Opinion / Letters to the Editor / Our Readers Write:
The following are Letters to the Editor from recent issues of La Jolla Light as La Jollans speak out on local issues. Letters published in La Jolla Light express views from readers in regard to community matters. To share your thoughts in this public forum, e-mail them with your name and city of residence to email@example.com or mail them to La Jolla Light Editor, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, CA 92037. Submissions of related photos are also welcome. Letters reflect the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of the newspaper staff or publisher.
Public not permitted
Pictured above: One of the most popular parks in La Jolla — Ellen Browning Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove — would normally be filled with park-goers on a sunny, spring afternoon as photographed Saturday, April 4, 2020; but emergency regulations by both the City and County of San Diego have closed parks and banned public gatherings to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The entire perimeter of the park is closed off with yellow caution tape and watched by police officers stationed nearby. Since the end of March, police patrols and ticketed enforcement have increased to stop citizens from stepping foot onto grassy area, coastal boardwalks, parking lots and walkways near shutdown parks, beaches and trails in San Diego County.
— Reporting by Daniel K. Lew
Don’t congregate on the beaches right now
I am a resident of Casa de Mañana, the retirement community across the street from the Children’s Pool Beach. Most of us residents are over age 80 and many have medical conditions. The management of the retirement community took proactive actions and implemented the policy of stay-at-home and social distancing on March 13, one week prior the Governor Newsom’s order. Meals are delivered to our rooms, all group activities are suspended, and no visitors, including immediate family members, are admitted. We are in a very safe environment within the community.
I am very concerned, however, by the many tourists who continue to arrive daily and congregate along the Children’s Pool Beach as if nothing has changed. They gather in groups in close proximity. They pass each other on the narrow path along the ocean within only a couple of feet of distance. The Governor’s order clearly has no effect on them. If no action is taken to enforce the order, even more tourists will undoubtedly arrive in force as the weather gets warmer and more public places close. This will increase the health risks to the tourists as well as La Jolla residents, including the vulnerable member of the retirement community right across the street from the Children’s Pool.
La Jolla is a beautiful place. It is understandable that people love to visit. But during this unprecedented crisis, public health and safety should be our first priority. Now is not the time for tourism. We should stay at home as much as possible, and practice social distancing when we have to go out. When the current state of emergency passes, the ocean and beach will still be here.
Beach ban is ridiculous
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has ordered the closure of all City-run parks, beaches, trails, boardwalks and bays. This measure is overly broad and serves no purpose. People who go for a paddle in Mission Bay (or who launch from a City park or beach to paddle in the ocean) aren’t close to anyone and aren’t putting anyone at risk. The same is true of those who want to walk on the beach, surf or bike or jog around the bay.
Gov. Gavin Newsom quite correctly included outdoor exercise as an exemption from his “stay at home” order. Outdoor exercise has been proven to boost the immune system and improve both physical and mental health. This order by the Mayor’s office merely makes outdoor exercise less effective and more dangerous (because walkers and joggers will have to use City streets).
Heavy-handed, meat-cleaver actions like this aren’t addressing an existing problem. If large gatherings are the issue, then crack down on large gatherings. I’ve been paddling on Mission Bay and going to the park in Bird Rock and other beach-side areas since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and there have been no gatherings of any sort on the bay nor on the boardwalk around the bay. People in the Bird Rock area are also being intelligent and avoiding clustering together.
This senseless and excessive restriction needs to be rescinded immediately. More sensible and selective measures can be implemented instead.
Officials should not close our beaches and parks
On Saturday, my wife and I got on bikes and went down to Pacific Beach to see what was happening. It was an extremely low tide. So, we rode on the sand from Law Street to The Plunge and then got on the boardwalk and went north toward home. We probably saw 1,000 people out and about. Single persons, couples and families. They were laying down, doing yoga, playing in the water, walking, running or biking.
Every single person was being responsible. The social distancing was significant, more like 50 feet, a 100 yards, certainly much more than the mandated 6 feet. For the first time ever, I did not see a single party in the Mission Beach boardwalk houses. The hotels, pools, bars and hostel were all closed.
I am living in a house right now with my wife, three adult children and our dog. Our family bubble is maintaining a safe distance from other bubbles of couples, families or roommates. Others should and are doing this.
The closure of the parks and beaches (especially Fiesta Island) does not make sense. Not allowing people who are alone to lie down at the beach is ludicrous. If someone walks to the beach (alone) lays down a towel and lies down (alone) on the beach, how is it in any way not safe or responsible? The same goes for a family living together and going to the beach together.
To even imply that that is irresponsible is simply wrong. To make that behavior illegal is a breach of public trust and governmental responsibility.
The closing of beaches and parks is a knee- jerk response based on the false premise that if people are outside that they are not practicing responsible, safe behavior. It is a policy that is not scientific.
The ban on beaches does nothing other than giving the appearance of doing something constructive by having an empty space. Policies that do nothing positive but limit our ability to get through this while being safe and responsible are draconian and don’t make any sense.
If the optics of having empty streets, parks and beaches are what our government officials are looking for than OK, just say that. But if it is a safe policy that we are looking for, then these severe restrictions are unnecessary. It is safe to have people outside maintaining social distancing and not touching things. It is not a bad thing and certainly should not be an illegal to see people making the most of the current situation by having fun in a totally safe manner.
City and County leaders you should mandate that people stay 20 feet, heck make it 100 feet away from each other if they are not living with or have not been interacting regularly with that person(s). Don’t ban behavior that is safe and healthy for our physical and mental pursuit of happiness. We live in San Diego for the abundance of outdoor recreation and ability to do healthy activity. Closing that option down should be reversed immediately, it is simply an unscientific, overly punitive rule/law/policy.
John M. Dowd
Be OK with the beach ban
The City’s beach closure was the correct and appropriate step to take in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus clearly kills. It has killed many and, unfortunately, will continue to kill. This virus is spread by human-to-human contact from 6 feet or more.
True, as one reader commented, the virus did not blow onto the beach from 3,000 miles away. Rather, it is spread by humans and that spread can be exacerbated by interacting at the beach and in the ocean.
In fact, as research at UC San Diego claims, it is possible the virus spreads on the ocean breezes for distances in excess of 6 feet, increasing the risk of transmission.
This same reader also suggested “why not open the beaches and have the lifeguards “enforce” crucial social distancing?” One can only cringe at the selfishness of such a suggestion; no regard is given to the fact imposing that extra duty unnecessarily places our lifeguards and other first responders at higher risk of infection.
But, unfortunately, such comments are truly understandable as there are still too many willing to let others sacrifice and suffer in order to accommodate their own petty pleasures. As Dostoevsky once sarcastically remarked: “I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
David G. Boss
Beach ban is government overreach at best
Kudos to the intelligent people who commented on the beach ban being ridiculous. Since when does a virus blow in from 3,000-plus miles of the Pacific Ocean to infect our community? If we are so concerned about social distancing on the beach, bays and ocean, perhaps solicit the assistance of the lifeguards who we are paying to guard empty beaches to make sure people are social distancing.
This is a classic case of government overreach and over-reaction. To our elected officials, please wake up, stop the draconian practices and be smart.
Should we shelter in place for the coronavirus? You bet!
If you need some additional convincing to shelter in place let’s do the math on South Korea and Italy. South Korea’s population is 51.5 million, highest death toll 7 per day. USA Population 327.2 million. So using South Korea as a barometer; 327.2/51.5 x 7 = 45 USA deaths per day. South Korea was aggressive and had extensive testing in place a week after they identified the virus.
Italy 60.48 million (before the virus), highest death toll 793 per day. USA Population 327.2 million. So using Italy as a barometer; 327.2/60.48 x 793 = 4,295 USA deaths per day. Italy was lax and did not aggressively dismiss crowds or engage early testing.
Some general rules: One person goes out shopping per household. We can go outside but should not enter another household. Wash your hands when returning home. Keep 3-6 feet from members of your household. Keep a 6-10 foot distance from all members not in your household. Generally, hold your breath when approaching and after passing strangers. Definitely hold your breath when approaching a stranger if the wind is in your face. Hold your breath after the stranger passes you if you are walking with the wind. Wind left to right hold your breath as you pass.
Utility crews need to practice social distancing
We live in La Jolla Shores and have had construction crews in our area for years now, working on replacing water and sewer lines, and most currently, putting utilities underground. The construction company involved has crews at various places around the area. On a recent walk, I saw two of those crews on the street behind us. The members of those crews were not honoring the policy of social distancing.
This has been the case since the quarantine began and I cannot understand why they are continuing business as usual in the midst of a global pandemic. They are not what I would consider “essential personnel,” so why does the company allow its employees set such a dangerous example? For those of us who have complied with social distancing and have been holed up for weeks, this is very disturbing. If social distancing cannot be maintained by work crews, then construction should be halted until the mandate is lifted.
Follow social distancing and other guidelines
An article in the March 18 New York Times estimates that 70 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 could occur to those age 70 and older. Most members of the community are doing their share of “social distancing,” but not all.
To those, I say: If you would like your parents or grandparents to witness a bar mitzvah, communion, graduation, wedding, birth or birthday, then doesn’t it make sense that you follow the guidance of the scientific community, so the rate of infection can be slowed and reduced?
This is the only part of the equation over which each of us has control. Take action now; every minute counts.
Some beach-goers are not distancing from others
As a public health practitioner (I actually have a master’s degree in public health), it is disconcerting that I have seen many — predominantly younger folks — at La Jolla beaches clumping together and not observing the 6-feet “social distancing” recommendation. This is not good and is a threat to themselves, their parents, their grandparents and to others.
A “call to action” article targeting parents, so that they might have serious conversations with their children, would be of considerable value. Including some suggestions regarding the content and method of these conversations would also provide benefit. Stats have just come out illustrating that the the coronavirus is infecting and causing intensive healthcare utilization by a higher percentage of folks older than 50-65 years of age.
Do the right thing, UCSD
Obviously, current events have put everything on hold. During this fluid and open-ended emergency, all of us are focused on staying healthy and safe. While all are under mandated shelter at home, the Community Meeting on the Future College Living Learning Neighborhood Project (FCLLN) is postponed.
So, until such time as a community meeting of that size can safely be held, we request UCSD do the right thing and suspend the stated timeline for FCLLN Project of July approvals and September “spade in the ground.”
Such a suspension will allow the community and UCSD to have safe and open discussions on this project. We ask UCSD to act in good faith during this national health emergency and suspend the stated FCLLN timeline.
Janie Emerson; President, La Jolla Shores Association
Friends of Coast Walk Trail seeking donations
I sure hope this finds everyone hunkered down, safe and healthy. As some of you know, I have worked with my neighbors to restore Coast Walk Trail for the last 8 years. The Friends of Coast Walk Trail (FOCWT) has done a great deal cleaning up, revegetation, bench and trail repairs along one of the nicest assets in our community. The founding residents have contributed more than $65,000 to date, to keep the trail cleaned up and maintained.
In February, FOCWT got our Right of Entry Permit reissued to continue this work. Our goal is to make the trail as user-friendly as possible while maintaining its natural beauty, much like Torrey Pines State Park. The first of our projects is for trail resurfacing with decomposed granite, trail and bench repairs, and to clean up any overgrown vegetation from Torrey Pines Road to the Cave Street.
This is the biggest project FOCWT has undertaken and why I’m reaching out to the broader community for funding support.
The purpose of this letter is to solicit donations to this effort. The April 2 edition of La Jolla Light nicely highlighted the need with a front-page article providing an overview of the damaged trail; you can read it at lajollalight.com/news/story/2020-04-01/coast-walk-trail
The FOCWT project was on track ($4,500 in the first two weeks to raise the needed $20,000 by the end of April for work to be completed by June) until we hit a bit of a speed bump. I know the timing on this stinks; who could have guessed we are now faced with a global pandemic! (OK, I can’t believe I would be writing pandemic in an e-mail) however, I do know this from Maya Angelou: “Every storm runs out of rain” and it is not lost on me. There are greater needs to help people right now and support our healthcare, first responders, etc.
Our trail will still be here and when we are past this, the need for us to be in “community” will be stronger than ever and Coast Walk Trail connects people from all over La Jolla and the world. I challenge anyone to walk it without saying “Hello” as you pass another person.
The hard work for approvals is done and when the funds are raised, I promise this project will be completed as fast as I can line up Black Sage Environmental to do the work. It might take longer under current constraints, but we are shovel ready with a contractor waiting in the wings.
To donate, visit friendsofcoastwalk.org and if you have questions, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brenda Fake, Friends of Coast Walk Trail chair
City has update on Scripps Park restrooms
In response to the recommended protocols for COVID-19 from the CDC, WHO and the State of California — and the desire to keep our employees, sub-contractors and vendors safe during this critical time — Atlas Development will temporarily suspend on-site construction activity for the Ellen Browning Scripps Park Comfort Station Replacement Project effective March 20, 2020.
Site work will be suspended for up to four weeks until April 27, 2020, at which time the guidance of the government and health agencies will be reviewed. The construction site will be monitored routinely in order to maintain stringent construction safety standards.
Your understanding and support are appreciated as our society navigates constantly changing regulations and recommendations regarding COVID-19. It is up to all of us to be responsible and do our part in helping limit the spread of the virus.
Thank you for your understanding. Please join our mailing list for further information by e-mailing email@example.com
City of San Diego, Public Works Dept.
Rec Center revamp would be another La Jolla boondoggle
Glen Vanstrum’s letter in the March 12, 2020 issue of La Jolla Light in response to the La Jolla Recreation Center revamp article in the March 5, 2020 issue was spot on. What La Jolla doesn’t need is another over-time, over-budget construction boondoggle like The Cove restrooms, the monstrosity being erected by the Museum of Contemporary Art, streetscaping and the ludicrous attempted undergrounding on Avenida Mañana without first checking whether the project was feasible.
There is nothing wrong with the Rec Center building that a thorough cleaning and painting (including the restrooms) wouldn’t cure. The two playgrounds are situated correctly — apart — so the older children don’t interfere with the younger ones. The basketball courts should be lined for play. One can’t cover the whole area to provide shade, but if a sufficient quantity of sturdy potted trees were provided and distributed around the grounds, the shade problem would be minimized. I repeat: There is need for a four-year over-time, over-budget construction boondoggle! The architects love their pretty pictures in their charrettes, which never turn out to be reality.
As for streetscaping, La Jolla would be wonderfully walkable if the sidewalks were repaired, the scooters that buzz by pedestrians and litter the streets and sidewalks were banned, and motorists would consistently and reliably stop to allow people to cross the streets. Our streets with stores and restaurants are lovely and there are enough benches and greenery. Make the above three items happen and La Jolla is wonderfully walkable!
As for UC San Diego’s monstrous construction, the university is getting too big for its britches!
See the La Jolla Light story, “Rec Center Reborn? Committee unveils $6 million plan to revamp La Jolla Recreation Center,” at lajollalight.com/news/story/2020-03-05/la-jolla-recreation-center
Wash your hands, we’ll wash your clothes
I am the new owner of Ocean Cleaners in the Vons shopping center with two stories to share with La Jollans.
1. Due to the (COVID-19) crisis, I will provide few-hour or same-day service. Also, I will do free pickup and delivery in La Jolla. The CDC advises that the dry cleaning process, which includes cleaning and pressing, is effective on most viruses. The Ocean Cleaners ownership changed on Feb. 24. I will provide best-quality services with a new team and management. I already operate a cleaners in Bird Rock, called Cleaners La Jolla, which I set up 2005 and sold 2007 and re-claimed in 2016.
2. My new concept of the dry-cleaning business will lead an industry trend in the future. I’ve already filed the concept of pickup and deliver dry cleaning for patent; it’s called “Portable personal locker with rack.” You can read more details at smartcart.host
I had a hard time after the sub-prime crash. I lost my properties and business. It took more than 10 years to recover. In 2016, I re-established Cleaners La Jolla, but I had to move out of the building at 6902 La Jolla Blvd., due to the remodel, which now houses Valley Farm Market and apartments.
When I was operating Cleaners La Jolla in the Nautilus Building, my daughter sold her Girl Scout cookies in the cleaners, now she’s a graduate of New York University, and my son is a graduate of Stanford. So, La Jolla is my family’s kind of hometown.
Now I must fight the coronavirus pandemic, and I want to do my best for whomever in La Jolla wants their stuff cleaned — any time and any day. It’s time to give back through my skills and more.
Fencing plaques impede ‘The Map’ artistic vision
The plaza-sized, mosaic-tile piece “Grand Canyons of La Jolla” (commonly called “The Map”) recently installed in Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores is a world-class work of art. The artists — Robin Brailsford and Wick Alexander — worked in collaboration with the eminent oceanographer Dr. Walter Monk from Scripps Institution of Oceanography for more than two years to create an artistically magnificent and educationally meaningful piece of art.
Using maps of the La Jolla coast and sea bottom generated by Dr. Monk, the artists recreated a 2,800-square foot marine tableau with more than 750,000 pieces of glass, tile, shell and stone. The image roams from the sandy beach through the surf line past the deep, marine canyons and out to the vast ocean.
It illustrates sea life from birds to sharks to crabs and kelp. There are more than 50 illustrated creatures each carefully located in relationship to their natural habitat.
The background field mimics the ebb and flow of the ocean’s currents and tides, demonstrating the effect of wind and sun and deep canyons on the world beneath the sea.
Imagine standing on the mosaic looking down at the sea bottom, your eye scanning from the shore to the horizon as your gaze moves across the plaza. When you look up, there is the real beach 100 feet away and the real horizon stretching as far as the eye can see!
Now that the art work has been completed and installed, there is a move afoot to come back and begin coring out more than 75 locations to implant bronze “identification” plaques across the plaza and insert fence posts creating an enclosure around the plaza.
The plaques will visually impede the flow of the eye across the piece — altering the impression of movement of tides and currents and wild life.
The plaques will prohibit the viewer from seeing the tableau as a whole and complete piece. The fence will limit public access and intrude upon the visual flow of the design. Beyond the artistic impact each hole cut in the plaza creates a possible location for failure of the lithomosaic installation which could lead to a dramatic loss of surface.
The plaques and fence are unnecessary, unneeded and intrusive. They change the installation from a majestic art piece into a common page in a text book. I encourage those that propose the plaques and fence to reconsider their plan. Sometimes less really is more and sometimes art is more instructive than science.
I was born and raised in La Jolla. My father was Frederick Liebhardt, a noted architect in La Jolla and San Diego, who is recognized for many outstanding houses and buildings around town. I was a trustee of the La Jolla Community Planning Assocation for more than eight years.
I am as well acquainted with the “Grand Canyons of La Jolla” artists, Robin Braislford and Wick Alexander, as my father was with Dr. Monk — they worked together on the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics building at Scripps Institution of Oceanography: my father’s final swan song piece of architecture. I do have have some insight into the situation and believe the integrity of an artist’s impression is important.
Centenarian Doris Sutton is an inspiration
As a La Jolla resident, and ardent reader of La Jolla Light, I am totally fascinated by the accomplishments of centenarian Doris Sutton as reported in the March 19, 2020 issue, page B10. What an inspiration she is to all seniors, myself included. Read the La Jolla Light story about her at lajollalight.com/lifestyle/story/2020-03-30/creative-la-jolla-author-turns-100-doris-sutton
Thank you so much for the opportunity to read about this amazing lady, and to Elizabeth Frausto for her excellent presentation, which I will keep forever. Blessings and good health to all.
Check IDs during “senior shopping hours”
On the morning of March 24, I went to Vons in La Jolla during its new “senior shopping hours,” 7-9 a.m. What a mistake! There were very few seniors shopping, mainly younger people intent on stocking up.
The lines to the checkout stretched back down the aisles to the meat counter. I joined the queue holding my basket with the few items I’d been able to find, and waited 40 minutes in line. People did try to maintain some distance, but for seniors who are at the highest risk for coronavirus infection, this was not a good place to be.
I thought Vons had a great idea devoting two early hours to senior shopping, but on that Tuesday, the store was open to all ages and for seniors, instead of being protected from exposure, the opposite was true. Perhaps Vons should try different hours or ask for an ID?
A “shopocalypse” tale at the supermarket
I was shopping at Vons in the morning to re-stock food and paper products. I had actually stocked up early last week before the panic set in, so was OK, until running out of eggs .There were none, although store clerks assured me they were coming, but had not yet been stocked.
Folks started queuing up outside the store around 6:30 a.m. By 7 a.m. opening, there were about 25-30 people lined up at the door. The manager announced the store was open for the day and that folks should be orderly and only buy limited quantities of items.
There was an immediate rush to the paper products aisle that was stripped in about 15 minutes. Signs posted on the shelves noted only two items per customer were allowed. I took two of toilet paper, tissue paper and paper towels, but was informed only two items total from that section were allowed. While clerks confiscated paper products from several shoppers’ baskets, including mine, I commented that the signs were open to misinterpretation.
I successfully acquired everything else on my list, although I got the last remaining containers of bleach, frozen peas and chicken broth. Both dairy product sections were stripped, as was soup, chicken and frozen food. Nonetheless, the rest of the store seemed well stocked and new supplies were arriving, while I shopped.
I next went to Meanley & Son Ace Hardware and assessed cleaning supplies. No sanitary wipes, paper products or sanitizers. Store personnel noted they weren’t available from their suppliers. But everything else seemed stocked.
I then cruised the downtown Village to see what was open. Not much. At 9 a.m., the place was a ghost town. Only Sugar & Scribe restaurant was valiantly open, with takeout baked goods and breakfast. I bought a huge and very tasty almond croissant and decided to give them a shout-out on the Nextdoor website.
Leaf blowers should be banned from use in La Jolla
I would like to thank La Jolla Light reader Avalee Cohen for writing a letter in the March 19, 2020 issue on the topic of leaf blowers — full disclosure, this is not my first time either. Leaf blowers are noisy, polluting and have become an auditory menace throughout many parts of La Jolla. They have become the de facto tool for landscaping companies and all they really do is blow leaves and debris into other neighbors’ yards and it’s high time that they be banned — as many cities in California have already done.
Their constant and obnoxious drone can be heard almost any time of day in most La Jolla neighborhoods and negatively impact our quality of life. I would like to second Avalee Cohen’s suggestion that we pressure the city government to outlaw their use.
Now that more people are working from home these days, perhaps more will begin to notice these auditory menaces. For those familiar with the smartphone app called Nextdoor, there is a petition being circulated there — type in “leaf blowers” to find it — to ban their use, which I have signed.
How to stay safe during coronavirus crisis
During times of crisis, I’ve learned the importance of staying positive and of reaching out to help others. Right now, my City Council office and I have been focused on helping those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and I wanted to pass along some helpful information:
• News and information: You can always find the latest official updates from the City, including resources and guidelines to follow at sandiego.gov/coronavirus or sign-up for my council office newsletter updates which include links to city, state and federal resources including information about assistance programs at sandiego.gov/citycouncil/cd1
• Assistance: If you or a loved one need assistance, whether you live in District 1 or not, my office is ready and willing to help. Contact me at (619) 236-6611 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
• Donations for individuals: For those able and willing, my husband Neil and I have contributed to a fund started by the Jewish Community Foundation for individuals who are without a paycheck or a significantly reduced paycheck so that they can pay their rent and buy food. Donate at jcfsandiego.org
• Donations for nonprofits: The San Diego Foundation has established a fund to help make emergency grants to nonprofit organizations supporting impacted communities. Donate at sdfoundation.org/covid19
On March 17, the City Council considered several proposals to address impacts from the coronavirus emergency. Among them was a proposal to protect from eviction tenants — both residential and commercial — impacted by the crisis.
I voted to direct City staff to draft an ordinance exercising the City’s authority under the Governor’s emergency declaration. As I stated on March 17, public health and humanitarian considerations justify such action, but I also indicated that my review of such an ordinance will be guided by ensuring fairness to both tenants and property owners. Both tenants and property owners deserve protection from short-term impacts of this crisis, and I will work to ensure both are protected.
For tenants who can document direct impacts from the crisis, those protections would include temporary extensions of rent payment deadlines. For property owners, they would ensure availability of temporary state or federal aid and extension of property tax and mortgage payment deadlines.
In addition, tenants should take advantage of unemployment insurance which is available immediately or small business loans to help them get through these difficult times. I will not support an ordinance that protects one group at the expense of the other.
We have a lot of work to do — together. When we get out of this crisis, the optimism we maintain today will be the strongest medicine for a quick recovery.
Barbara Bry, District 1 San Diego City Council member
Analyzing viruses: Where we are now?
I have said for decades (since taking a class on disease at San Diego State University) that pandemic is inevitable because of the proximity of humans to each other and with other mammals, such that there is ample opportunity for viruses to fulfill their evolutionary propensities for mutating and surviving. If life were not structured in that way, we would not exist to complain.
The good news of where we are now is that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is relatively benign compared to what new viruses could be. In the dooms-speak of California, this is not “The Big One.”
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is universally called a “new” virus or “novo” virus using Latin to sound more erudite.
Alternatively, let me fantasize a figure of speech that a virus has a perspective and a purpose in the way that humans experience themselves having perspective and purpose. In this fantasy, SARS-CoV-2 is not so much a new virus as we humans are its new host, according to the article, “The Evolution and Genetics of Virus Host Shifts,” on the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine website: bit.ly/virushostshifts
Identifying with the virus, we can see it wants to survive, grow, change and replicate much as we do. We can “contract” COVID-19 without an express contract to be host to its existence. The contract is implicit in that what generates the virus is what generated us — a universal impetus to be and then to grow. And what about The Big One, the new virus that is far more lethal than the COVID-19?
If a virus is too lethal (virulent) and its host dies before the virus can transmit to other hosts, this is bad news for both the virus as well as the host. It means in general, but not necessarily, that a more lethal virus is going to be less successful at transmission from one human to the next.
As an example of “not necessarily,” look at the impact of smallpox from Europe upon the pre-European population of the continent now called North America, whose population had emigrated from Asia and flourished here before being decimated by a new (for here) virus from Europe.
Our placid existence dwells in the interstice between non-survivable events of nature without which we would never have formed in the first place. We are pretty clever with biogenetic engineering, existentialism, law, art, etc. — but so is the tiny virus in its extraordinary capacity to hitch a ride and replicate within our cells.
John A. Berol
What’s on YOUR mind?
Letters published in La Jolla Light express views from readers in regard to community matters. To share your thoughts in this public forum, e-mail them with your name and city of residence to email@example.com or mail them to La Jolla Light Editor, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, CA 92037. Submissions of related photos are also welcome. Letters reflect the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of the newspaper staff or publisher.