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Niles: The absurdity of California’s half-opened theme parks - OCRegister

For businesses that are supposed to be closed, California’s theme parks are trying to sell a whole bunch of tickets.

You can buy admission now to see the animals at SeaWorld San Diego, take your kids to play with plastic bricks and climb on playgrounds at Legoland California, eat your way around Knott’s Berry Farm, and enjoy a drive-thru car show at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Soon, fans will be able to eat and shop throughout Disney California Adventure, too.

The only things you won’t be able to do at these parks will be to sit inside and watch a show or go on any rides. Perhaps an epidemiologist can explain the science to me, but I fail to see how it’s any more risky to sit masked on a three-minute outdoor roller coaster ride than it is to sit unmasked, a few feet away from unmasked strangers, while eating dinner for an hour.

Even for those of us who know that this pandemic is real — and deadly — it’s been hard to make sense of what often seem like contradictory rules. It’s OK to cram cooks into crowded restaurant kitchens, but not to send children to school. It’s OK for pro and college athletes to play sports, but not kids. And it’s OK to visit a theme park if you call it a zoo, a playground or an outdoor mall, but not if it runs any rides.

Yet the hard truth is that America’s inconsistent pandemic rules have not been too restrictive, but too lenient. Half a million COVID-19 deaths speak to the incompetence of America’s response to the pandemic. Nations that took a much harder approach to lockdowns — including New Zealand, Australia and yes, even China — have been able to stop the death toll while taking steps toward returning to a pre-pandemic normal.

At least California and Governor Newsom have tried to control the disease’s spread, unlike other states whose leaders dismissed the pandemic and its risk. That has helped California’s per capita death rate to remain below the national average. But without a science-driven response from the federal government when the pandemic struck, states were limited in what they could do to protect their residents.

How many Californians have been sickened or killed because their neighbors brought back the virus from less-restrictive states and nations? Or because the former administration in Washington failed to marshal the resources and research that California and other states needed to control the disease within their communities? We might never know.

I just know that I want this to be over. I want enough of us to be vaccinated so that COVID-19 retreats to history and we can forget the absurdity of the current situation at theme parks. Yet also I want enough of us to remember half a million unnecessary deaths so that we elect leaders who will take the treat of pandemics seriously.



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