Houston, We Have A Restaurant Problem; Creating Ripples in the Pandemic Curve.
I don't live in Houston, I was just trying to be clever with the title. (And, really, all my articles are op ed's.) But, somehow, I think this article will resonate with people in cities and towns across the United States.
Restaurants have to close. That's my opinion on covid19 response. Sorry restaurant owners. Actually, not sorry.
In my city, food establishments are open for business, because they are "essential".
But are they?
What makes a business like Dunkin Donuts or ColdStone Creamery "essential". I like each of these establishments, but I'm not going there right now. Is it just me, or does this seem ridiculous that they are essential?
Is it a display of our boundless privilege, that in the middle of a pandemic we say, "I'm so bored being at home quarantined, let's go out for ice cream!".....or are we just that uninformed and inconsiderate? (I guess it could be argued that uninformed and inconsiderate are attributes of privilege...)
Why are we so focused on "supporting business"-- instead of supporting the working people in the community?
We cannot claim to be doing both. STAY HOME. Keeping these businesses open, puts employees and customers at risk.
Why are we so willing to endanger people, and prolong this pandemic, in order to keep a business running?
Is this capitalism at it's worst? What is happening right now? Can someone offer a valid, researched, argument for why these businesses are so essential?
Why do all ten of the Subway Restaurants in my town need to be open?
These companies do not care if you drop dead tomorrow. They will hire someone else to take your spot, and continue business as usual. How about instead -- on your next trip to the grocery store, you buy a gallon of ice cream. That way, the people who work at the ice cream shop don't have to put their lives at risk for your double scoop of oreo mint chocolate chip. Besides, it's cheaper to buy food at the grocery store.
You might be thinking that sounds a bit dramatic. Well, turn on the news. Drastic times call for drastic measures. We are in one of those times right now, yet we aren't taking the measures needed...because...'Merica' and 'capitalism'.
Don't get me wrong, I love this country, and I'm pro capitalism[ish]....freedom and entrepreneurship and all that....I'm even a shareholder of a few different restaurant stocks...regardless, we should take the drastic measures, and kick this virus in the ass once and for all.
Isn't that what we do here in the USA? Kick ass!
I saw people waiting at a bus stop the other day. Four of them, wearing various types of fast food work uniforms. They were waiting to board a bus, presumably with other people from all over town, either going to work, or heading home from work. Thousands of people every day show up for work during this pandemic. When they get there, they are greeted by everyone else on the schedule that day. These food businesses are exempt from the stay at home orders. They all meet at work, some having up to 10 people in the building working (like many grocery, hardware, and variety stores continue to also have far more on each shift) and then they proceed to come face-to-face with customers all day long. At the end of the shift, they get back on the bus, (where the bus driver has been in contact with people all day), and then go home to their families.
A quick note about public transportation workers, also considered essential:
Among the nearly 5,500 deaths from coronavirus in New York -- 41 are MTA employees, according to MTA Chairman Patrick Foye.
"Deemed essential workers, MTA employees have continued to keep the subway and inter-state trains running. Although they've been supplied with masks and gloves, according to Foye, going to work increases a person's chance of being exposed to the virus and employees calling out sick caused complications for social distancing." Newsweek
According to a VOX article,
"If the outbreak gets significantly worse in the US, the discretion to entirely shut down a system or reduce service is up to transit and local officials. So far, no US transit agency has suggested taking that measure yet. Authorities in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, closed all transportation hubs in an unprecedented quarantine, stopping all trains, ferries, buses, and planes from leaving the city when the disease started to take hold in late January."
I believe that's what we need; an unprecedented quarantine. We need to be proactive, not continue to be reactive in small pockets in various states. Why wait until it gets really bad? Why not just prevent it from getting really bad? Do we think we are too good for that? Are we too cool for quarantine? Does it make us look weak?
In my town, cars line up around fast food buildings, all day long. Parking lots outside of full service restaurants have cars awaiting curbside pickup. People exchanging money, handed credit cards back and forth, exchanging food bags and drink cups. None of them wearing masks or gloves. And then the customers go home to their families, and the restaurant workers go back inside with the rest of the staff, and at the end of their shift (making bare minimum wages) they get back on the city bus, and go home to their families.
That's a lot of exposure. That's a lot of risk. I ask you -- Are we really trying to flatten the curve?
Seems more like we are just causing minor ripples, as it increases.
I'm not going to write about all the other nonsense I've seen in my few travels out in public, but here's a little glimmer of what is happening:
While at Walmart, picking up prescriptions for my elderly mother (who has some of the underlying risk factors and is terrified to go out in public), I heard someone on the phone say, "No, I just came here to walk around, I was bored at home, and nowhere else is open."
In other words -- "I'm going to go out to the biggest, most traveled, store I can find during a global pandemic, BeCaUsE I'm bOrEd."
The flu pandemic of 1918 lasted two years. From 1918-1920. It killed millions. In 1918, the curve flattened, and life went back to [the new version of] normal, and then in the fall of that same year, the flu came back. It wreaked havoc on its second wind, and killed even more people than the initial outbreak earlier in the year.
Proactive, not reactive.
People everywhere are already complaining about being bored, and wanting to get out again. It's only been a few weeks. We haven't even seen the worst of it, we haven't actually quarantined on a mass scale yet, nor have we experienced a true nation-wide shut down.
Why not just do it now, and get it over with?
Dear virtue signaling people of the nation:
You cannot keep repeating "Stay at Home" -- and also be saying -- "May I have two maple frosted donuts and a caramel latte."
Mr. Mayor, Governor, City Officials -- Close the restaurants.
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