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Although firework sales are prevented in many California counties, Orange County rolls a little differently. Pop-up booths advertising “safe and sane” fireworks, sprinklers and M80s dot the landscape in the town of Costa Mesa, with various schools and sports leagues benefitting from the proceeds of the sales.

 

I’m from Costa Mesa, a city founded in 1953 that has its roots in orange groves and community engagement. I moved out of my childhood home in 1992 to attend San Diego State University, and I come back every so often to check on my mother, connect with high school friends and remind myself of the convenience of living in Southern California.

 

I grew up down here in the mid-70s, at a time when girls in Jordache jeans ruled the middle school, Jane Fonda was teaching a new workout and decorating a rival’s house with toilet paper was the most wild and reckless form of misbehavior my friends and I could imagine. Schools let out for the summer in mid- to late June, and every day from then until Labor Day was a competition to see who could get the best tan from the sun-drenched beaches of Newport and Huntington. Kids rode bikes without helmets (note: I’m not advocating for helmet-free bike riding), surfed from dawn to dusk and enjoyed the freedom that came with those warm summer evenings.

 

Today, things are different here, just as they are nearly everyplace that you once called home. The population of the town is over 110,000 now, and new housing developments are popping up wherever there’s a flat parcel and an eager developer. But driving through the streets of my childhood, I recall the comfort of lazy summers spent at the community pool, and hearing the Disneyland fireworks from my bedroom window. The sense of safety I felt then is now shattered by the endless reminders of COVID-19.

 

We, as a country, are in a deep chasm of hurt as it relates to the coronavirus. With record-setting rates of new infections, which will undoubtedly result in record setting death rates in the coming weeks, our country is moving in the wrong direction. The EU has banned Americans from crossing their borders, as has Canada. High-density close environments like naval ships, meatpacking plants, prisons and nursing homes are raging with the disease, and according to Dr. Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), we can expect a literal explosion of infections in the coming months.

 

Our efforts to resume normalcy resulted in the disease taking hold wherever there was an opening; Father’s Day gatherings, graduation parties, beach days and family dinners became vectors of transmission, and Fauci is predicting that we may achieve an infection rate of 100,000 people per day in the United States. That’s nearly the current population of my home town…and that’s in just one day.

 

As I tend to my mom, helping her with computer issues and decluttering her closets, she sits next to me, wearing a mask and shaking her head, terrified that the coronavirus will find its way into her antiseptic home. After all, it has found my brother and sister-in-law in Austin, and while they are each in their mid-40s, they are both bedridden with the disease, praying that the other will have the strength to tend to their two young children in between the ghastly loss of breath and energy that comes with the virus.

 

As Americans, we are preparing to celebrate Independence Day. There could be no greater celebration than for us to work together on a community and national level to overcome the ravages of the coronavirus. All the same common sense applications apply: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay six feet apart from others. Don’t congregate in groups. Listen to the advice of someone like Dr. Fauci; as an advisor to six presidents during his tenure, his concerns are nonpartisan and laser-focused on the well-being of our nation. Our country’s birth will be best celebrated if we, as a country, follow Dr. Fauci’s directives and work toward the common goal of reducing the spread of the virus and eradicating COVID-19.

Safe and sane, indeed.

 

Happy Independence Day.

 

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