Bat Flu Feature of Riverside County mobile app encourages Americans to fink out their neighbors

The Bat Flu Fink Feature

You’re just a few clicks away from snitching on your neighbors.

In a polarized America, what could divide us more even further? Unfortunately, Riverside County CA has created a fresh way.  In a press release dated April 10, they announced they have added a feature to their mobile app to report violations of COVID-19 related state and county public health orders.  They call it the COVID-19 Response. I call it the Bat Flu Fink Feature, or BF3.

Rationalizing the same tactics that served many 20th Century despots well, County Supervisor Manuel Perez stated, “We must mitigate and suppress the spread of the Coronavirus. This app will help identify hotspots that will lead to efficiently responding to businesses that are risking the health of the community.”

The press release further explained that the prominent BF3 on their app will be used to make anonymous reports about possible violations of orders issued by the State of California or the County of Riverside public health officer. “These violations may include the operation of nonessential businesses, unauthorized gatherings, and failure by essential businesses to comply with health orders such as facial coverings and social distancing for staff or patrons.”

The previous weekend, Dr. Cameron Kaiser,  Riverside County’s public health officer, ordered all residents to cover their noses and mouths when leaving home. In spite of earlier requests from county officials for residents to socially distance and stay home, the doctor said, “We change from saying that you should to saying that you must.”

Law enforcement agencies have the authority to write citations or arrest violators, but on April 6, after Dr. Kaiser’s weekend statement,  Sheriff Chad Bianco said his department wouldn’t be setting up “any type of police state.” Deputies won’t cite residents for not wearing a mask, when out for a walk with their families.

To me, the Bat Flu Fink Feature is a ham-fisted attempt to ratchet the pressure up a notch by implying there could be legal consequences. Just look at this language, especially the word will: “Users will specify the address and type of violation in the report. The feature also includes the option to attach a photo. Anonymous violation reports can also be made at”

The press release also said, “The new feature will provide critical data to Riverside University Health System health officials, who track and address the spread of COVID-19 in Riverside County… ‘This data will allow us to map areas of noncompliance, where we anticipate there will be associated outbreaks of COVID-19 and a corresponding need for resources,’ said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, Riverside University Health System.”

The need for resources? What a crock. Suppose a dozen scofflaws decide to hang out in the parking lot of a local drive-through, as we often did during my faded youth. Further suppose that some bold fink risks his safety to get close enough to snap a photo of the lads. Assume that fink exits the parking lot with no cuts or bruises and submits his report of the violators. Once those violations are logged, will Riverside County then build a pop-up hospital in that newly identified hot spot? Of course not. The new fink feature has exactly one agenda: To use social pressure, reinforced by implied legal consequences, to drive behavior that most people are already practicing.

To be clear, my wife and I follow the recommendations that federal, state, county, and city officials say will flatten the curve. We stay in as much as possible. We wear masks. We wash our hands. And we do all of those because we believe they are in our best interests.

But BF3 is a damn bridge too far. My local government encouraging one citizen to turn another in? Anonymously? For possible violations? Nonessential businesses? Unauthorized gatherings?

If I were the spiteful type, I’d Google Supervisor Perez’ address and file an anonymous complaint. But I’ll just stick to the old-fashioned American way, and share my opinion of him here.

A note about the headline: PC culture says we should call it COVID-19, and make no reference to its origin, such as Spanish Flu or MERS, (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) did in previous decades. So I choose to call it Bat Flu, which mentions no nation or culture. I believe all continents, except Antarctica, have bats.

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