All the COVID safety rules are little more than theater



If you go to a restaurant in Gotham right now, you might be subjected to a temperature check. It’s no big deal, it takes a second — but it’s pointless; plenty of COVID-positive people don’t have a fever. So why do we do it? It’s part of a growing trend of COVID-19 security theater. We do things that have no bearing on our actual safety but that make us feel safe.

Take masks. It makes sense to wear masks inside businesses or for any close contact with strangers. But why are people wearing them outside, when they’re not near anybody? Neighborhood message boards across the country are filled with complaints like: “I saw a bicyclist without a mask today!”

The problem is messaging from the top. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coronavirus guru, is the man we all look to for direction. In March, he said, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” Now he’s gung-ho, yet his mask instruction is very convoluted.

He wore a mask to throw out the first pitch at the Opening Day game at Nationals Park — while standing more than 60 feet away from the nearest person. Then he sat down in the stands with his wife and friend, and they all took turns wearing and removing their masks.

In restaurants in New York, you must wear a mask to your seat. But then you take it off to eat, drink and talk, which is clearly where all the danger lies.

It’s obviously difficult to tell Americans that their best bet would be not to wear a mask on the street but to wear a mask when socializing closely. But the current counsel to wear a mask in situations where there is literally no risk, only to remove it when there is, makes no sense.

Fauci isn’t alone. Continuing his victory tour after presiding over 32,000 deaths in New York, Gov. Cuomo traveled to Georgia to “help them” fight the virus, urging the state to “follow the numbers.” He could have told them over Zoom or directed them to the dozen times he has said this before.

Cuomo forces the rest of us to isolate and socially distance, yet he jet-sets around and was even photographed on the plane wearing his mask like a “chin guard,” something he has also warned New Yorkers not to do.

In Georgia, maskless, he hugged a number of people in a crowded room. If you want a quick way to tell Americans that COVID-19 isn’t a big deal, and masks are pointless, nothing could do the job better than these pictures from Cuomo’s needless Georgia trip.

Then there’s the intense disinfecting and sanitizing of everything in sight, despite the fact that scientists now say catching COVID-19 from a surface is unlikely. Yes, we wiped down our groceries in March, when we didn’t know better. But now there is talk of periodically closing schools to “disinfect” them. It would be nice to have clean schools, but it’s extremely unlikely that it will help with stopping the transmission of COVID-19. Meanwhile, closing schools to clean them will take time away from already-limited ­in-person education.

There are so many other ways the COVID guidance makes no sense. Forcing bars in New York to serve food and making them close by 11:30 p.m. will do exactly nothing to fight the virus but will do a lot to harm these businesses. We have plexiglass dividers in shops and salons, as if the virus can’t travel around them. Gyms, which keep people healthy and in good shape to fight viruses, ­remain closed.

Americans love their security theater. That was the lesson of post-9/11 air travel. And perhaps feeling safe might be good enough, for now. People wearing masks in ridiculous situations might be OK, if it means more people are going outside and we can return to normalcy.

But in the long-term, our pretend safety will have consequences. If rules seem dumb, and they do, Americans may stop following them altogether. The arbitrariness and hypocrisy displayed by the likes of Cuomo and Fauci could lead to people rebelling against following any of it.

We all want a sense of normal, and it has to begin with logic and consistency at the top.

Twitter: @Karol



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