A few times per month my wife and I order Vietnamese food from a local restaurant. After a bad experience with delivery, where half of our pho was spilled into the bag and part of our order was missing, I’ve been going to pick it up.
Usually, I’ll walk in and our order will be on a table to grab and go. Takes less than a minute. This last time I went, on a Saturday evening around 7pm, I was surprised to find 12 people doing dine-in, and another man waiting at the pick-up table for his food. There was a single waitress running around, trying to attend to everyone, and a waiter that seemed to be coordinating with the kitchen, taking phone calls, and preparing the to-go orders. I waited close to 10 minutes for my order, in a small restaurant with at least 14 other people breathing the same air.
I had noticed on the drive, too, that many of the restaurants I passed by were at least half-full.
On the evening I’m writing this, there were 182,772 new Coronavirus cases in the United States yesterday. Where I live, in Delaware County, PA, there were 273 new cases. The county we border, Philadelphia County, just shut down again.
My ability to understand this situation is stretched thin. I get that, at its simplest (and not assuming people are actively trying to be harmful, although those assholes surely exist) the rationale goes like this:
- Small business owners (like the Vietnamese restaurants) can’t survive without being mostly open.
- People stuck at home since March have cabin fever, especially in the colder weather, and want to go out.
- Employees of these small businesses need to make ends meet, so they’re forced to work even if they don’t think it’s safe.
- Federal and State government isn’t doing shit to help anyone.
I don’t blame small business owners for trying to survive, even if I think it’s wrong to put your employees and other people at risk to do so. I especially don’t blame employees that need a paycheck. If anyone is blameless in this situation, it’s the waitress who has no choice but to risk her life and possibly the people she’s close to so she can keep a roof over her head.
I do blame the people that incentivize this behavior by going out to eat in a restaurant. It’s a selfish, unnecessary risk. Many might argue that the government says that restaurants can be open up to 50% occupancy, and that they’re observing social distancing measures. Here’s are the two major problems with that line of thinking:
- It’s clear the Federal Government doesn’t give a fuck about you and most State Government don’t, either. They don’t want to redirect our taxpayer money to actually protect us, so we need to force them to by not patronizing places even if they’re open. If the government said to go to restaurants and the gym or whatever, if no one went and enough pressure was applied to local officials, there would be very little choice but to actually support hurting businesses with stimulus.
- Social distancing, especially indoors, is largely bullshit. The EPA says, “Evidence now confirms that this virus can remain airborne for longer times and further distances than originally thought. In addition to close contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces, spread of COVID-19 may also occur via airborne particles in indoor environments, in some circumstances beyond the 2 m (about 6 ft) range encouraged by some social distancing recommendations.” The EPA is saying this, and the Trump Administration has done its best to scrub actual science from the EPA, so that alone should signify how dire this is.
People are dying. A lot of people. Over 250,000 so far, with an end only recently sighted, although that won’t be available to non-essential workers or government officials (i.e., most of us) until much later.
So stay home. Please. As someone with two older, not-super-healthy parents and a pregnant wife, stop being dickheads. Order in. Avoid large crowds.
Keep one another safe.