What It’s Really Like to Quarantine in San Francisco

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In my previous video, I talked about the completely baseless conspiracy theory that Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, secretly and illegally traveled 1,000 miles to spend a day in Montana before rushing back to deliver a press conference from Napa. I pointed out that one of the reasons why this idiocy caught on is because conservatives want to believe that liberals can’t run a state and keep their residents happy.

I hesitate to talk about this because we are currently, as a nation, experiencing a great tragedy. 100,000 people are dead who could have been alive today if the Trump administration had any semblance of professionalism or common sense. Watching this all unfold has been extremely anxiety-inducing, as I’ve talked about a bit in my Patreon vlogs. Dealing with that anxiety and the depression that comes from seeing so much senseless death has been extremely difficult for me.

But none of that is due to living in California, and in fact living here has greatly, GREATLY alleviated that anxiety. It’s hard to stand up and say “actually this is kind of awesome” in the face of a national tragedy but someone has to disabuse conservatives of the notion that liberal states and countries are somehow Draconian prisons.

So here we go: quarantine has been fucking awesome for me here in the Bay Area. I am in one of the best possible positions for a person to be in in this situation: I already work from home and can continue doing so. I live with a partner who also can continue to do his full-time job from home. I don’t need to worry about affording rent, or groceries, or needing to put my own health at risk to continue getting a paycheck. I get along with my partner and quarantining together hasn’t stressed our relationship in the least. If anything it’s gotten better, because we get to hang out more often, cook meals together, and he’s more relaxed because he doesn’t have to commute for several hours a day. We both enjoy reading, watching movies, and playing video games, all of which we can now do way more of.

Living in the Bay Area during all this makes it even better. First of all, the entire reason my partner and I can work from home is because there is something resembling an existing infrastructure that allows for that. We have high speed internet, good computers, and the big companies in Silicon Valley are well-set-up to allow work-from-home, though up until now they were loathe to admit it.

Second of all, I know that if we did lose some or all of our income, California would provide us with affordable or free medical coverage. The Affordable Care Act and Covered California are nowhere near to being enough — we should have universal healthcare — but if Trump and the GOP take away “Obamacare” as they’ve threatened to do in the past, California’s leadership has pledged to protect its residents. That reassurance is huge in a time of economic and health insecurity.

Third, living in the Bay Area eased my anxiety significantly because our government took early action and people were pretty good about complying, meaning our hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. That means that if I get sick, or if something else happens, I will be able to go to the hospital and get treatment. It also means that our medical personnel have access to the protective equipment they need to continue working safely.

As for what it’s like to quarantine here in the Bay Area on a day to day basis, basically every day is 70 degrees and sunny (that’s 21 Celsius to the rest of you). I live within walking distance of a beach where I can go for runs every day. I can swim in the bay and skateboard down the nearly empty streets. I don’t need to wear a mask outside because it’s very easy to avoid people by at least 10 feet (or 3 meters). I keep a handkerchief on me if I think I’m going to get anywhere near others. We took our dog hiking Memorial Day weekend and didn’t come close to any other humans. Every evening I can hang out on the balcony and watch the sun set over the bay and enjoy a beer, which I can legally have delivered to me with an hour’s notice, or a joint which I can legally have delivered to me with a half-hour’s notice. Honestly the cannabis companies have this shit down to a science.

I haven’t been inside a grocery store since early March and it’s great. I shop online, pull into a spot in the Safeway parking lot, pop my trunk, and a nice man comes out and loads all my groceries in. I’ve gotten better at making grocery lists and planning meals. We have toilet paper and cleaning products and yeast and flour and sourdough and anything else we could need. We buy comics from the local comic shop’s curb. We buy Magic cards from the local game shop’s curb. We can even buy tiki drinks from our local tiki bar.

We have friends who are neighbors, who we can socialize with while outside at safe distances. I can see other friends online as often as we want. We Facetime, Zoom, play video games together, and have poker tournaments. Honestly if I had any complaints it would be that that’s a bit too much socializing but hey I try to be here for my more extroverted friends when they need me. I’m mostly happy with my high speed internet and the ability to play Civ VI while movies play in the background.

So yeah, I go out, I get exercise, I socialize with friends, I live a great life. Quarantine or not, my life hasn’t really changed that much. For years now Fox News has been yelling about what a hellhole San Francisco is, and for the most part it’s not true. Every city has it’s issues, and San Francisco has plenty. I’m not going to go in the opposite direction and exaggerate as much as conservatives. I mean, you can go watch my previous video where I rant about Alameda County allowing Tesla to reopen while evicting mothers peacefully living in an abandoned house. Yes, homelessness is rampant, and there’s plenty of cronyism (and tech bro-ism, and NIMBY-ism) that stops politicians from cleaning it up. But the idea propagated by Fox News that the entire Bay Area is littered with needles and human shit is insane. That’s the Tenderloin, a quarter-of-a-square mile area that fucking sucks and needs to be cleaned up. The other ~7,000 miles? They’re fucking beautiful. I love it here.

And that’s just the perspective of someone who is, by Bay Area standards, middle class. If you’re rich? If you own your own home, if you can quarantine in a place with more than one bedroom? If you have a yard where you can grow food or just relax outside? Let me tell you, you’re living the high life right now. So yeah, I assure you, the extremely rich governor of California has absolutely no need to secretly and illegally travel a thousand miles away to get away from…the Napa valley wine region. I’m sure Stevensville Montana is lovely. I can see from their wikipedia page they have a very nice public library! But yeah…probably not worth traveling 2,000 miles and losing your job. Your job as Governor of California. When instead you could just hang out in Napa. Where you own your own winery.

Meanwhile, morons in places like Wisconsin are squeezing themselves into bars because they think that that represents happiness, success, and freedom. Because that’s what Fox News told them, and they wanted to believe it so they did. Fox News wants them to be happy with the slop they’re given. “Don’t look at California,” they yell. “You don’t want that! That’s not freedom! They are wearing masks and staying away from other people to stop the spread of disease and that’s fascism! They’re all secretly miserable!” If Americans believe that, then they might accept that their lives are as good as it’s going to get. It’s the same way the rich have convinced so many people that our current healthcare system is the best we can possibly have. Sure, your uncle went broke paying for those cancer treatments but that happens — don’t look at what would have happened in Canada, they’re secretly all miserable with their healthcare. It’s the same with California: yeah, you have to drive everywhere because there are no sidewalks but what’s exercise good for anyway? And okay, 100,000 people died but you didn’t know them anyway and what else are you gonna do? NOT go to the bar? What else is there in life?

I guess this is all just a long-winded way to say: there’s more. If you happen to be one of those people who believe what conservatives say about California, here’s a Californian telling you it’s not true. You don’t have to be happy with what you’ve got. It’s okay to want more. To want better. To imagine a better world is the first step toward making that world a reality.

And though they try to paint our compliance with quarantine as weak, it’s simply not. It’s incredibly strong and good to “sacrifice” to keep other people, even people you don’t know, safe and healthy. For some people that sacrifice is huge, like medical personnel who are reporting to work every day, or for small business owners who are struggling to stay afloat and adapt to a new world.

But for a lot of us, especially here in the Bay Area where we have fewer coronavirus cases and more of a safety net, that sacrifice doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. It feels like a slightly adapted way of living that I will gladly do to protect others. Seeing that spun by neo-cons into this idea that quarantine is a prison that our own governor escaped by secretly fleeing to Montana is honestly just…disappointing. Be more skeptical. And please, come visit California before you believe whatever Fox News has to say. But, like, wait until a vaccine comes out. I don’t want to catch your germs. Thanks.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Conditions in the Tenderloin, the streets full of tents and raw sewage on the pavement. They have nothing to do with Newsome NOT leaving the state, or Republican dystopian fantasies about states with grown-ups deciding pandemic policy. And you DID get to the matter eventually. But when I shared this, I heard back right away from a friend who escaped to Hayward from a Tenderloin SRO hotel. Of course, they described you as ‘privileged.’

      1. I don’t know either. You did get there. But my SRO dwelling friend didn’t think it was enough. Sure, California and SF quarantine are yonks beyond conditions in red states. But SF’s housing and homelessness are just SO bad that its hard not to be distracted.

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