There is a term that repeatedly comes up in dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic. That term “herd immunity,” It relates to enough people being exposed to the virus such that a group immunity emerges.

Another phrase related to a herd that may apply is “culling the herd.” A cold definition is to separate from the herd, usually by death, those with undesirable traits and weaknesses.

You’ve seen the animal documentaries where a herd is being preyed upon by a predator. The first to be culled from the herd are the old and vulnerable. This is because they can’t keep up and are left behind.

Then it’s the animals that don’t seem to be too smart and stray from the group. They take their own path. They act like the tried-and-true methods of survival don’t apply to them. It’s hard to determine if they are more courageous or just oblivious to reality so they do stupid things.

In this drama of the survival of the fittest, the animals that have access to the best feeding grounds, the ones who for generations have been on the top of the “pecking order,” have the best chance to persevere and survive. Pecking order is related to the asserted dominance among chickens or the social hierarchy in a society.

But the most critical characteristic of the herd is that they band together to protect the young. Even animals know that their future existence as a species is based on doing this. So, when attacked they form a circle with the young in the middle and the adults facing out, ready to take the danger head-on.

In some ways this metaphor fits the situation in society today. The COVID 19 pandemic is culling the herd of humanity.

The old. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 8 out of 10 deaths from COVID 19 are among those 65 or older. The stories about the COVID deaths among the elderly left behind in sub-standard nursing homes are well documented and a recurring story in the reporting on the current pandemic.

The vulnerable. Because of underlying health conditions due to lifestyle and socio-economic status, they are more likely to fall prey to a predator, or in this case a disease. Study after study has shown that the poor and people of color, especially Pacific Islanders, Latinos and African Americans, are more likely to succumb to COVID 19 than their Asian and White counterparts in the U.S.

Then there are those, no matter the science or opinions of experts, who feel entitled and demand to go their own way. The rules don’t apply to them, they’re special and oftentimes are belligerent in their stupidity.

But there is an established baseline of understanding relative to controlling and limiting the impact of this predatory pandemic. The wearing of a face mask, social distancing and hyper-hygiene are the new status quo based on medical science and common sense. Which brings me to the ultimate point of this column.

On July 13, the Orange County Board of Education recommended that school districts reopen in August with the only changes in pre-pandemic practices being frequent hand-washing, checking of temperatures and the daily cleaning of schools. No masks, no social distancing and no alternative off-campus options will be required. What?!

Why gamble with the health and lives of our children? Can’t we wait a little longer, even another semester if need be? Especially when health experts say that the fall and winter months may super-charge a resurgence of the pandemic. Better safe than sorry!

In the OC Board of Education policy, they state, “Among our greatest responsibilities as adults is our responsibility to model courage and persistence in the face of uncertainty and fear” (quote is from an L.A. Times article, July 14 edition). Why not just use FDR’s quote during WWII, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

It’s like the first wildebeest to arrive at the river crossing telling the second, “Yes, there’s crocs in the river, but jump in anyway because the only thing to fear is fear itself.” Of course the herd has to cross, the crocs get their share and life goes on. For the wildebeest it’s an acceptable risk for survival; how about for our children?

Fortunately, the OC Board of Education does not actually govern a school district but does provide policy guidelines for local school districts within the county. But any district that opens without at least the policy of wearing masks, honoring social distancing and providing an online/remote education option should be sued for endangering the life of a child.

Finally, when Lisa and I pick up our granddaughter from school, at least a quarter of those waiting for the children are grandparents. Yes, without us, the younger parents of the herd couldn’t move about the way they do.

Don’t sacrifice or leave us, the old and vulnerable, behind.

NOTE: On July 17, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the 32 counties on the COVID 19 “watch list,” including Orange and Los Angeles counties, to reopen in the fall with remote learning only. These counties are on the watch list because of high numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. After 14 days of not being on the watch list, counties can physically reopen schools under strict guidelines.


Warren Furutani has served as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, and California State Assembly. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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