By Garvin Walsh
In March 2020 the Encinitas City Council ratified an Emergency Order proclaimed by the City Manager.
By issuing the Order, the City Manager gave herself the power to “address any and all impacts and conditions caused by Covid-19.”
The justification for the grant of emergency powers to an un-elected individual was the assertion that “conditions and threatened conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons or property have arisen within Encinitas, caused by the Covid-19.”
It’s not difficult to appreciate how, at that time, the need for extraordinary measures might be foreseen.
No doubt members of the Council shared the fears about the disease which were widespread at the time. Their concerns may have been reasonable then, but today we’ve come far and know they are no longer justified.
The Emergency Order provides a legal foundation for government actions, taken in response to Covid-19, which would be unconstitutional or otherwise illegal in normal times.
Examples of such would be forbidding public assemblies, requiring people to remain in their homes, forbidding travel, imposing an eviction moratorium, interfering with private contracts, etc.
Recent examples have directly affected the City of Encinitas.
The City Manager’s decision to cancel the Holiday Parade, apparently taken on her own, without consulting the Council, illustrates in a modest way the risk associated with unaccountable emergency powers held by overzealous individuals.
So does the decision that city employees must be vaccinated or face termination.
In normal times, such an imposition on personal autonomy would not be acceptable.
Now that the Covid crisis has subsided, is it reasonable and proper to continue with coercive measures? This is not a hypothetical question: As of this writing a substantial number of the city’s firefighters will lose their jobs if they are not vaccinated by Nov. 30.
Will our Fire Department’s preparedness suffer if 25% or more of its members are dismissed? Just this week published reports tell of the closure of 26 New York City firehouses because of staff shortages resulting from vaccine mandates.
A weak response to a fire in Encinitas could pose a serious risk to life and property. We don’t want that here, but we may get it, due to the City Manager’s exercise of extraordinary powers.
We should stop pretending that we are in an emergency.
Certainly our City Council understands this is no longer true, else they would not have decided to override the cancellation of the parade. They should follow the logic through to its conclusion.
Covid-19 is endemic now — it seems likely to be with us for many years to come, but it is no longer an emergency.
Immunity from vaccines, natural immunity, and the development of more effective treatment protocols have combined to convert the pandemic from a scary crisis to a costly but manageable problem for society at large.
Evidence collected and published by the CDC, the California Department of Public Health, and the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency make the current circumstances clear: Covid-19 testing is widespread in California, and the rate of test positivity is very low; the number of cases in San Diego County has plummeted, and the rate of death due to Covid-19 is low enough now to be regarded as statistical noise (0.15 per 100,000 population).
Much of this may be due to the fact that in San Diego more than 81% of eligible persons are fully vaccinated, with nearly another 10% in the pipeline who have received their first dose.
Emergency measures may have been justified a year and half ago, but they are not today. Covid-19 does not present an “extreme peril” to the residents of Encinitas.
Without an emergency, there should be no Emergency Order in Encinitas. It is time for the extensive powers granted to the City Manager to be revoked, and it’s past time to get back to normal in Encinitas.
Garvin Walsh is a resident of Encinitas.