California’s “Grand Reopening”

“There is no American recovery without California’s recovery,” boasted Gov. Gavin Newsom one day prior to his state’s much anticipated “Grand Reopening” from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And seen from the lens of the California economy, “which generates 14.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product,” it could be seen as such.

At midnight on Tuesday, June 15, California officially “rescinded most mask rules for vaccinated people and ended capacity limitations on businesses and venues” as well as lifted “state rules on social distancing.” At indoor “mega events” which hold more than 5,000 people, however, all attendees must be masked. While those who are unvaccinated “are still required” to don masks at indoor venues no matter the size, the state is abiding by “an honor system,” and businesses may individually decide how strictly they implement the new guidelines. 

At 15 months, the Golden State is “one of the last U.S. states to reopen,” given its rollercoaster ride “from being a success story to the U.S. epicenter of the virus. As the first in the country to impose a statewide shutdown in March 2020, California’s businesses were just starting to reopen last June when cases started rising and the state was ordered to close again.”

Though not surprising considering it has by far the largest population of any state, California pulled in the highest COVID-19 statistics in the nation, with more than 3.8 million infected and more than 63,000 dead. But it also “had a lower per capita death rate than most others …. [and] now has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country, below 1%.”


Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

The state kicked off its reopening with a massive vaccine incentive program called “Vax for the Win,” in which vaccinated Californians were automatically entered into a lottery: 10 individuals won $1.5 million each, 30 individuals won $50,000 each, and six individuals each won a vacation package to a popular California site, including a stay at Disneyland or seats at a Los Angeles Lakers game. On May 27, the government also began offering $50, in either grocery or cash cards, to the first two million residents to get vaccinated. In total, California is giving away $116 million in what is “the nation’s largest vaccine incentive.” Currently, more than 70% of Californians “have had at least one dose” of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Additionally, the state is doling out $2.6 billion in an effort “to help tenants to pay back rent amid hardship.” Newsom was quoted as saying, “If you’ve been directly impacted by this pandemic, … we’ll pay 100% of that debt to your landlord and 100% of utility costs.”

As for the actual reopening, the majority of news reports largely highlighted the hopes and fears among the establishments throwing open—or in some cases cracking ajar—their doors: bars, buffets, nightclubs, casinos, arcades, theme parks, and the like, with lines of patrons snaking down sidewalks and around corners. Summer is back, and so is first-world fun.

This is the lifeline,” said an operations director for a corporation of bars.

“It’s kind of learning how to be a human again,” commented one former resident while doing some weekday shopping.

“Now people are free to order at the bar, free to dance, free to mingle, and that makes our lives easier,” shared the owner of a San Francisco bar.


Liberated to Slavery

When you think about it, it’s almost like opening up different jail cells and having hordes of people rush inside each one. Are we not fully living if we don’t have a cocktail or a roll of the dice? Would it be plausible to say that our run-of-the-mill lifestyle is actually addiction disguised as freedom?

Then there’s this fascinating statement from Dr. Christopher Longhurst of the University of California San Diego: “The state erred on the side of caution, and that’s impinged on personal freedom in favor of public health. But it saved lives.”

This isn’t a novel concept. The balance between individual liberty and the collective good is a consistent topic of debate in our country—and it’s a debate that isn’t going to go away, especially as we get closer to the end of time, as the Bible has foretold. Keeping that balance is crucial to the identity of our country.

The Bible has already prophesied, however, that that identity is indeed going to change—and is even now in its metamorphosis: “I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11), said John the Revelator. One day, that lamb is going to become a dragon. To find out all about this strange hybrid, start with our free online Study Guide “The USA in Bible Prophecy.” 

Here’s a question that bears consideration: Who decides what is good?

What if, one day, the people who decide the common good conclude that your religion is the threat to society? What if, one day, you become the virus?

If this life—of drinking, gambling, gaming, shopping—is our concept of freedom now, what would we do to retain that freedom? Would we take a bribe? Would we stifle our conscience? Would we sin against our God? If you’d like some help answering those questions, take a quick read of our free book Alone in the Crowd.

There does exist a freedom that no one can ever take away from you. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), said Jesus Christ. And “if you abide in [Christ’s] word, …. you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (8:31, 32).

Kris W. Sky
Kris W. Sky is a writer and editor for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.
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