Letters to the Editor, April 15–22, 2020

Mask the masses

I was extremely disappointed in our county when they posted their updated list of essential and nonessential businesses for Humboldt County on April 8, 2020. With the updated list, the county listed bookstores as non-essential but liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and gun stores as essential. This is truly heartbreaking and I wonder about the message they are sending to our children. How can a liquor store be essential and a bookstore not?

 Every community needs books especially in this time of sheltering in place. With libraries and schools closed, bookstores remained the last local access to books.   Many of the bookstores that did remain open did so with safety precautions in place like curbside pick up. That is NOT happening with liquor stores. But still our county Health and Sheriff’s departments  chose to make bookstores non essential. Access to books is an essential service. Bookstores are still being used by teachers and students who are trying desperately to make distance schooling work.

As an educator for 20 years  and having spent the last few years specializing in reading intervention, I know that lack of access to books is a key contributor to the never-ending cycle of educational disadvantage. I truly hope Humboldt County’s health officer, Dr. Teresa Frankovich and Sheriff Honsal seriously reconsider their decision to list bookstores as non-essential so the people of this community have access to books.

Jessica Callahan

Encampments are a very bad idea

According to reports on local radio (KMUD) and the County Board of Supervisors’ Feb. 6 meeting minutes, Supervisor Madrone advanced a motion to have the county establish homeless encampments on county properties. 

This motion apparently followed a request by a group that calls themselves “Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives” (AHHA).  

The encampments would presumably include public parks such as Clam Beach and Hiller Park (as suggested by AHHA), as well as large (non-county) parking lots.  Although this motion and its failure for lack of a second have not been posted in the CBOS minutes, they were reported by KMUD.

As apparent from the KMUD report, this is a VERY BAD IDEA!  At best, it suggests an ignorance of how the COVID-19 virus spreads and the efforts and ordinances – Humboldt County and State of California – to mitigate its spread.  

Moving people from small groupings into larger concentrations is not only illegal at this time, it runs absolutely counter to state and local efforts to create social distance.

Interestingly, it also assumes that, because they lack permanent shelter, people also lack a viable social structure.  According to one speaker at the KMUD interview, the community has self-organized into small, stable groupings, much like families, who are creating social distance.  Disruption of this structure to produce larger concentrations would not only ensure uncontrolled spread of the disease through larger community contact, it would also undermine the social structure essential to its mitigation and to the mental health of people involved.  

Moving people from their current social structure and concentrating them in larger, unfamiliar groups, substituting a group of well-meaning outsiders for the community itself, is a poor choice, at best.  

What is better is the action that county officials are currently doing – to provide sanitation, trash removal, tents and sleeping bags to these community units.

Please encourage Supervisor Madrone to abandon this VERY BAD IDEA.  Thank you.

James Biteman


Let’s remember what’s important

As we navigate our way through the COVID-19 lockdown here in Humboldt County, we are beginning to realize just how much our daily interactions with other people mean to us. We are missing our families, our communities and our socializing.

For many of us it’s the simple act of not being able to see or hug our loved ones. For others, it’s the fact that we are not able to meet with friends and colleagues from school, university, work, sports club or the many other outlets where we meet and socialize with people on a daily basis. 

We take these daily social meetings with people for granted. Whether it’s just a small chat with a person in the cafe or a visit to our parents in the home where we grew up, these social restrictions are beginning to affect us in ways that we have not known before.

Sharing experiences with other human beings is so important for our health. In my twenties I did a lot of solo travelling around the world. I also travelled a lot with friends. I found that shared experiences were far more enjoyable and memorable than solo experiences. 

Subconsciously, most of us seek this bonding through shared experiences with others. It is an integral part of our make up as human beings. When this is taken away, we feel isolated from our family and our community and life doesn’t feel the same.

If we are to take anything out of this pandemic, maybe we will begin to understand how family and community keep us going and keep the human spirit strong. Separation and division may be necessary right now but it can also be a great teacher. 

Let’s use this time to remember what’s really important to us when this pandemic passes. Keep safe out there.

PJ Cuddihy

Literacy is lit

This seems the perfect time to advocate for support for computer literacy training for our seniors. 

For the past three years, the former executive director of the McKinleyville Senior Center (MSC) and I, as the current ED, have written numerous grants requesting training for our seniors in the use of computers and cell phones. 

Many of our seniors do not know the basics of a computer and don’t realize the benefits in accessing the Internet. They are becoming isolated from more than just the current pandemic. Unfortunately, all requests for funding to provide digital literacy have been denied.

I still cannot understand this, since seniors are the most vulnerable population in our communities; I thought this would be ideal to have seniors working from computers at home, ordering medical supplies, speaking with doctors and communicating with their families via Zoom, Skype or FaceTime programs. Plus, learning everything they can do with a cell phone if a computer is not available.

Then the global pandemic occurred.

Looking back, had MSC received even one of those grants at least 100 seniors would have been trained on computer access and usage. Many may be isolated at home but would have access to a wider world that technological literacy offers. 

The pandemic has only accelerated this need at the home. Most seniors don’t know how to use a computer, or their skills are limited, but given the basic training they learn quickly. Especially now with the availability of voice programs that can eliminate typing, can play music, locate services and answer complex questions. 

We may hear about flattening the COVID-19 virus curve, but the learning curve of our seniors is not flat, just underserved and lacking education updates on current digital realities.

So, my purpose in writing is to encourage members of our community to invest in our seniors. It doesn’t matter if they are 55 or 97, we all need to keep learning. There may be a generational gap, but a digital divide has occurred that we need to address. 

I cannot stress strongly enough the need to train our seniors to be prepared with better access to information and resources when natural disasters occur.

The current pandemic is just an eye opener. I hope we can all work together and help our seniors become participants in their future.

It is projected that seniors will increase in population by 88 percent in the next few years so the need to keep them active and computer literate is a basic essential in their lively hoods. 

And, you may not think of yourself as a senior yet, but when you do, we hope MSC is here to welcome you, help you stay healthy, active, socially connected and digitally skilled. 

Please call the center or me with ways you can help us achieve this very worthy goal for a vulnerable segment of our community.

Mr. Rene Quintana, executive director
McKinleyville Senior Center

President or tyrant?

President Trump never admits he could be wrong. When it’s come to the fight against COVID-19, he’s blamed everybody but himself for any problems, even though he himself has frequently asserted both inaccurate and inconsistent information.

Meanwhile, most governors have followed the advice of administration health officials, restricting businesses and imposing social distancing. 

Some governors on each coast are even fashioning joint reopening plans to avoid situations that might reignite the pandemic in their regions.

Trump noted that he too is working on a plan. When asked what he might do if his plan were in conflict with state plans, he noted he could impose his plan because, in such cases, “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” a statement which was immediately refuted by many. The next day, Trump withdrew his statement saying he wants to work with governors after all.

Trump’s initial response claiming “total authority” along with his continual finding ways to blame others for his problems shows Trump doesn’t react like a president, but rather a tyrant.

I think it’s time for Congress to reprimand Trump for his behavior. Perhaps then he will start behaving like a president, not a tyrant.

Sherman Schapiro





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