Cali Inches Toward Soviet System, Now Even Sneezing Can Land You a Visit from Authorities


It’s so rare for me to find common cause with a Democrat that I feel the occasion warrants repeating.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — Michael Corleone to Chris Cuomo’s Fredo — went on NBC’s “Today” show to talk about the number of coronavirus cases in his state. Not only did he not scaremonger, he specifically warned against scaremongering

“We’re fighting the virus and we’re fighting fear and panic,” Cuomo said. “The fear and panic is, if anything, worse than the virus.”

Meanwhile, in California, people are calling 911 on coughing and sneezing neighbors.

That seems fearful and panicky enough until you consider the neighbors then get a visit from the authorities — and perhaps a trip to the hospital.

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Out in the Coachella Valley, in the California desert, you’d think they’d be a bit more mellow.

If a Monday report from the Palm Springs Desert Sun is to be believed, however, sneezing could get you carried off for fears of the coronavirus.

“As the number of those with the coronavirus grows locally — Riverside County announced its 15th case on Monday and San Bernardino County confirmed its first case on Sunday — some Coachella Valley police departments say they’ve started fielding 911 reports from concerned callers convinced a neighbor’s overly loud sneeze or hacking cough is proof the person has the virus,” the report read.

“Palm Springs police estimate dispatchers had about five of these calls last week, Sgt. Mike Casavan said.”

Do you think people are panicking too much over the coronavirus?

So, what do they do? Shrug their shoulders? Excoriate the caller for wasting emergency resources? Nope.

“In many cases, the calls are forwarded to the fire department where paramedics are also dispatched to directly provide any needed medical attention before transporting the person to an area hospital,” the article read.

“That it takes a lab test to determine whether a person is actually positive for the virus doesn’t matter. The concern is real and each call, no matter how infrequent, is a request for help that law enforcement personnel must take seriously and handle professionally.

“Authorities say they can’t ignore such calls or discount them as paranoia, hypochondria or fakery. They must respond even when every other public entity adopts ‘social distancing’ in order to reduce possible coronavirus transmission.”

So, let’s get this straight.

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You’re in your apartment, doing the right thing, watching old episodes of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and lording over your toilet paper stash.

You’re allergic to mold and, well, as with any millennial who’s still watching “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” you’ve definitely got some mold in your apartment.

You’re sneezing like any other allergic person would.

Then comes a knock at your door. It’s the authorities.

Your neighbor heard you sneezing and, well, they’ve come to visit. Would you sit down over there please while we ask you a few questions?

Why am I not surprised this is happening out in California?

Now, I’m not sure if this is poorly written enough that it sounds like they’ll carry you off to the hospital — voluntarily or not — just because your neighbor heard you coughing, or whether that’s what they’re actually doing.

I don’t think either augurs well for the city of Palm Springs, although having an interminably vague writer on the Desert Sun beats having authorities carry you off because your neighbor doesn’t like your hacking cough.

Either way, these calls should be treated with the scorn and derision they deserve.

I understand we’re in a crisis where extraordinary measures must be taken. Those measures don’t include Soviet-style snitching on the person next door because you’re afraid you’ll get the virus through the drywall. (Pro tip: It doesn’t work that way.)

It sounds like a truism that we have to fight fear as much as we have to fight the coronavirus. The problem arises when you try to find a public figure willing to say that. So, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and we run around like ninnies, buying toilet paper for an upper respiratory ailment as we narc on our neighbors for allergy symptoms.

No one is saying there aren’t reasons to be scared. Yes, practice social distancing. Get hand sanitizer.

Don’t be one of those idiots who gets pictured on CNN crammed into a sweaty dive bar downtown.

For that matter, authorities in California need to get their act together.

This isn’t just an inefficient use of manpower, it’s getting dangerously close to the kind of thing you would see in a Soviet-style republic. The very act of responding to these calls simply begets more calls and more uptight people who are afraid of someone sneezing.

Vigilance must have perspective. When it doesn’t, the excesses are terrible.

This is just a few calls now. As the coronavirus continues its course, it’s going to end up being more than a few calls.

Andrew Cuomo was (gak) right: “The fear and panic is worse than the virus.”

If the authorities are visiting people because someone was worried about their sneezing, then we’ve lost all perspective.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture