Meghan McCain: I've supported reopening, but I'm disheartened by these scenes of mass gatherings with no precautions

Meghan McCain: I've supported reopening, but I'm disheartened by these scenes of mass gatherings with no precautions

She’s discouraged by the videos over the weekend of people crowding into pools, most without masks, as if the whole world had just been vaccinated and the virus finally conquered. I’ll give you the glass-half-full and the glass-half-empty views of that.

Glass half full: The videos are extreme outliers. They went viral because they’re unusual. Poll Americans and you’ll find that the great majority continue to practice social distancing and wear masks around strangers most of the time, including Republicans. Don’t let the behavior of a few selfish A-holes convince you that Americans are cavalier about the threat.

Glass half empty: Americans are cavalier about the threat. They know the right answer to give when a pollster asks them a question about proper behavior but privately they’ve talked themselves into believing that the absence of any apocalyptic new outbreaks over the last month means the virus is on summer vacation. Plus, many a selfish young A-hole has concluded that so long as they’re not infecting their own grandparents they don’t much care if they start a chain of transmission that eventually leads to a bunch of old people dying. Their pool party is worth more than the life of their friend’s friend’s friend’s grandmother.

America, baby. You know our motto: Look out for number one.

The mayor of St. Louis watched the same pool footage McCain did and pronounced it “deeply disturbing,” adding, “Now, these folks will be coming home to St. Louis and counties all over Missouri and the Midwest, raising concerns about the potential of more positive cases, hospitalizations, and tragically, deaths.” It wasn’t just the Ozarks, though:

At a flashy club in Houston, dozens splashed around the pool and sipped on drinks on the patio. In rural North Carolina, thousands packed the stands shoulder to shoulder at Ace Speedway on its opening night, where face masks were the exception. And in Daytona Beach, Florida, even after an event called “Orlando Invades Daytona” was canceled, hundreds still danced in the street and on top of cars near the boardwalk…

Elsewhere, even if executive orders are in place, some local sheriffs have refused to enforce them. Such was the case in Alamance County, North Carolina, where Ace Speedway is located.

Although Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s second phase of reopening North Carolina limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said he would refuse to “enforce an unconstitutional law,” allowing the speedway’s opening night to proceed as planned on Saturday night, WTVD reported.

Honestly, I think this explains most of the behavior:

People won’t believe that New York and New Jersey aren’t sui generis until an outbreak explodes in some other region of the country. I remember one doctor making the case on Twitter a few weeks ago that most Americans have a blind spot right now in which statistically they have a reasonably high chance of being infected and yet a low chance of knowing anyone who’s been infected so far. (People in the New York tri-state area are different, of course.) That means many of us are underestimating the danger facing us personally, which means we’re apt to take more risks than we rationally should.

To put that another way, for many of us there’ll be no reason to believe that a second wave is coming until that second wave is already here and crashing down on us — which sounds familiar, as it’s the same view many of us had about the first wave in February. Trump is the ultimate exemplar, having spent February chattering about how the virus would go away soon and then spending yesterday morning demanding that the Republican convention be held at full capacity in August even though that’s insanely reckless and literally no doctor would recommend it, even if case counts are low at the time.

Hence America’s other motto: We only learn the hard way.

As for McCain, most of her comments on Twitter to this point about reopening have been to demand that it happen faster, warning that deaths from despair caused by economic destruction are every bit as real as deaths from COVID-19. At first blush it’s surprising to see her giving ammo to the “slow down” crowd on reopening by highlighting irresponsible behavior on “The View” today, but there’s no contradiction, really. What Meg understands and what the pool doofuses do not is that a second wave is going to shut everything down again, and the sooner it comes the sooner those shutdowns will begin. They may not come from the top this time in the form of lockdown orders but they’ll certainly come from the bottom as frightened consumers decide to abandon unnecessary commercial activity. There won’t be enough pool doofuses to keep businesses afloat. And when they shut down next time because they can’t make rent, chances are they won’t reopen.

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on April 01, 2023