Man with gun in ancient clothes guarding a room

California has entered lockdown today. The six bay area counties, including Alameda County ordered us to shelter in place earlier this week. Our last tastings at the winery were Sunday, and Sidewinder closed Sunday evening in accordance with the rules. Seems surreal – everything is closed, traffic is almost nonexistent, and the stores are being depleted of almost everything as people prepare for the worst.

We have been told to shelter in place in order to flatten the curve. The curve refers to the rate of new infections, which usually grow exponentially until the number of new infections begins to drop off with herd immunity.

Flattening the curve is important to prevent overwhelming our hospitals. Shelter in place is a good thing now because it buys us time to prepare for the future caseload.

We are told the shelter in place order will extend into April. Most of us can handle a brief disruption in our life. However, if it extends beyond a few weeks, businesses will begin to struggle, especially airlines, hotels, restaurants, and winery tasting rooms.

Businesses will begin to reopen when the health departments begin to see a flattening of the curve. This could be in a few weeks if we are lucky. However, I suspect it will extend longer, and we risk long term endangerment to the economy. Also, I expect non-Coronavirus-related deaths will begin to rise. Most obvious is suicide, which is known to correlate with the unemployment rate.

We should begin to be concerned when the talk moves away from flattening the curve to eradicating the disease. This is a common occurrence when physicians are put in charge of policy. They quickly become focussed on eliminating the cause of disease. They tend not to consider the bigger picture. If there is no oversite, we can expect the lockdown to remain indefinitely.

I have heard estimates as high as several million Americans will die from this disease; that the disease is as transmissible as measles, and that it is extremely deadly. We fear coronavirus, and this is a good thing – for now. Fear can be used to control the spread and limit the damage of the disease.

But fear and the frustrations of confinement, the loss of jobs, the loss of hope – all of these and more will bring Americans to a boiling point if the lockdown remains indefinite. How long can we go without a break down in the authority of government? Two months? Three months? If the lockdown continues beyond May, we can look to a frustrated people breaking free. If history is any guide, we can expect rioting and looting if there is no alternative to shelter in place. All it will take is a spark for this to occur.

So, the lockdown right now is a good thing. It buys us time. The tricky bit will be ending it, and we must end it or the people will end it for us.

During these unprecedented times, we will keep the winery and distillery open for curbside pickups. We look forward to seeing all of you when this is over. This too, like all things, shall pass.

As for now – stay safe.

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