d realize some differences are just noise.

          And you’d realize that some differences are chance. That is, we don’t see masks/lockdowns working consistently. Sometimes, they seem to work; sometimes, they don’t; sometimes, they seem counter-productive. That is, the relationship is WEAK or non-existent.

          It’s fraudulent & fake to say Sweden did worse & that proves masks/lockdowns work; you can’t do science like that.

          Stop pushing your lies!

      6. LOL! How does the Kool-Aid taste? The masks/lockdowns did ABSOLUTELY nothing. When you do real science (comparing ALL the cases to all the other cases), you see the distribution of deaths is RANDOM. Some places w masks/lockdowns did better than some places w/o AND vice versa – there’s just no consistent pattern. It’s futile (and unscientific) to cherry-pick #’s because I could do the same thing to prove masks/lockdowns CAUSED MORE deaths. You need to look at the WHOLE picture – none of these efforts did anything but kill people & destroy the economy.

        Stop promoting your pseudo-scientific quackery! Masks/lockdowns are religious activities, not public health.

      7. I want to make something perfectly clear: this is not a factual dispute or something on which reasonable minds can disagree. If we believe in the scientific method, we must conclude that masks/lockdowns do NOT work. We can’t argue about it because the data shows no correlation. Correlation is NOT causation, but it’s a necessary (if not sufficient) condition for causation. If you don’t agree, you don’t believe in science.

        Things that can’t be observed (like the benefits of masks/lockdowns) cannot be considered “science.” Since the benefits of masks/lockdowns cannot be observed, any belief in such benefits is NOT scientific.

        Please, please stop spewing the nonsense drivel of the ChiComms and their friends, allies and fellow COVID profiteers! Masks/lockdowns were a dumb idea, and science proves they didn’t work. Stick to the science! There’s no reliable correlation between these policies & any reduction in COVID deaths – none. You can’t avoid that result by cherry-picking a few examples.

    2. “Newsom issued his first stay-at-home order in March when the pandemic was new. At the time, the organized resistance came predominantly from either committed conservatives or fringe conspiracy theorists. ”

      Bull krap. SLO county is rife with left-wing demonrats, BLM, and Antifa types.

  2. Wannbe dictators like Newsom and Cuomo are getting some bad press. Haha not really just in alternate sites like this, and their dem supporters are circling the wagons to protect their autocratic tendencies. Yeah they might eventually be removed from office outside normal elections but would you put money on it?

    1. Cuomo is getting #metoo’ed and the powers that be allowed it to get traction (unlike with Biden). Gonna be hard for the Dems to let him off the hook if they want to keep beating the Republicans with that stick. Newsom is going to go through an election, but I would be shocked if he gets kicked.

      Regardless, any presidential ambitions they had are now toast. They are the face of a lockdown policy that is increasingly unpopular nationally. I guess we can thank a fawning media for that. Without them, Newsom and Cuomo’s political futures wouldn’t require grannies to suddenly start dieing in Florida (well, Cuomo was probably toast regardless, the whole nursing home thing is looking pretty bad, and Dems aren’t known for being too strong on judging people based on what people knew at the time).

  3. “Speaking of dive bars, a few days after my visit to Paso Robles, I came down with a case of COVID-19. All in all, it turned out to be a relatively mild episode. I had a fever and cough for a couple days, followed by a couple weeks of fatigue and shortness of breath. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and certainly outweighed the enjoyment I got from spending a night in a crowded bar. But it also wasn’t the worst illness I’ve had.”

    Reading this, one would almost get the impression that there is like a 99%+ chance that the overwhelming majority of people getting COVID will be perfectly fine, which makes the pants shitting and moral mob crackdowns look particularly fucking stupid in retrospect.

    Lesson learned. Being a giant bitch never helped anyone get anywhere in life.

    1. It should also free up a vaccine dose for someone else who is not now immune to COVID, but thanks to Fauci and the CDC, it won’t. I hope the reporter has the decency to decline a COVID vaccination until every adult who has not had COVID has had the opportunity to get one.

      1. Why just adults? Are you practicing age discrimination?

        1. Well, I am. Covid isn’t very dangerous to kids, and as the side effect profile of the vaccine is already known to get worse the younger you are, I’m not going to advocate sticking the vaccine into a bunch of 12 year olds before it is fully studied in that population. I mean, the benefit *probably* exceeds the risk, but anyone who thinks they know before the studies actually come out is fooling themselves.

      2. I haev not had the WuFlu, but someone else can have “my” shot. I have on intentioin of taking this thing. Never ever got a flu shot.. never ever got the flu. Never ever got the WuFlu, never ever gonna git the WuFlu shot. So far MY METHOD of refusing the vaccines has worked perfectly. SO why mess what what works?

    2. It’s not a 99% chance. Even without death one does risk permanent health problems. Still, people die. Half a million people in this country of died of it or complications from it. Nothing to sneeze at.

      1. “Half a million people in this country of died of it or complications from it.”

        If you want to make a cogent argument about causation, make the argument.

        There are ample reasons to doubt the “deaths from COVID” narrative, one of them being this:!

        1. No there aren’t. Dr. Birx is a liar.

          1. And we’re to believe your claim why?

        2. 500k matches total all cause mortality in 2020. Keep denying!

        3. 500k matches total all cause excess mortality in 2020. Keep denying!

          1. How many of those excess deaths are due to the lockdown? Surgeries and medical checkups were delayed; if that didn’t increase death rates, the medical profession has been lying to us for over a century. People endured stress both from lost income and from staying home for months, which we know aggravates heart disease and many other medical conditions – which were often going untreated. Both suicide and murder rates increased.

            If the number of COVID deaths actually matched the excess deaths, COVID deaths must have been over-counted.

      2. What’s your point? If you’re worried about it, stay home.

        1. Like many rape victims in denial, suffering from introspection and from the realization that they were completely demeaned as a human being, the point is to rationalize the rape and, by doing so, to transform it into something psychological palatable, even positive.

          Brandybuck is trying to convince himself that he deserved to be raped — both for his own good and the good of others. “Maybe it was not a rape at all? I mean, it was not so bad. It could have been worse. So, why am I complaining? Why is anyone complaining?”

          Give him time. Maybe when we all get raped again — and we will — he will finally get the picture.

          1. nailed him

        2. No don’t do that.

          That would only increase your risk of drowning in your own bathtub.

          Which happens to about one person in this country every day.

          1. That’s it!

            Bathtubs are banned and only showers are allowed.

            See how easy that is to fix?

            If it saves one life……………………. ;-(

            1. It would be funny if there were not idiots here who sound exactly like that, but just don’t recognize themselves.

            2. Deaths happen in showers too — some even from drowning! So bed baths only, I’m afraid.

            3. Good analogy actually, as slips and falls in showers are more common and deadlier than drowning in the bath.

              1. Best just to skip hygiene altogether and live like a dirty hippie?

        3. “What’s your point? If you’re worried about it, stay home.”

          He wants the ability to tell YOU to stay at home.

      3. A half a million people have had their deaths labeled as Covid deaths.

        1. Over 1/4 of which were residents of nursing homes.

          So, stay out of a nursing home.

          1. 78% were obese so lose weight.

        2. 100% of those people did die of COVID.

          1. Claim without evidence.

          2. Maybe your life is so simple.
            Death(s) of large numbers of people whose cases are all different, however, is not so simple.
            I could invite you to think of the other factors, but they’re too numerous to list here, and perhaps too subtle for your simplifying proclivities.

      4. Your narrative failed. You now have to live the rest of your life desperately hiding behind increasingly frantic assertions of vague health issues because in your heart you know you were wrong and a coward.

        And we can see it in your posts.

    3. As my father told me “if you want points for laying down and crying go play soccer.”

    4. Back in 2013, I caught a really nasty flu bug that kicked the shit out of me for a solid month. I avoided the emergency room, but the entire episode was filled with days of rollercoaster fevers alternating with severe chills, massive nausea, and ear infections. I probably coughed up enough mucus that month to fill a small swimming pool. The worst part of it was that it was recurring–I’d appear to recover for a couple of days, and then the symptoms would roar right back. I even got what today’s Munchausen cases would term “long” flu, dealing with fatigue episodes that lasted for several months after I recovered.

      Trying to shut down society for a year was these technocrats’ biggest mistake. It didn’t work 100 years ago, and it didn’t work today.

      1. It wasn’t a mistake, it was the plan.

        1. COVID-19 was the excuse because they knew they wouldn’t be able to get enough people on board with a “climate change shutdown.” Now they have a roadmap. This will happen again, probably in the next five to ten years.

          1. From your lips to God’s ears.

            Next up, Harris takes the oath and begins work on getting the Green New Deal passed with AOC appointed the new, environmental Czar.

      2. I think most people have experienced something along these lines. I tested positive for COVID last year. For me, it felt like a halfway point between a worse than average cold and the flu. It lingered a bit, but seemed to clear up completely about a month out — not all that different from prior respiratory illnesses. The “brunt” of it lasted about a week and, had I been given the choice, I would have taken that week off from work. I can only surmise that the busybodies in government thought I would run around town licking strangers and coughing in people’s faces.

        The fear mongering and data manipulation turned a relatively harmless bug into an apocalyptic event and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. I, for one, will never forgive these motherfuckers for what they did, and continue to do.

        1. As early as last summer, we had enough data to understand that most of the deaths in this country related to COVID can be highly correlated with the increasing obesity epidemic here, along with severe Vitamin D deficiencies. We knew that people going on ventilators had at least a 70% chance of dying anyway. We also have enough evidence now to show that restoring that Vitamin D balance, providing treatments like steroid inhalers and Ivermectin, and keeping people off of ventilators, would have likely saved a lot of lives.

          I highly suspect the reason third-world nations haven’t been hammered nearly as bad as us, despite not being as sanitary or with lower-quality healthcare industries, can be traced to the fact that they aren’t filled with a bunch of malnourished lardasses.

          1. The ventalotors were used to protect hospital staff not help the patients

          2. John Ioannidis was right on the money, very early on. He called out the stupid models and calmly explained that the data proved the virus was not that deadly, not all that contagious, and that lockdowns and social distancing and masks weren’t going to do dick. For his efforts, they tried to crucify him every which way. He got in the way of their tear filled circle jerks.

          3. Oh, they have plenty of malnourished people. Very few lardasses though, I agree.

      3. Trying to shut down society for a year was these technocrats’ biggest mistake. It didn’t work 100 years ago, and it didn’t work today.

        It wasn’t done 100 years ago, so of course something that didn’t actually happen also “didn’t work.”

        And claiming that COVID lockdowns were “shutting down society” is such a ludicrous exaggeration that it’s not even worth addressing.

        1. It wasn’t done 100 years ago

          Yeah, it was, dumbass. Try reading a book that isn’t about the adventures of teenage wizards.

          I’m sorry your magical mask talismans and holy restriction psalms failed to stop over 500,000 people from dying, but it happened anyway.

        2. “And claiming that COVID lockdowns were “shutting down society” is such a ludicrous exaggeration that it’s not even worth addressing.”

          Which is such a ridiculous claim it’s not even worth addressing.

    5. Also, he shouldn’t be comparing his covid symptoms against “a night in a bar” to determine whether it was worth it. He should be comparing those symptoms against the entire past year of inconvenience due to lock downs, curfews, mandates, etc.

      Is it worth getting sick for a single night at a bar? No.

      Is it worth getting sick in order to live a normal life for 12+ months? Of course!

      1. Excellent.

      2. I’m going with “maybe” for the first question, depending on the sort of night it was.

    6. You’re innumerate, so don’t try to work with percentages.

      Over 500k are dead, if you can get someone to explain that to you in terms of how many apples you have.

      Hospital systems were overwhelmed in some backwater shit holes, like the ones Trump’s cult is strongest in, to the point that emergency patients had to be sent out of state. And that was with the smarter half of society taking easy, costless precautions.

      1. 100% of the people that died, are now dead! If we had done nothing, 100% of all people would have died.

        Keep panicking, faggot.

      2. Sweden’s excess death’s for 2020 stand at 1.5% above the 5 year running average. The US is about 12.9%. Now compare the aggregate lock down severity between the two countries.

        Anybody that supported lock downs should be publicly humiliated in a set of stocks for at least a weekend.

        1. How dare you!

        2. 500k is such a big scary number though!

          1. 100,000 on SleepyJoe’s watch in one single month.

        3. No, that’s what should be done to anybody who opposed lockdowns.

          1. Fuck off, faggot.

          2. “No, that’s what should be done to anybody who opposed lockdowns.”

            Fuck off and die, slaver.

          3. There is no data any where that justifies them in terms of hospitalization and/or death rates. ZERO.

            The data does show lock downs to be a net harm that will continue for a few years.

      3. And you actually cited that stupid USA Today article claiming that North and South Dakota were leading the nation in COVID cases last fall because they didn’t force everyone in the state to wear a mask–despite every state across the country spiking *after* mask mandates were implemented in several of them already–so you’re hardly one to be criticizing anybody for poor methodology.

        Hospital systems were overwhelmed in some backwater shit holes

        And some were completely fucking empty. You know what the “fallacy of the lonely fact” is?

      4. The backwater trump supporting shit holes of NY NJ LA and SF?

        1. Don’t forget the great state of Michigan!

    7. Being a giant bitch never helped anyone get anywhere in life.

      Allison Hayes disagrees.

    8. Using reason there is no way to gauge whether you would have indeed had a 99% chance, or wether it had been better or worse or which side of the line you would fall on. Just count yourself lucky that the whole country hadn’t behaved the same way as this town or you might well have bankrupted yourself in the ICU.

    9. The case fatality rate is about 3%, so it’s absolutely not a “99%+ chance” of being “perfectly fine.” And simply not dying doesn’t mean you’re “perfectly fine.” You can survive and still be permanently debilitated.

      1. United States cases
        Updated Mar 11 at 4:39 PM local
        +2,639 covid fatality rate

        Looks to be closer to 1.5%, you lying piece of lefty shit.
        Stuff your PANIC flag up your ass, stick first, and sit on it.

      2. You need to keep hiding under your bed and leave the rest of us in peace, Karen.

    10. Where would we be without our Karens?

  4. Article is too short. Please elaborate further.

    1. No shit.

      For the love of bandwidth….

    2. Paid by the word.

  5. Speaking of dive bars, a few days after my visit to Paso Robles, I came down with a case of COVID-19.


    1. Please define “a few days”. It sounds like you already had it from a prior exposure, and it just manifested after the 14 day incubation, not that you actually caught it in Paso Robles.

      1. Maybe he got it at the airport

      2. It’s anywhere from 3-4 days to 2 weeks incubation. And it wasn’t just a night in a bar, how many people did he interview? Sounds like he went out of his way to talk to as many people as possible, rather than going to a bar for a quiet night of getting hammered alone in the corner like normal people like us.

        1. I realize the “normal people like us” is intended as a joke, but it’s funny to see so many people extrapolate so much from personal experience. I thought people who read reason were those who know that an anecdote does not equal data, but I’ve come to realize that its largely people who got theirs and now wish to shut the gate.

          1. No it’s NOT!

            We simply want to shut the gate to those who would impose their own views on all of us, in a one size fits all format.

            Whether we’ve “gotten ours” or not.

          2. “…I’ve come to realize that its largely people who got theirs and now wish to shut the gate”

            New piece of lefty shit here.

    2. HIPAA doesn’t apply if the person gives consent.

  6. …they would have their liquor licenses suspended and be hit with massive fines.

    The true purpose of liquor licensing.

    1. In the mid sized city near where I live, they use it to shut down minority nightclubs. Though in defense of the local officials, those places tend to be a bit on the “stabby” side.

      1. I prefer the “shooty” bars. More exciting.

      2. Stabbers gonna stab, somewhere, somehow.
        And drunks gonna drink.

    2. Power to the State! Power to the ABC!

  7. I had a fever and cough for a couple days, followed by a couple weeks of fatigue and shortness of breath. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and certainly outweighed the enjoyment I got from spending a night in a crowded bar. But it also wasn’t the worst illness I’ve had.

    Thank goodness millions of people lots their jobs… and kids lost months of valuable schooling and socializing… and tens of thousands of small businesses went belly up… and we printed trillions in new cash… and we ceded precious freedom to petty tyrants! If it saves just one person from a mildly inconvenient couple of weeks, it’s all worth it… right?

    1. Can he even be sure he got it in that bar? Maybe he got it at one of the other businesses he went to, from a door handle or something.

      1. Nobody can trace where or how they were infected, with the exception of any event attended or organized by conservatives. When two or more conservatives gather anywhere, the virus bursts into existence from nothingness and infects them. The wickedness of conservatives literally creates viral particles.

        1. If only the CDC had done genetic sequencing on positive samples, they could actually figure out who caught the virus from whom and therefore be able to write their guidance based on actual data about risk, instead of what happened to a bunch of lab hamsters.

    2. What was it Patrick Henry said? “Take my liberty so I don’t get a mildly unpleasant flu that inconveniences me for a couple weeks!” Something like that….

      1. We don’t make men like him anymore.

        1. Yes, we don’t make vicious slavers anymore.

          1. Now they’re called “progressives.”

          2. “Yes, we don’t make vicious slavers anymore.”

            Except for lefty shits like you.
            Fuck off and die, slaver.

          3. Karen say what?

    3. Sure thing clown, because death is just “mildly inconvenient.” And so is permanent scarring of the lungs and heart for those who don’t die.

      1. “Sure thing clown, because death is just “mildly inconvenient.” And so is permanent scarring of the lungs and heart for those who don’t die.”

        Pretty panicked I see, and willing to tell everyone else what to do.
        Crawl under a rock and stay there until you feel safe again, which we can all hope is never.

      2. Calm down, Karen. You are becoming hysterical.

      3. Any respiratory virus can cause “permanent scarring of the lungs…” In 2019, a 30-year old man received a double lung transplant after Influenza-A fucked him up so badly, it’s a miracle he didn’t die.
        Viral and bacterial infections cause inflammation, and in some cases, that inflammation leads to scarring. Some cold and flu infections kill children because the viruses cause myocarditis, which inflames the muscles around the heart and weakens it. This all happens in one way, shape, or form all over the world, every year. People have become terrified. They are irrational.

    4. ‘Last month, announcing a statewide shutdown in response to coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”’

      The “if it saves one life” fallacy.

      Interestingly enough, I’ve never heard it used when we send troops off to fight wars in foreign lands. Were the killing is daily and real.

  8. “…Johnson made the decision to defy Newsom’s shutdown order and keep her business open. She wasn’t the only one…”

    Standing O!

    1. In the meantime, Newsom was busy getting ready to entertain lobbyists at the famous French Laundry restaurant in Napa.

      How gaunt!

      I watch a lot of old BBC series and, the old English Aristocracy have nothing on the political class aristocracy we’ve evolved here in the U.S.

  9. I had indoor dining with my mother last week. At a real restaurant. Indoors. With waitresses and everything. Against the law. Fuck the law. Everything was distanced, waitresses had masks, etc. But technically against the law because the county was still “purple” until the following Tuesday.

    And that restaurant was not the only one. Even in the heart of Newsomland, I see some business following orders, and others flipping the governor the bird and being open with indoor dining.

    Because there’s a difference between people who have to make their businesses work to provide for themselves and their employees, and those karens who stay at home on their husbands’ paychecks and whine about people not worshiping the governor.

    1. Fuck off, karen.

    2. And that restaurant was not the only one. Even in the heart of Newsomland, I see some business following orders, and others flipping the governor the bird and being open with indoor dining.

      That asshole patronizing a restaurant with a bunch of his political power-clique buddies was likely the last straw for some of these people.

      1. Yup. I have a leftist buddy. Hasn’t had a job in a decades, so he’s losing touch with the real world. Very woke, very progressive, all that stuff. He bleached down his apartment after a plumber came to fix a leak. That sort of guy.

        And he lost his shit over that incident. I literally thought he was going to shit his pants. He never says “fuck”, but he used it ten times in one sentence. I half expected him to drop over dead with an aneurysm.

        Then again, the SF Left in his home town consider Newsom to be a reactionary. I kid you not. He’s far too mainstream for them.

        1. But you’re down with demanding people wear mask, right?

        2. I read a hilarious Daily Fail article yesterday on Melissa McCarthy. This bitch was blaming people who don’t share her political beliefs as being mentally ill, and then went on to talk about how she had set up her garage like a fucking CBRN sanitation pod when the pandemic kicked off.

    3. The point of those measures was supposed to be to “flatten the curve” as to not overwhelm hospital capacity. That phase has passed. With the amount of vaccinations and previously infected, there is no way hospitals are going to be unable to deal with the remaining victims, this season at least. I say go out and have a meal and some drinks, provided you aren’t living with or in close contact with someone who would die from Covid.

      So I still take precautions in public, both as a courtesy to my fellow citizens, and to prevent picking up the bug and bringing it back to my family, one of whom is undergoing chemo and would not suffer the illness well.

      1. “That phase has passed.”

        Have cleared the Dark Winter yet?

        1. 4th wave!

      2. Lock down severity doesn’t correlate with death rates, so it can’t correlate with hospitalizations. Nice try dumbass.

      3. “The point of those measures was supposed to be to “flatten the curve” as to not overwhelm hospital capacity…”

        There is zero evidence of that effect, but keep the faith there, believer.

    4. No you didn’t liar.

    5. You mean their government employee husband’s paychecks.

    6. Come to Texas, we’ve had restaurants open since last May. No problems.

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  11. “Half a million people in this country of died of it or complications from it.”

    If you want to make a cogent argument about causation, make the argument.

    There are ample reasons to doubt the “deaths from COVID” narrative, one of them being this:!

    1. Half a million people died with it. Important difference.

      If you’re in the hospital fighting stage 4 cancer, then you get COVID and die, you probably didn’t die of COVID or complications from COVID. You died of complications from stage 4 cancer.

      1. I agree that it is a very important distinction — the same way that many elderly men die every year with prostate cancer, rather than from it. If they tallied deaths from prostate cancer the same way they tallied COVID deaths, you would get the impression that men die from nothing else.

        1. That’s correct. If a man lives long enough, he will almost certainly have some form of prostate cancer. But it won’t necessarily be what kills him.

      2. He fell down an elevator shaft onto some covid

        1. Hey, the fall didn’t kill him. It was the sudden stop at the bottom.

      3. The motorcycle death, General. Don’t forget the motorcycle death.

        1. That’s a fictional tale.

          1. You’re awfully good at making claims. Backing them up-? Not so much.
            Further, it’s obvious that you are a cowardly piece of lefty shit, more than willing to have everyone else do what you think is required for your safety.
            Fuck off and die, slaver.

          2. Did you fart again, Karen?

    2. Birx is a liar.

      1. Given all the bullshit you’ve shoveled, it’s a pretty good bet she’s far more honest than you.

    3. Was George Floyd’s death counted as a COVID death? The coroner’s report included he had COVID as well as a lethal level of Fentanyl in his blood and seriously damaged heart.

  12. This is exactly the sort of article I would have enjoyed reading more during the past year.

    Anecdotal to be sure but enough knowledge gained to be able to kind of separate impact of lockdown (biggest impact on workforce-age population) from impact of virus (biggest impact on elderly).

    The combined effect has been to centralize California’s response to COVID-19 at the state level generally and in the office of the governor and the California Public Health Department (CPHD) specifically. That centralized response to the pandemic created two related problems; one constitutional, the other more practical.

    Focusing purely on the practical. Seems like it could have been solved better even at that state level via the ‘mobilizing as militia’ approach rather than ‘mobilizing the CPHD’ approach. Less authority exercisable by a Gov. More credibility if the implementation is neighbors. And maybe more accountability for CPHD.

    1. Ah, Stasi style!

      1. Whatever.

        You just trying to avoid the Godwin rule by picking a different reductio ad …? How boring

        1. You want “militia” enforcement of lockdowns, which means people policing their neighbors to impose conformity.
          It’s not reduction to absurdity, it’s absurdity you just proposed.

          1. Neighbors, coworkers, family members, etc. have always “policed” each other. It’s called responsibility and accountability. And it is far better than the alternative: government force. Two things that Trump cultist love to reeeeeeeeee about, but used to be cornerstones of conservatism.

            What ever happened to “family values” and “responsible citizens”?

            Gone. Replaced with a non-platform and a pathetic personality cult.

            1. “Neighbors, coworkers, family members, etc. have always “policed” each other.”

              In the Soviet Union ….

            2. Neighbors, coworkers, family members, etc. have always “policed” each other. It’s called responsibility and accountability. And it is far better than the alternative: government force.

              Motherfucker, have you actually been paying attention for the last year, or has parroting mainstream media bullshit rotted your situational awareness? Government force was implemented, primarily in blue states, nearly from the very beginning. Nothing in the case loads and death tolls of various states indicate that any of this shit actually worked, assuming the numbers are legitimate and not cooked to get more money from the CARES Act to make up for lost business elsewhere.

              Lockdowns didn’t work. Mask mandates didn’t work. Gathering restrictions didn’t work. Maybe the fact that most of the cases have turned up in nursing homes and prisons has something to do with that. Or that the average death has been equivalent to your life expectancy and had at least 2.5 co-morbidities related to obesity.

              The data is clear that there was no reason to lock down and restrict healthy people from carrying out their normal lives. But that was the prescription by that useless little gremlin Fauci, and it failed to work anyway.

              1. But it was an excellent reason to spy on and rat out your neighbors.

              2. The data has been clear since about July of 2020 that NPI’s don’t move the needle. We also know that WHO was against lock downs in Oct of 2019.

                Lock down supporters need to be doxxed and publicly shamed…maybe even a light caning.

                1. Just make them stand in an empty outdoor swimming pool without a mask on and watch them drown in their own shit. It should take all of five minutes.

              3. AND, I’ve not seen any recent measures of the unintended illnesses and even deaths brought on by the lock downs. There was a correlation.

                Human deaths I mean. I can see the dead small businesses all over my town already. It’s hard to believe that there will be any meaningful recovery from this.

                In the meantime, San Francisco makes the news daily as the place with the most net exits in the U.S.

            3. Yeah I remember all those William F. Buckley Jr. speeches about making sure your neighbor brushes their teeth and if they don’t surround their house with pitch forks and torches until they do.

              1. I miss ole Buckley.

                I had no appreciation for him when I was young.

                But, I sure do now.

            4. What happened to people who were capable of thought?

              “Replaced with a non-platform and a pathetic personality cult.”

              Replaced wit a herd of TDS-addled lefty shits, blaming their idiocy on Trump.

            5. Not that I disagree but……..

              Based on a lovefest for Biden echo chamber on Twitter I recently saw, the pathetic personality cult phenomenon still exists. It’s just focused on a new, non-personality droll.

              I know I’ve repeated here in the Reason comments, something I said long ago. After the Clinton sax playing episode I believe. Presidents are no longer elected as pols by interested citizen voters. They are selected by celebrity status. No different than the Kardashians making money for what?

              Cultist behavior is rampant in all aspects of our lives these days. Not just in entertainment or pro sports.

              1. It could be argued that started with Reagan, but to be fair he did already have a couple of decades in politics by the time he won the Presidency. Kennedy might have been the first “tv president,” but Reagan truly understood how to use the medium to get his message out. And the neocons in particular rode Reagan’s image into control of the party for nearly 20 years after he left office.

                Clinton was really the “MTV President” more than anything else. His election came about right when the channel was pimping “Rock the Vote” and whining about Republicans on a regular basis.

            6. Is everything about trump to you? 100 or so comments in, and you’re the only one to mention the dude. Twice.

              Haha. Get a life.

        2. “You just trying to avoid the Godwin rule by picking a different reductio ad …? How boring”

          No, you cowardly piece of lefty shit, he just called you on your bullshit.

    2. D’accord. One of the best columns I’ve read here in a long time.

    3. Personally I’d rather hear about Trump’s latest mean tweet. But he can’t tweet anymore, so we’re stuck with this drivel.

  13. “a decision largely attributed by both supporters and decorators to mounting political pressure”

    There are no detractors in California. Or edtors.

    1. Or edit buttons.

  14. “I had a fever and cough for a couple days, followed by a couple weeks of fatigue and shortness of breath. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and certainly outweighed the enjoyment I got from spending a night in a crowded bar.”

    It should be noted that those of us who weren’t under lockdown orders also weren’t required to spend the night in a crowded bar.

    I’m not required to wear a helmet when I’m riding my motorcycle in Utah, but when I’m riding in Utah, I wear one anyway. No, that doesn’t mean there needs to be a helmet law in Utah or that I support such a law. It means that there doesn’t need to be a law to tell me not to spend the night in a crowded bar during a pandemic in order for me to choose not to spend the night in a crowded bar during a pandemic.

    1. Convincing people that other people will readily and casually disregard what is in their own self-interest absent the threat of force is a government specialty.

      “Well, you may be a responsible person, but those other assholes over there sure aren’t. You know what I mean? The assholes have to go and ruin things for everyone, right? Now, get back in the fucking house before we break your legs — please.”

      1. A media specialty even moreso.

    2. Your analogy would be more apt if people who chose to eschew helmets and covid precautions were denied the privilege of taking limited hospital capacity from people who do take those precautions.

      1. You just love the idea of punishing people that disagree with you, don’t you?


      2. Are you fucking retarded? THEY DO YOU MORON.

      3. “Your analogy would be more apt if people who chose to eschew helmets and covid precautions were denied the privilege of taking limited hospital capacity from people who do take those precautions.”

        “limited hospital capacity” is this TDS-addled lefty shit’s replacement for “think of the children”.

      4. What happened to personal responsibility? I thought that was ok; or was that just 2 minutes ago.

        You know what takes away hospital capacity and resources the most, admitting people who can’t pay the bill.

      5. But the people who take those precautions don’t need the hospital bed, do they?

      6. So you would take away health care from anyone who takes calculated risks? Would you deny a hospital bed to an auto accident victim who wasn’t at fault? Driving is risky.

      7. Why. Because you’re obsessed with being able to say, “I told you so”?

        Besides, I wasn’t aware that anyone was “taking” anyone else’s guaranteed hospital capacity.

        How would you apply this in a real disaster? If the big one finally hits California and the casualties are in the hundreds of thousands, will you be saying that they deserved it?

        1. California isn’t the only target. DOL lives near Seattle.

          Just look up “The Real Big One” to see what his community’s future could be.

  15. Finally! After a year of lockdowns and an all-corners search, Reason finally found a singular bastion of refusenik anti-lockdown businesses to put forth a real libertarian message.

    Of course, it would’ve been better to put out one of these sorts of stories once a week like they did with the impact stories about Trump’s tarriffs, but there just weren’t that many places refusing lockdowns. At least, not anywhere that Reason could find.

    1. Had Reason endorsed a true libertarian approach from the start, rather than being cheerleaders for a national pants shitting contest, they may have begrudgingly found themselves agreeing with the Orange Man in an election year! No, no. That would not have reflected well on them at all, for libertarianism would have produced results far too close to the results envisioned by the disciples of “Trumpism.” And, since we all know that “Trumpism” was, and remains, an unadulterated evil in every respect, Libertarianism needed to sit the game out, at least until the Orange Man faded from the picture.

      1. *applause*

      2. “… rather than being cheerleaders for a national pants shitting contest…”

        If soiled shorts were all it wouldn’t be quite so uinsulting.

        But they cheerleaded for the destruction of actual liberties in order to avoid the appearance of not directly opposing Trump.


        1. Hey, if you’re going to have a pants shitting contest, you’re going to need all the assholes you can get.

        2. MSN had a top of the screen article the other day titled “How your butt knows the difference between a fart and a poop”.

          No shit. Haha.

      3. Reason was unable to find enough libertarianism to change the outcome of the election. Case closed.

      4. Well, we haven’t seen much of what Reason has to say about Biden. Yet.

        I think they’re waiting for him to drop so they can come out salaciously slathering over Harris.

  16. A Reason reporter went to Paso Robles, California, where many businesses defied state orders to close. He enjoyed it. He also got COVID.

    R.I.P. – I honestly hope he didn’t suffer, that he was one of those that contracted the virus and dropped dead right on the spot instead of one of those that lingered in excruciating agony for hours after contracting it.

  17. A person went to a non lockdown bar and got covid OMG proof even though millions of people in lockdowns still got covid as well. Sometimes if your going to get it your going to get as supported by the millions of spouse and relatives of those with covid who didn’t get covid.

  18. Did you die?

    1. Not yet, but he will.

  19. w4m cairns is the best web place for lonley guys to find fine ladies for chat in Australia

  20. Gavin Newsome and the rest of these “authorities” did not elect themselves. No sympathy for self inflicted wounds.

    1. “Gavin Newsome and the rest of these “authorities” did not elect themselves. No sympathy for self inflicted wounds.”

      As a CA resident, I am proud to state not a single elected official in the state ever got one of my votes.

      1. i too have never voted for the guy that won. being a libertarian is lonely work. don’t blame me, i voted libertarian

  21. “I want to stay away from businesses that are trying to comply the best they can,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to FOX11’s Bill Melugin. “They bent over backwards to modify their entire operation to conform to these current health orders, and then they have the rug yanked out from under them, that’s a disservice. I don’t want to make their lives any more miserable.”

    I have to admit I’m surprised that with the political climate of Los Angeles, they would end up with such an alt-right nazi of a sheriff.

    1. They’ll look into firing him for failing to serve and protect the tens of thousands of Californians who died of COVID under his watch and discover that they’re unable to, QI.

      Then, a month later when he’s heard uttering how, “The State’s being niggardly with the federal stimulus money.” he’ll be fired on the spot.

  22. It was a long article, I missed the part where he conclusively proved his Covid case was contracted at the dive bar.

  23. So Christian….I hope you learned a good lesson from getting Covid.

    Stay the fuck away from illegal aliens.

  24. They should dox these agents when they show up, like the gorilla moms did and follow them, every time they break their own rules put it online. That is the only way to stop this crap. As it is they have no fear of any repercussions for oppressing people that are just trying to get by. Never forget it was a protest against a low level bureaucrat that brought down the government in Tunisia and started the Arab Spring.

    1. The trouble is, this isn’t effective.

      Two “pro police reformer” city council members in two different cities within 20 miles of me were recently exposed for having very long rap sheets that they had never mentioned before. One of them, had 23 arrests before she was 18 and a couple of convictions!

      Nothing has happened to them after the expose’. And, nothing will.

      America went soft a long time ago. People are myopic and don’t look past their own and maybe, their family’s well being. They just ignore society at large. Locally, nationally, internationally. …..Until it hits them right between the eyes.

      Then they suddenly become “activists” for change.

  25. “Speaking of dive bars, a few days after my visit to Paso Robles, I came down with a case of COVID-19.”

    Any proof that you got infected at the dive bar, and not while interviewing pro-shutdown government officials?

    1. The reaction to Covid-19, however, shows that the rot goes much deeper. It’s not just that people apparently cannot be trusted to vote or express themselves. They also can’t be trusted to take responsibility for their own conduct in general. Left to their own devices, they will go around hugging old ladies, crowding into sports stadiums and throwing parties – and ruin will then be upon us. Since people cannot be sensible on their own, all the forces of the state must be bent towards forcing them to do the right thing. They must be terrorised into compliance.

      In short, public discourse now seems to construct the individual citizen as an ignorant, biddable buffoon who is incapable of running his own life, and probably dangerous if left to his own devices. This is not the recipe for a healthy democracy. How did it happen?

      1. “Freedom has been reframed as a threat to society.”

        But not the freedom of the woke mob or tech overlords to suppress anyone who disagrees with them. That apparently is the hill Reason will die upon.

        1. Still waiting for an article on just how bad HR 1 is.

          I guess that will appear shortly after it has already been enacted.

          1. I’ve been away for a while. Have they realized that the Biden presidency might not be the magical paradise we were promised?

            1. While they are indeed clueless idiots do not discount their mendacity.

          2. Yeah, the worst bill in a decade at least as it relates to election integrity and almost no one is talking about it.

          3. It seems to have absolutely zero chance in the senate and the stuff in there is so poisonous, even a compromise bill isn’t going to be taken seriously. If the house wants to waste their time on legislation that won’t get passed, I can only consider that to be a good thing.

      2. “How did it happen?”

        Rhetorical, right?

      3. How did it happen?

        Mean tweets.

  26. Interesting article, but was it truly necessary to make it into a fucking novel? The headline was that Britschgi got Covid from going to a bar in Robber’s Pass, and that part of the story was handled in 20 words or less. Jesus!

    1. Actually, it was never handled at all.
      He omitted his movements for the entire 14 days prior to symptom onset, so neither we nor he really knows where he was infected.

      1. this. it’s either science or it’s not.

      2. A lot of people caught COVID. The vast majority are fine.

  27. Blah blah blah blah blah
    When’s the funeral?

  28. This virus has really disrupted life.
    I hate Corona

  29. I live in SLO and most of what the article claimed is NOT true!!!

    Paso Robles did shut down and comply and our county has prosecuted those who did not.

    These days most of us are sick of the lies and malarkey “health” officials are passing out and compliance is possibly slipping. Earlier this was not true in our area.

    Look at the CDC total death totals for 2020 and ask where the extra deaths supposedly caused by corona are at. The few extra deaths are easily explained by the closing of health care facilities and the stopping of all routine health checks, operations and screenings.

    Someones are spinning this whole thing a lot!!!!


  30. The Gabbling Nuisance is a copulsive tyrant eager to boss aroud whomever he might.
    This is one of the common character traits of those of a particular proclivity he embraces. So his coming out like this is no surprise, really.
    He has NOT “followed the science”, and he HAS usurped a level of authority that would have had our patriot forefathers at the barricades about this time last year. Emergency powers are for emergencies.. and a condition lasting now just above a full year is NO LPONGER an “emergency”. Turn the flashing lights and sirens off, and let life settle back as well as it can.

    I’d like to see the REAL “numbers” out of Claifornia… their definitioins of “cases” and “deaths” are VERY suspect.

    Let us hope that the impeachment efforts succeed in removing this tyrant from his position. Them examine the possibility of criminaly charging him for swearing his oath of office and then failing to uphold it. He has NOT abided by the US or Califnoria State Constitutions.

    1. the sheer number of sigs on the recall give me strong hope the guy may have truly worn out his welcome. he has hammered our economy, robbed a whole year of kids of school, stolen scholarship dreams from countless HS athletes, allowed unions to PROVE their selfish motives by allowing schools to remain shuttered, driven countless restaurants into insolvency, set in motion an unstoppable wave of new higher taxes to pay for his retarded errors, SPIKED teen suicides, SPIKED domestic abuse claims, SPIKED alcohol related issues including deaths from that.

      if we can send him home hopefully we can save the nation from the political carnage that he is a master of. the oily rat bastard has truly shit the bed

  31. That’s a lot of words.

  32. I came down with a case of COVID-19.
    But it also wasn’t the worst illness I’ve had.

    And like 99.4% of others that had the illness you are still here. And they didn’t shut down the economy for a year for those worse illnesses you had. What is the difference? Politics!

  33. FAKE NEWS! we all know that when you get corona you die. oh wait, i meant you die about .01% of the time. which is the same as always and 100% of the time in the new age of pretend math

  34. As Biden said, Cuomo is the gold standard when it comes to mitigating the affects of Covid. If Cuomo was running the country when the pandemic hit he would have saved Social Security and Medicare and made Bill Clinton look like an amateur in the Oval Office. Ol joe’s judge of character could be a real detriment to the country if he appoints people to positions of power…………..

  35. A Reason reporter went to Paso Robles, California, where many businesses defied state orders to close. He enjoyed it. He also got COVID.

    TL; DR. Judging from the sub-header, it’s not a good way to make whatever case there was to be made.

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