Are we worrying about the wrong things?

How could people go to the swimming pool in a pandemic?  Well, starting Saturday, I’ll be able to go to the pool I belong to (though, I’ll probably wait for a prolonged patch of warm weather first– I hate cold water).  The rules for how the pool will operate will be quite stringent, and especially as it’s outside, and Cary, NC is definitely no hotspot, I will feel pretty safe in going there.  Similarly, I could get a haircut this weekend (haircut my wife gave me a few weeks ago is holding up great– between me and the three boys, we may save serious money in this department in the future).  All the employees will have to wear masks and the number of customers in the story will be limited.  Again, I’m waiting, but with the rules in place I’d feel pretty safe.

So, all this “public” stuff we’re worried about, I suspect will not be the problem if we do get spikes.  All the matters the government can regulate it is establishing smart and sensible regulations that would seem to follow the science (especially the encouraging of masks) in limiting spread.  It’s all the stuff the government doesn’t regulate that worries me.  I think we might start getting a lot more spread from all sorts of interpersonal contacts in all sorts of places where people don’t have to follow social distancing and mask guidelines and those who are inclined to say “yeah– we’re re-opening, let’s go!” will simply not be following sensible guidelines and getting each other sick.

My Catholic church is going to start have mass again soon and, good for them(!), they are requiring masks, limiting numbers in the church, and no singing.  I’m probably still not going to go, but I think I would feel pretty good about it under these circumstances.

So, if we do start seeing new clusters and outbreaks, I don’t think it will be from pools, or hair salons, or massage parlors, or nail salons, or, or sensible churches, or maybe even not restaurants (NC has been smart enough to keep bars closed), but rather from all the entirely unregulated gatherings of people wear sensible precautions will not be taken.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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