Scolding beachgoers isn’t helping

“You’d think from the moral outrage about these beach photos that fun, in itself, transmits the virus,” the Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus told me. “But when people find lower-risk ways to enjoy their lives, that’s actually a public-health win.”…

For example, a New York Times article about the “disturbing” number of younger cases featured a beach photo with two women—in bikinis—who are very far away from everyone else in the image frame, who are also clearly far away from everyone else, alone or in small groups. They’re demonstrating the ideal precautions public-health experts have been begging us to undertake for months. Similarly, a Washington Post article talking about how Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, became “a coronavirus petri dish” includes a picture with the caption “Crowds pack the beach in Myrtle Beach,” but the very few people in the photo are separated by tens or even hundreds of feet, at least, and there are no crowds and no packing.

Still, people enthusiastically retweet or share photos of beaches in disgust, even when the photograph shows no crowding whatsoever. Worse, many photos make a scene look more packed than it actually is, because of the way the camera lens or the angle distorts the distances. It’s gotten to the point where even articles about the coronavirus in cities that don’t have a beach feature photos of beaches.