The crowds of vacationers over Memorial Day weekend and protestors demonstrating around the world will likely spread the coronavirus further.
We’re seeing states reopen and hoteliers begin to put into play their plans for welcoming the slow return of demand. Looking at the events of the past few weeks and days, I’m worried, however, that these actions might be too early.
I hope that when I write about topics like this, I come across as someone genuinely trying to keep people safe and healthy and not just a wet blanket. I honestly hope that I am wrong.
Many states loosened their shelter-in-place orders over the past several weeks, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Government officials in several states reasoned that people would know to do the right thing and go out with enough precautions to keep themselves and others safe.
In many places, that didn’t happen.
Over the holiday weekend, people flocked to the beaches seeing as many other popular destinations were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press reports that authorities in the Tampa area along Florida’s Gulf Coast had to close beach parking lots because they were so full. Bars and restaurants at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri were packed, with a local St. Louis news station sharing video of a “crammed pool” where people were in close quarters with each other without wearing masks.
The article is full of examples of people hitting popular destinations to mark the beginning of the summer season. While some people were responsible with their actions, wearing masks and staying far enough apart from one another, it sounds like a great number of people weren’t.
After that weekend alone, I was expecting to see a spike in the number of positive COVID-19 cases we’d see over the next few weeks. Then, the nation learned about the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer kneeling on his neck. Four of the police officers involved were fired from their department and have now been charged in his death, The New York Times reports, but not before we saw a wave of protests spread across the U.S. and around the world.
Regardless of your opinions on the peaceful protests, the rioters and police responses to both, we know that large gatherings of people during this pandemic can spread the virus faster. Even with some protestors wearing masks or other kinds of protective coverings, it’s possible the pandemic will spread faster.
“I don’t think there’s a question of whether there will be spikes in cases in 10 to 14 days,” Mark Shrime, a public-health researcher at Harvard, told The Atlantic. “With so many protests happening, that are getting so much bigger, I don’t think it’s a question of if, but when and where.”
The tear gas authorities are using to disperse crowds can exacerbate that even further.
“Along with the immediate pain that can cause watering eyes and burning throats, tear gas may cause damage to people’s lungs and make them more susceptible to getting a respiratory illness, according to studies on the risks of exposure,” The New York Times reports. “The gas can also incite coughing, which can further spread the virus from an infected person.”
In other words, there are multiple signs that show the spread is going to get worse, and we’re still working on flattening the curve to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. There is no vaccine yet. There are no proven treatments yet. Not much has changed in terms of how medical professionals are handling the pandemic. I don’t know how states are going to react, but if it’s bad enough, many, if not all, will close again.
Why am I writing this? Make sure you have a backup plan, because this summer is definitely not going to go how we thought it would, even just a few weeks ago. Keep your guests’ and your employees’ health and safety your top priority. Be careful.
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