There’s just no good way to say it.

As of Monday, July 27th, almost 17,000,000 people around the world have tested positive for Coronavirus, and over 655,000 have died. In the United States alone, our total cases are rapidly approaching the 4.5 million mark, and we’ve surpassed 150,000 dead Americans from the virus. Those numbers will no doubt be greater by the time you read this story.

Here in Santa Cruz County, we were doing a pretty admirable job of keeping our case numbers low, but on July 27th, that good behavior shifted as we were added to the state’s Watch List of highly affected counties. California alone has over 464,000 cases, and we’ve lost nearly 5,000 of our fellow Golden State residents to COVID-19; when you look at our county’s numbers (920 confirmed cases, four deaths and 343 recoveries), we account for only .2% of the total number of infected people in the state. The Watch List assignment comes from the exponential increase in cases (338 in the last two weeks), and hospitalizations (up to 33). By averaging 21 new cases per day, our curve is not being managed well, and that’s putting all of us at risk.

Where are those numbers coming from? Watsonville has the highest amount of confirmed cases (460), with unincorporated areas (Aptos, Ben Lomond, Bonny Doon, Boulder Creek, Brookdale, Corralitos, Davenport, Felton, Freedom, La Selva Beach, Rio Del Mar, Soquel and Zayante) accounting for 168 cases. Rounding out the top five are Santa Cruz (157), Capitola (34) and Scotts Valley (21).

All that is to say, we’re moving in the wrong direction. How could we be missing the mark on our containment despite implementing good practices? Stores like Trader Joe’s have been explicit in their requirements for masks, sanitization of carts and check-out stations, health checks for employees and social distancing. Restaurants have been reduced to take-out orders or outside dining. Movie theaters remain closed, as do pools. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to operate as a team in this crisis, and yet our rising numbers demonstrate the opposite.

Part of that increase can be attributed to farm workers. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “Farm and food workers are uniquely susceptible to COVID-19, and cases are on the rise in counties with the highest concentration of farm workers. [They] often work, travel and live in close proximity to one another and often lack access to personal protective equipment, paid sick leave or health care.” Indeed, driving by farms and fields in Watsonville, one will see workers bent over, plucking berries or lettuce from the ground, in dense groups. There is no social distancing where these laborers gather, and when they go home, there is no social distancing from their co-workers or families. A virus that spreads so easily from person to person is guaranteed to grip family members sharing limited space in a multigenerational household.

Our county’s addition to Governor Newsom’s Watch List can mean a wave of changes in the days to come: dedicated distance learning policies for schools, the closure of businesses that had been allowed to reopen, and additional financial hardship for thousands. To avoid these—and other—sanctions, please help slow the spread by wearing your mask around non-household members, washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, keeping a minimum of six feet between you and others, covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and staying home if you feel sick. Beating this has very little to do with luck and everything to do with, you know, science and practicing good behaviors. Each one of us deserves to emerge from this pandemic (relatively) unscathed. Please do your part.

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