The broader problem, however, was that too many people heard “We’re starting to open” but missed the next part: “… and we have to do it safely.” Safety meant that people needed to continue to maintain their distance from one another, reliably wear masks, and avoid large crowds. As shelter-in-place rules were relaxed, too many people—particularly, but not exclusively, young ones—interpreted opening up as permission to return to their pre-coronavirus life. They grew complacent. And with complacency came sloppiness.
This is understandable. Maintaining vigilance for months on end is hard, particularly when you’re not hearing ambulance sirens wailing through the night or seeing refrigerated morgue trucks outside your hospitals. COVID-19 came to be seen as a New York problem, and Californians let down their guard.
Several other factors explained the surge, none of them unique to California. While the state is reliably blue, it has plenty of right-wingers who seem to believe that wearing a mask is a sign of weakness or party disloyalty…
Regardless of the reason Californians lowered their defenses, the virus seized the opportunity. The coronavirus doesn’t care that you had a terrific March and April, nor is it interested in who you vote for, that you don’t like the look or feel of masks, or that you’re desperate to get your job back and see your friends. It is interested only in whether it can find a warm, moist home in the back of your throat or nose. And, in June, too many Californians made those parts of their anatomy available to the coronavirus.