Re­bukes come fast and fu­ri­ous for breach­ing rules of dis­tanc­ing

As norms keep shift­ing, it poses a dilemma for some

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - Nation&world - Ryan Win­kle, on a busi­ness lead­ers’ din­ner in Ari­zona

The chair­man of Ari­zona’s Asian Cham­ber of Com­merce didn’t see much down­side to at­tend­ing a small din­ner at a lo­cal restau­rant to bol­ster the busi­ness and bring to­gether other lead­ers to dis­cuss how to help Asian-Amer­i­can eater­ies dev­as­tated by the coro­n­avirus.

That was, at least, un­til he posted about it on In­sta­gram. The feed­back was swift from peo­ple who were ap­palled that Ryan Win­kle would pro­mote a gath­er­ing — even a small one — as COVID-19 raged and en­tire cities were urged to self-iso­late.

“I started get­ting some mes­sages say­ing, ‘Hey, why are you try­ing to spread the virus?’ I was like, ’It’s a small event, and ev­ery­one had washed their hands, and they had san­i­tizer on the ta­bles,’” Win­kle said of the din­ner held Satur­day in Mesa. “My think­ing is al­ways about the eco­nomics. Imag­ine when all these busi­nesses shut down. That’s a whole dif­fer­ent prob­lem.”

“Quar­an­tine sham­ing” — call­ing out those not abid­ing by so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules — is part of a new and star­tling re­al­ity for Amer­i­cans who must nav­i­gate a world of rapidly evolv­ing so­cial norms in the age of COVID-19. As schools close and shel­ter-in-place or­ders sweep across the U.S., the di­vide be­tween those who are strin­gently prac­tic­ing self-iso­la­tion and those who are still try­ing to go about some sem­blance of a nor­mal life has never been more clear. Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters: What was so­cially ac­cept­able even 48 hours ago may now be taboo, as gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials race to con­tain the virus with ever-ex­pand­ing cir­cles of so­cial iso­la­tion.

For those who must go to work, the di­vide is widen­ing too.

Steve Diehl, who is con­sid­ered an es­sen­tial em­ployee at his job at a ware­house near Chicago, wears a mask to work be­cause a fam­ily mem­ber has a com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem.

“I started get­ting some mes­sages say­ing, ‘Hey, why are you

try­ing to spread the

virus?’ ”

He’s ter­ri­fied of catch­ing the new coro­n­avirus or trans­mit­ting it to his loved one at home.

Diehl posted a sign at the ware­house en­trance ask­ing peo­ple to put on masks that were pro­vided “to pro­tect im­muno-com­pro­mised fam­ily,” but sev­eral co­work­ers didn’t wear them, he said. One of them coughed into his hand while stand­ing by Diehl’s desk — and then be­gan to touch things on his desk with the same hand.

“That an­gered me greatly,” said Diehl, who posted a photo of him­self in a mask on Twit­ter. “And when I made a com­ment about it, they shrugged it off.”

Oth­ers who are try­ing to jug­gle work­ing from home while car­ing for kids who are also home are mak­ing smaller and more mun­dane choices that nev­er­the­less bring shocked re­sponses — or even re­bukes — from co-work­ers, friends and even fam­ily. Is it OK to run out for a cof­fee? Can you al­low your chil­dren to go the play­ground? What about send­ing kids to day care cen­ters, which re­main the only life­line in many states that have closed schools?

Paula Flakser, who lost her bar­tend­ing job when Cal­i­for­nia’s Mam­moth Moun­tain ski resort closed this week, said she was up­set by the hun­dreds of peo­ple who flocked to her tiny home­town of Bishop, Calif., from Los An­ge­les and other large cities to va­ca­tion the minute schools shut down. The 42-year-old climber posted an­gry mes­sages about the crowds on Face­book and was quoted in an on­line climb­ing mag­a­zine, Thun­der­cling.

So many peo­ple de­scended on a climb­ing spot called Happy Boul­ders over the week­end that lines of peo­ple were walk­ing into the nar­row canyon. The routes to reach the top mean dozens of peo­ple were grab­bing the same hand­holds in the rock again and again, po­ten­tially spread­ing germs, she said.

By Wed­nes­day, the crowds had abated, but “this week­end will be the true barom­e­ter,” Flakser said.

Her con­cerns echo those who slammed St. Pa­trick’s Day rev­el­ers who flooded bars in Chicago and New Or­leans and those who called out col­lege stu­dents who’ve been throng­ing to beaches for spring break.

Jeff Car­reras, owner of Tracey’s Orig­i­nal Ir­ish Chan­nel Bar in New Or­leans, said he faced scathing crit­i­cism over the crowds out­side his bar Satur­day. Peo­ple on Face­book ac­cused him of rak­ing in money while dis­re­gard­ing warn­ings about the dan­gers of crowds dur­ing the out­break.

Car­reras kept the crowd in­side be­low its 250 ca­pac­ity and didn’t set up an out­side bar — but crowds formed any­way. It was the bar’s idea to have po­lice break them up when his staff couldn’t do it, “There’s no way I would en­tice, en­cour­age the pub­lic to come out and spread a virus that’s as bad as it is,” he said. “We did ev­ery­thing we were asked to do.”


De­spite warn­ings from gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to take cau­tion and self-dis­tance be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, many col­lege stu­dents, some from Coastal Carolina Univer­sity, were hang­ing out on the beach in close prox­im­ity of one another Thurs­day in Myr­tle Beach, S.C.


A mar­quee out­side the Lake Theater & Café in Lake Oswego, Ore., out­side Portland, re­minds peo­ple of rules on COVID-19 and so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

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