Rita and I just returned from our trip to San Francisco, and we had a wonderful time. I wrote one article while we were still there, and I promise there are more to come. Today however, I want to take a moment to write something about the infectious elephant in the room, Covid-19.

As I’ve mentioned previously, San Francisco was not our original goal. We had planned on using a soon-to-expire vacation week in Florida, but changed our minds when the Florida governor apparently lost his. San Fran now has just over 80% of its citizens vaccinated, and mask mandates are in place for public transport, inside public buildings, and even outdoors in a crowd. They also require proof of vaccinations if you want to dine inside a restaurant.

We began our voyage with a 4:15am Uber ride to the Knoxville airport, where the company mandates masks for the drivers and passengers. Inside the airport, masks are again required. The same for our flight to Charlotte, the Charlotte airport, our flight to San Francisco, the SF airport, the Lyft ride to the hotel, and the hotel lobby and common areas.

Although in the airports I did notice there is always someone who thinks it is okay for them to wear a mask on their chin or to have their nose poking out, for the most part people were complying with the rules.

As we toured around the town, I couldn’t help but notice that the residents and visitors were pretty good at following the mandates. People were wearing masks where required properly and without complaints, and I observed people at several restaurants showing ID and vaccination cards for seats inside without any grumbling or unnecessary drama.

As a result of or maybe even despite these mandates, people were out and about, enjoying themselves. Restaurants and bars were doing business indoors and out, mass transit was humming, and tourist attractions were busy.

Many San Francisco bars and restaurants have built make-shift outdoor seating out of parking spaces

This was a refreshing contrast from our home in Knox County. Here we have parents organizing to try and force the schools to drop the mask mandate. Our state’s governor is one of those who refused from the start to require masks or encourage vaccines because “freedom”. Some businesses are trying to have mask policies, but they are routinely ignored by a large segment of the population. People still give the stink-eye to those who do wear masks in public, and if their job forces them to wear one, they wear it badly whenever possible.

What’s the difference, you may ask? Is it really such a big deal to be vaccinated and wear masks in public? Well, today I looked up some numbers online to compare our Knox County with San Francisco County.

SF County as of today reports 74% of their total population fully vaccinated. For those age 12 and up, the number is 81%, while Seniors (over 65) come in at 83%.

Here in Knox County, while 86% of those 65+ have their shots, the numbers for those age 12 and up drops to 61%, and only 52% of the total population has taken the vaccine seriously.

I know there are those who say vaccines aren’t really needed, and that mask wearing is silly affectation and pointless, but consider the following numbers.

Knox County, with a population of 478,971 currently has a seven-day average rate of new cases at 238 per day.

SF County on the other hand, with a population of 873,961 has a current rate of 89 per day.

Get it? SF has almost twice the population of Knox, but less than half as many new cases each day.

Call it a coincidence if you like, resort to the tried and true “fake news” claim, or tell me about Nicki Minaj’s friend’s cousin’s testicles, but I for one plan on getting my booster this month and will continue to wear a mask in public.

It is such an easy and common sense thing to do to be able to begin to enjoy travel once more.

Masked and still enjoying a cable car ride.