Masked Cook - © 2020 The Straits Times

COVID-19 Experience: The Rush Back To The Beaches And Bars

Here’s a prime topic for Sunday Musing: Why are so many folks rushing back to the beaches, bars and other mass meeting places as many jurisdictions cautiously ease restrictions on their COVID-19 lock down measures? More to the point, why are so many of them disregarding social distancing rules?

Social Drinking - © myfitnesspal.comMany folks seem to believe – to their ultimate disadvantage – that the cautious
reopening of restaurants under eased but still onerous COVID-19
regulations is a license to ‘go back to normal’.

Okay… I can understand that many folks want to get out of the house after weeks of ‘ self isolating’ in the effort to keep COVID-19 from spreading. It’s only natural. The human animal is a social animal, and one of most fundamental social behaviours in which we engage is the communal breaking of bread. But why are so many folks who choose to venture out into the world under eased pandemic lock down rules acting as if the danger is over and they can just go back to life as it was before the crisis hit?

Not as if the experts haven’t warned us

It’s not as though the health and safety folks, and our political leaders haven’t warned us to maintain social distancing standards and imposed some pretty stiff regulations on certain businesses and facilities that want to reopen, even partially, to try to stave off permanent financial ruin. Chief among those is the restaurant sector, which most observers agree has been the hardest hit economically of all industries, already having suffering mass permanent closures of individual and chain locations across the western world.

Considering the cozy circumstances under which folks traditionally meet family and friends for drinks and food, it’s not surprising that the resto sector should be facing the singularly most onerous conditions being imposed on businesses that want to re-open for regular in-store service. Typical official requirements for re-opening restaurant dining rooms include:

  • Increased space between tables/seats (at least 6 ft. / 2 m).
  • Severe restrictions on the occupancy rate of the facilities and the operators’ ability to make sales.
  • ‘Enhanced’ sanitation requirements and service restrictions for which operators must hire additional staff and purchase additional supplies to comply with.
  • Erection of barriers between staff and customers, which represents a significant cost to operators. (Plexiglas isn’t cheap.)
  • And a host of other other measures.

In spite of the above, resto operators are stepping up to meet regulations and ‘welcome back’ their loyal customers. (See photo, top of page.)

So why are so many customers not complying?

In the U.S. especially it seems that folks are choosing to interpret the easement of some COVID-19 social distancing and isolation measures as a license to stop doing anything at all to fight COVID-19.

One of the simplest and easiest ways to help stop the spread of the pandemic is simply to wear masks. And that’s been demonstrated in the dramatic up-surge in new coronavirus cases some regions in the past two or three weeks, since some restrictions were first cautiously eased. But not a day goes by that we aren’t regaled with pictures in the social media and on TV of large crowds gathering in public places such as parks and beaches – and bars and restos – not wearing masks and not maintaining the now-familiar 2 m social distance standard that has been so strongly stressed from the outset of the crisis.

Faulty logic blurs science with politics

It’s been suggested that many average people, suffering with cabin fever such as they’ve never before experienced in their lives, have chosen to embrace the example of some leading media figures – not the least of whom, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has refused to wear a mask during his televised public appearances, even in environments such as mask factories and medical facilities where controlling the spread of COVID-19 is especially important. Not to mention not requiring his fans to observe masking and social distancing requirements during his recent embarrassing rally in Oklahoma.

Remember the video clip of a young guy on the beach at Ft. Lauderdale who, in the midst of teeming crowds of revelers not wearing masks said (I paraphrase), “If the President doesn’t have to wear a mask, neither do I.” And young woman interviewed in the same clip who said (again, I paraphrase), “It’s my right not to wear a mask if I don’t want to wear one. My family and friends have talked about it, and, well, we all have to die sometime, right? We’ll take out chances.”

Perhaps most disturbing has been the higher-level proclamations by some community ‘leaders’ who insist that the constitutional freedom-of-speech rights of Americans are being improperly infringed by social distancing and masking regulations. From the very beginning, some congregational religious leaders have insisted that the banning of large gatherings – such as church services – infringes their right to freedom of religious practice.

C’mon people!

Social distancing and masking and other measures being recommended – and, increasingly, mandated – are there for the good us all, in the interest of fighting the scourge of COVID-19. Those who would read political or religious motives into the scenario are simply blurring the picture, causing confusion and division among those they influence. As the stark and continuing rise in the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases and deaths over the past 14 to 20 days bears grave witnesses to the folly of not following common sense and not embracing the lock down regulations that have now been reinstated and tightened considerably in resurgence jurisdictions, compared the original requirements.

The question is… Will people learn from this hard lesson lesson?

~ Maggie J.