I haven’t had too much to say about the COVID-19 shutdowns, generally, being that I reside in a state that was late to close and early to open. I have been less inclined to argue or debate the need for lockdowns as someone whose household hasn’t had to deal with furloughed jobs and trying to file for unemployment. I am sympathetic to the destruction and hardship being wrought upon millions of families and individuals across the country, through no fault of their own, with the stroke of a governor’s pen.

I understand the frustrations in blue states and some red ones too. Playing politics during a national health crisis undermines governmental edicts, and leaves residents with a sense of over-reaching tyranny rather than necessary actions guarding public safety. Beyond claims of science, a healthy dose of common sense would seem to ease a lot of frustrations for everyone  involved.

Keeping beaches and parks, including state and national parks, closed to the public seems counter-intuitive against a virus that dies in sunlight. Not allowing people the sense of freedom to take a walk, hike or socially distance themselves in the great outdoors is frustrating, especially when our tax dollars fund the maintenance and availability of those parks.

Allowing certain businesses to open but not others without sound reasoning or science behind the choices will cause reactions beyond protest, putting police in the unenviable position of enforcing lock downs and arresting people who maybe have a different opinion on how their state or city should run.  

Through much of this crisis I have allowed science and reason to guide our personal choices. That doesn’t mean that we do not live our lives as we see fit. That is the definition of freedom. We take risks with our lives in myriad ways large and small on a daily basis. We don’t live our lives sealed inside a bubble.

Walking down the street, driving a car, even taking a bath can be deadly if enough bad circumstances happen to align against you. That is part of the human experience. No government power can stop bad things from happening to everyone. It’s just not possible.

We expect our government to work from the best information, staffed with advisors at the highest levels who are knowledgeable and experienced. We don’t expect decisions like that made by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who reportedly mandated that nursing homes take in COVID-19 patients, when that’s the last building they should have been placed in.

Personally, I don’t think this virus is going anywhere, and all we’ve done is put a cap on the early infection rate. We don’t know enough about the long-term effects of the virus, how it affects children and young people long term, or even how it affects healthy middle-aged people.

And for all the talk of asymptomatic cases hidden in the population... how well do we trust sample sizes under 100 extrapolated to 300 million? Because I’m not going to bet the farm on that level of science and probability, and I’m not going to gamble my son’s long term health on the WHO and CDC fact sheets which get revised weekly, not to mention scientists who aren’t interested in releasing their underlying data for others to study for themselves.

At this point, I would say that allowing almost all businesses to reopen is in order, at least for a majority of the country. People need to be responsible for their safety, and allow for business owners to be responsible for the safety of their employees and customers. Otherwise, we are handicapping ourselves once we are through the worst of this virus cycle.

Treating all of a state, or country for that matter, as if they are living with in the virus epicenter is not feasible for much longer, and will do more harm than good.

Prudence, reason and patience will serve all of us well, whether the “We’re Open” sign is blinking or not.

Spring in the south is definitely not for the faint of heart. Over the past three days we’ve had monster storms blow through fast, leaving downed limbs, leaves and debris as a reminder that Mother Nature doesn’t really care what else is happening in our day-to-day lives.

In fact, I’d say she has a pretty good sense of humor, or karma when dealing with us mere humans.

Sunday and Monday brought storms that dumped over an inch  and a half of rain inside of an hour, with winds approaching 70 miles an hour. I am okay admitting that I was nervous for a few minutes, well more than a few minutes, at least about how well our trees would fare through the storm, not to mention our roof. Honestly, my allergies wouldn’t mind if we lost a few cedar trees from the property. They seem to be the biggest pollinator and cause of my spring sickness... at least in my yard.

Monday’s storm brought another tornado to Tennessee - southwest of us, and thankfully power poles and large oak trees seemed to catch the worst of it. I don’t envy the utility cleanup crews.....that is literally the definition of essential work. Between son Samuel and the lawnmower, most of it was handled well enough at our house, pre-teen grumbling aside.

I still find it hard to reconcile the spring sunshine in the midst of the devastation so many are facing due to the coronavirus outbreak, but it is definitely a nice reprieve from the wind and rain that has been March and April here. Though I’m sure I will be complaining about heat and humidity before too long, the calm breeze of Tuesday couldn’t be more different than the prior two days.

All that rain has left my peach and apple trees budding with fruit. After late frost knocked the blooms from my apple tree last year I am hoping for a bumper crop this summer, and apples coming out of my ears. I’m hoping to plant a few more trees this year... cherries, nectarines, pears and possibly a pluot are on my list, since those varieties grow well here and are enjoyed by more than just me. I miss being able to grow lemons and oranges like we had at Grammie’s ranch back in California... maybe I can try my hand with citrus if I ever get a greenhouse built....at least a dwarf variety.

One good thing about the stay at home order... I decided a kitchen garden is more necessity than hobby, and got serious about planning one for our house. At least more of a permanent one than the few pots of herbs and plants I grew last year. As with many of my plans for this house, they are probably a little over the top, and way more than what’s necessary.

Shocking, I know.

I’m just glad for the distraction, and a reason to be outside when the pollen isn’t making me miserable.

Plus, I figured having Sam helping me take measurements would count as math homework for the day. Win-win, all the way around. And these days, that’s enough.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.