A few days ago, about an hour west of me in Orlando, a popular pub near the University of Central Florida had its liquor license suspended after 13 employees and at least 28 patrons tested positive for COVID-19. Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said there were 152 cases linked to that specific location.
Considering the nature of that venue, the fact that it’s a college bar, presumably frequented by college-age patrons, the prognosis for all of these individuals is probably, at the very least, that they’ll survive. Some may be down for a few months, some may end up with lung scarring, but it is very likely all will survive.
What I can’t help but wonder, though, is how many of these young adults went to the grocery store, a Target, a gas station, work, the home of a family member… all without wearing a mask. How many places did they exhale their gross, COVID-19-infected breath? How many grandmas and grandpas and immunocompromised people did they kill because they needed to get drunk with friends?
Obviously none of these folks were wearing a mask at the bar, so I think we can safely assume they wouldn’t bother with masks anywhere else either. And that’s besides the fact that they went to a fucking bar in the first place, which tells me they don’t give two shits about social distancing. Part of the reason the bar lost its liquor license is that it wasn’t adhering to social distancing guidelines. How does one social distance in a BAR, anyway? They are literally set up for maximum air-sharing.
So, we have, on the one hand, a group of people who give absolutely zero shits. They are out and about as if the pandemic never even existed, breathing all over each other and drinking from the same COVID-19 infected pitcher of beer.
Meanwhile, on the other hand, some people hermit to the extreme, refusing to go any further than the end of their driveway. They have their groceries delivered, and their car battery died because the car hadn’t been driven in 95 days. (This may or may not have happened to me, though it had been only a week since I’d driven anywhere and the battery was already kind of old, stop laughing at me.)
Of course, many of the folks who aren’t leaving their homes have every reason not to. They have severely immunocompromised family members whom, were they to get COVID-19, would not survive. I have friends in this situation. When shelter in place first started, one family member would leave every ten days or so for groceries, but only because delivery wasn’t available. Now that delivery options are available, they are having groceries delivered. I’d do the same thing in their position. COVID-19 in their household would be catastrophic, and I hate this for them.
But there are also plenty of folks who aren’t leaving the house, not due to their own risk, but because they feel everyone should stay home until the virus is gone. They shout in all-caps over the internet that jobs are not as important as lives and everyone, no exceptions, should stay home until we have a vaccine or the virus has burned itself out.
The truth is, neither of these extremes are necessary.
It is possible to resume some level of normalcy while also reducing the spread of the virus. Dealing with COVID-19 does not have to be an all-or-nothing situation. It would help if this sad, incompetent administration could get it together on the testing front and ensure that enough testing is available so that folks can get tested and get results quickly (the “quickly” being the key component here) so that contact tracing could then be done to quarantine close contacts of the COVID-19-positive individual and prevent further spread of the virus. Sadly, that is not currently an option in most places.
Even so, low-risk individuals don’t need to go to the extreme of holing up like vampires on a cloudless day, nor should people gather in large crowds without masks. There is a middle ground here. According to the CDC website, it is possible to go out and run errands, even go to work if your job is essential or unavoidable, and still greatly reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a numbers game. Every person you don’t come into close contact with reduces both your chance of infection and theirs. Every person who wears a mask reduces their and others’ chance of infection. Every errand not run, every party not attended, every office meeting not held, reduces the chance of transmission. The CDC also reminds us that wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing. Even with your nose and mouth covered, you should still maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. Remember that masks protect others from you if you are sick and haven’t realized it. Remember that you, no matter how low-risk you may be, can transmit COVID-19 to someone who is high-risk, and that person could die.
Dealing with COVID-19 is a common sense situation. Is that errand you would like to run not really necessary? Then don’t go. Is the errand necessary but your kids want to come along even though there is another adult in the home who could watch them while you run out? Run the errand but leave the kids home. You have to work and the whole office is meeting in the conference room today? Speak up, ask that the meeting be done via Zoom or if the points could be made by email (let’s be honest; most tasks accomplished in the conference room could more easily and quickly be accomplished via email). Are you out adding your voice to the necessary Black Lives Matter demonstrations? Wear a mask and maintain a safe distance from others and remind your fellow demonstrators to do the same.
The CDC also points out (again with the common sense, so weird!) that it makes a difference where you live. If you live in an area where the curve has flattened and infection rates are low, you are obviously in a different situation than someone who lives in a hot spot where dingalings are out hot-breathing in each others’ faces even as local hospitals’ ICU beds fill up. I’m looking at you, Orlando. For those of us who live in places with rapid spikes in infection, we should stay home as much as possible and wear a mask when we must go out, no exceptions.
To boil it all down: Use common sense. Rely on science and data. And, most importantly, don’t be an entitled, self-absorbed asshole. Care for your fellow humans and act like COVID-19 is real and deadly, because it is. It’s really not that hard, people.
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