Deniers and disbelievers: 'If I get coronavirus, I get coronavirus'
NOVATO, CALIFORNIA (NYTIMES) - A climbing destination on the remote eastern side of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, Bishop, California, was packed last weekend, as crowded as any holiday, despite growing calls for isolation in advance of a predicted wave of coronavirus cases.. Read more at straitstimes.com.
"People were like, 'Social distancing? I'm going to Bishop. Can't get any more distant than that,'" resident and climber Jeff Deikis said.It turned out the coffee shops and the brewery were jammed. Outside of Bishop, a four-hour drive from Los Angeles and six hours from San Francisco, climbers scaled the nearby boulders and canyons, sharing fresh air and, perhaps, infectious disease.
"Climbers from around the country have descended upon Bishop as though a global pandemic were some sort of hall pass from responsibility and magnanimity," a climbing blog reported.Across the United States, from Florida beaches to California mountains, casinos to national parks, legions dismissed the growing demands this past week to isolate themselves and stop congregating as the coronavirus spread through the country and shut down nearly all facets of American life.
They were the defiers and the disbelievers. They were those eager to flout authority or those afflicted with cabin fever, if not Covid-19. They were the officials crowded on the podium of the White House briefing room, doing not as they say.They were all people who dismissed the calls for isolation, seeing more reward than risk in gathering. They conflated confidence with immunity. As in other times of national crisis, they exposed the relationship between individuals and society and our responsibility to others. headtopics.com
"If I get corona, I get corona," a reveller in Florida said in a widely-shared television interview."At the end of the day, I'm not going to let it stop me from partying."Under pressure, both social and governmental, their numbers shrink by the day. Their impact on spreading the virus may never be known.
The most dismissive were mostly young, freed from the structures of school and work, perhaps new to the concept of social responsibility. But plenty were older, trusting that the dwindling number of places still open to the public could be sanitised enough to keep sickness away.
Some did not want to cancel long-set plans for things like weddings. Others just wanted to get to the outdoors, only to find they were far from alone.For others, gathering wasn't a choice. It was a requirement from an employer more afraid of missed revenues than of spreading viruses.
While many grocery stores, gas stations and takeout restaurants remained open, the definition of"essential business" was open to interpretation.In Rhode Island, among businesses cited for ignoring social-distance warnings was Wonderland, a strip club, where customers were still receiving lap dances last weekend. (Its website says it has since closed temporarily.) headtopics.com
GameStop, the video game chain, drew an outcry from its employees as it instructed its thousands of stores to remain open and to counter closure requests by local authorities, because, according to a staff memo, it believed it was"classified as essential retail."
In California, Tesla, the luxury electric carmaker, temporarily defied Bay Area orders to shut down all non-essential business, keeping its 10,000 factory workers on the job. On Thursday, Tesla said it would suspend operations, beginning Monday (March 23).
And in the Midwest, Uline, a major distributor of packaging materials and industrial supplies, kept its workforce going through the week, despite complaints from employees, including those crowded into its call centres, working side-by-side in cubicles.
"Nothing's really changed," one employee said."It's just nerve-racking."Employees received an email Thursday from the Uihlein Family, owners of the US$5.8 billion (S$8.46 billion) company and big donors to Republican causes, thanking them for their efforts and saying that the"White House called upon us twice with huge orders" this week. headtopics.com
The same day, a manager at one Uline call centre sent a note to employees."If you, or family members, are under the weather with cold/allergies - or anything aside from Covid-19," it read,"please do NOT tell your peers about the symptoms & your assumptions. By doing so, you are causing unnecessary panic in the office."
But plenty of Americans voluntarily ventured into the germ-stained world to pass time. While the major casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City shuttered early in the week, those like Chukchansi Gold in central California promised increased cleanliness, a tricky sell in a world of playing cards and slot machines.
They folded, one by one. Chukchansi announced suddenly on Friday that it would close that night. Valley View Casino, near San Diego, planned to make it until Sunday night, but closed on Friday, too, along with several casinos in Florida.With so many indoor places closed - no malls, no movies - millions tried to escape outdoors, sometimes creating their own crowds. Sidewalks were jammed around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, as people came to see the cherry blossoms.
No place highlighted the country's conflicting moods more than Florida. Footage of crowded beaches spread. Shutting down spring break proved difficult. Some students, high on sunshine and beers and obliviousness, relied on their youth as a shield and ignored warnings they could carry the virus back to their parents and grandparents.
"It's like this thing blew up in my face," said Mr Parker Simms, a student from the University of Kentucky who came to Fort Lauderdale last Saturday with 50 friends and big plans."It blew up during my spring break week."In the debate between economics and epidemiology, local officials generally took the side of money and revelry. Late in the week, though, many joined the shutdown trend.
By Thursday, the beach in Fort Lauderdale was eerily empty, save for stacked chairs and lifeguard towers. A cluster of college students with roller bags and floppy straw hats walked toward a waiting SUV headed to the airport.In Brooklyn, New York, Hasidic Jews defied isolation orders and held weddings; others continued gathering for prayer.
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a wedding planned for late March was expedited and shrunk. Ms Charlotte Jay and Mr Blake Parker, both 29, called their rabbi, invited a dozen close relatives to Mr Parker's parents' condo, and rushed to get ready.Clorox wipes and hand sanitiser greeted guests on an outdoor terrace. Mr Parker's mother played the Beatles'"All You Need Is Love" on her cellphone. The wedding planner live-streamed the ceremony for the original 225 guests.
"My dad and I sanitised our hands, linked arms and walked down the aisle," Ms Jay said."We didn't even hug or kiss. My dad elbow bumps Blake. Then he elbow bumps me."Among the unexpected places to see a virus-induced surge in visitors were some national parks. Big Bend National Park, in Texas, had lines of cars a week ago and was"packed" earlier this week, even as isolation orders rolled across the country.
Most national parks waived entrance fees but closed visitors centres. Yosemite National Park was among those to shut down lodging, and on Friday afternoon, closed entirely.Any type of middle-of-nowhere congregation created a new kind of worry - rural areas with limited medical facilities being overrun with tourists just as the pandemic strikes in full. That concern shut down Colorado ski resorts. Islands in Maine and North Carolina barred visitors.
In Moab, Utah, an area known for rock climbing and mountain biking near Arches National Park, health officials shut down hotels to everyone but local residents or those travelling for work after executives from the 17-bed Moab Regional Hospital implored the state to help.
That was the concern in Bishop. The Bishop Area Climbers Coalition ultimately asked"climbing friends" to"not travel to Bishop at this time.""We're worried about what will happen if and when Bishop turns into its own little cluster" of the coronavirus, Mr Deikis, the coalition's vice-president, said on Wednesday.
By Friday, after shops had closed and Governor Gavin Newsom of California gave a shelter-in-place order, the town was relatively quiet again. Read more: The Straits Times »
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