I was very troubled to see the large crowd of weekend motorcyclists outside of the Lumber Mill restaurant this Saturday.
There were 20 to 40 people at various times, packed closely together and not wearing masks. While I welcome these visitors to our town, the lack of compliance with social distancing poses an immediate threat to our safety.
I am aware of only three reported cases of COVID-19 in Idyllwild. This suggests that we do not yet have the numbers of infected people that leads to community spread.
However, the arrival of visitors from all over the region is likely to dramatically increase cases unless orders from the Riverside County Office of Public Health are enforced.
The restaurant manager said that he asked the people outside to socially distance as instructed but got little compliance.
I then spoke to a sergeant at the Hemet Sheriff’s office, who said that they are not enforcing the county’s orders and that it was his department’s policy to take an “educational approach” to deal with the public.
When I continued to express concern for the safety of Idyllwild residents, the sergeant commented that the visitors were exercising their First Amendment rights to congregate.
I pointed out that the visitors were not protesting against Stay-at-Home orders, certainly their right. Rather, they were just some nice folks having lunch, but failing to comply with the orders.
Later, I reflected on this puzzling comment from a law enforcement sergeant who I would expect to be well versed in the First Amendment and civil rights law. Was he suggesting that I was only engaging in the political disagreement currently playing out on the evening news?
I believe that there are legitimate questions about the need to save our economy as well as our lives.
Fortunately, the Stay-at-Home orders are designed to save both lives and the economy.
Virtually all of the epidemiologists believe that these policies are needed to make the reopening of businesses possible. I feel the pain that our beautiful little tourist town has experienced the past few years and hope that we do not lose any more of our wonderful businesses.
I am asking that Idyllwild town leaders immediately look into this problem and determine the legal issues involved and the enforcement and educational options available to the town before the arrival more visitors..
Dr. Roger Lasken