COVID-19 Politics

Are masks political?

What is going on here? I read recently that women, democrats and city dwellers are more likely to wear face masks than men, republicans and rural people. This is not something that I understand. I can imagine that there are many uninformed, petulant people (like our President) that don’t want to wear a mask in public because it “impinges on my freedom”, but that’s seriously one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. We do lots of things that impinge on our freedom for the public good. We make restaurants get health inspections, we don’t defecate on the street, and we don’t shoot guns into crowds of people because they all impact our personal safety, but we don’t complain that somehow make us less free. I would argue that they actually improve our freedom by allowing us to go about our daily business unencumbered by fear that we will get a foodborne illness, tyhpoid, cholera, or any number of illnesses, or randomly shot.

The Huffington post suggests that

Because this virus and pandemic feels so unfamiliar, we’re clinging hard to whatever makes us feel safe in the moment.

But we’re now in our 5th month of this riduculousness. Isn’t it time that we stop looking for excuses and start doing the right thing? I can see being uncomfortable about wearing a mask for like a minute, but come on people. Get over it.

  1. But politics and mask wearing is really beyond me. Am I to believe that Democrats, as a goup, care more about other people and Republicans? Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. But if Republicans really only care about themselves, wouldn’t they want to see every person around them masked up to minimize their chances of getting COVID? I mean, isn’t that the next step in the deductive reasoning process? And really, no matter whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, don’t you really just want to be able to go about your day without having to worry that every person you have any contact with will give you COVID?
  2. Wear a mask in public
  3. Wash your hands often
  4. Maintain social distancing (6 feet or more)



Follow up – Minneapolis issues guidelines for retailers

Late yesterday Minneapolis issued guidelines for retailers still open at this time like grocery stores. See here: Retailer Guidelines

It is gratifying to know that at least the City of Minneapolis is taking this seriously, but then again I see that Hennipen County leads all of MN in COVID-19 cases. I am saddened to say that neither the City of St. Paul nor the Governor have issued similar mandates, nor have I had any response from Representative Christensen, Senator Housley, or Governor Walz to my pleas for similar guidelines.

I did get template responses from Safeway and Costco assuring me that my message had been received, but no substantive replies.

And while I’m still irked over the half-assed response by business owners that haven’t been mandated to shut down, I have to ask a couple of more questions. I got a message from Inver Grove Honda telling me their showroom hours were being shortened. Really? Is this car buying season? And how about houses? Is this really the right time to have people wandering around strangers houses thinking of buying? What are you going to do if you actually buy one? Are virtual closures a thing?

Again, as we ponder getting the restaurant re-opened for take out, we’re pondering ways to do a complete no-touch pick up, which seems like the right thing to do. But until EVERYONE is thinking the same way we’re not going to flatten the curve of this pandemic.

Last but not least, I have to loop back to my favorite annoyance. Hey merchant processors, how about a break on your usury while we work our way through this crisis. No need for you to make your usual ridiculous profits while the rest of us suffer. How about a Federally mandate to stimulate on-line and touch free purchasing? Just saying.


COVID-19 in Washington County – Does anyone care?

Sorry if this is similar to yesterday, but SSDD as they say (Same Sh$#, Different Day). Today’s episode of “Let’s Spread Coronavirus” was at Cub Foods in Stillwater. A visit on a Friday at 1:00 pm found the parking lot full and the store full of people. No effort to limit entry, no effort at social distancing, they did have a spray bottle of (presumably) sanitizer by the entry, but poorly labeled. Again, like at Costco – Maplewood yesterday, it’s just hard to believe. Unlike at Costco, though, I did today what I should have done yesterday; I turned around and left.

What I’m really having trouble understanding is the complete lack of effort by the businesses. I get it that people are goofy and do what they do, but as a responsible business owner who is lucky enough to be able to be open in this time, you owe it to your community to do the right thing. You need to put someone out in front of the store and limit the number of people who can enter at once. Obviously this is going to be different for each business, but it’s a mandatory first step. For a place like Costco or Cub, it’s an excellent opportunity to check in with each customer, make sure they sanitize the frequently touched surfaces, understand the importance of social distancing and perhaps make sure that anyone with a cough is wearing a mask. Then maybe have a couple of people patrolling the store to make sure that people continue to distance. And someone managing the checkout lanes to keep people spread out. As a business owner, I understand that this is going to incur labor costs without adding revenue. In fact, revenue is going to suffer because you won’t be able to sell as much. And my response to that is, so what? Again, you’re fortunate to be open and be able to serve your community. Do it responsibly.

As with yesterday, I don’t want to pick on Cub exclusively. On our way home we cruised by the Kowalski’s in Stillwater and found the very same situation: packed parking lot and no one seemingly giving a damn about Coronavirus. For completeness sake, we also cruised Aldi in Stillwater and the very same again. It’s mind boggling and hard to understand. I guess it is up to all of us to start demanding better.

UPDATE: My irritation got the better of me. I emailed Safeway (parent company of Cub Foods) with my observations and perhaps a little opinion about unsafe and irresponsible business practices. Inspired, I went on to send a note to Ms. Shelly Christensen, my state representative and Ms. Karin Housley, my state senator as well as Governor Walz to express my concerns. Then Chloé and I walked down to the co-op to get some onions (as a home cook, what recipe doesn’t start with onions?). It was a more favorable experience, but not because the co-op was doing anything special, it’s just naturally much less crowded. On my way out the door I caught the Pioneer Press headline: 89 Cases and Counting the headline screams. Duh.


A COVID-19 Question – WTF?

As I assume most of you know, I own a restaurant in St. Paul, MN. We closed our doors on Tuesday, March 17 in response to the order by Minnesota Governor Walz to do so. The order was made to help control the spread of the COVID-19 corona virus in an effort to “flatten the curve”. If you’re not up on the terminology (though that seems unlikely) the idea is to extend the spread out over time so that the health care system is not overwhelmed with all of the cases in a short period of time. It does not (probably) change the number of cases (i.e. the area under the curve), but it may make it so that sick people can get the care they need.

In the process, I, like all other restaurants, bars, etc. in the state furloughed my employees. Fortunately, the shutdown mandate also came with an eliminated wait time for unemployment benefits, so hopefully everyone isn’t left high and dry. As the principal of a C corporation, I am not eligible for unemployment, but that’s a story for another day.

So, I had to go in to the restaurant today to give the delivery driver of our linen service access to the property to pick up the soiled linen and drop of fresh in anticipation of our eventual re-opening. On the way home, I stopped by Costco in Maplewood, MN to pick up a few things. Normally, I’d keep this kind of vague, but the particulars matter. The Costco experience was surreal and frightening. Costco – Maplewood parking lot was full. There was absolutely no attempt to limit the number of people in the store at once. Both customers and employees in the store behaved as though it was a normal day. No sanitizing of carts, no effort at social distancing, no covered coughs or sneezes, nothing. Zero effort. Crowded aisles, very full checkout, people cheek to jowl in checkout line; forget the 6 foot distancing, if you could find 2 feet you were lucky. If there were less than 500 people in the store, I’d be amazed. I’m guessing it was closer to 750 to 1000. And most disturbing, no one seemed to notice that this is a problem.

As I drove home I noted how heavy the traffic was for a Thursday late morning. Almost like a normal day. Which leads me to wonder, what’s this all for? Why are we all suffering privation and hardship in the service sector and education only to have the whole thing undone by retail? And, if the governments, both Federal and State, believe this quarantine is useful enough to mandate widespread closure, shouldn’t they be doing something to enforce large scale, unmonitored, gatherings like this? And Costco, I’m sorry to pick on you because I really like you as a company (yes, I’m even a stockholder (for full disclosure)), but you sent me a note the other day telling me you’d be a responsible partner in all of this. Where was the responsibility here? Is Maplewood, MN an outlier? It’s hard to believe that it’s anything but the tip of the iceberg and that something big, heavy, and dangerous lurks beneath. In the interest of fairness, my journey home took me past Sam’s Club and their parking lot was full too. So, apologize for the title, but WTF? Are we just stupid or arrogant? Either is unattractive, but combined may be deadly.