Navigating the COVID-19 confusion

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Let’s see if we can’t make some sense out of the COVID-19 quarantine confusion that seems to have so many people perplexed.

Why is it that bars are barred, restaurants are reduced but some stores and sporting events are open or partly open? On the surface, it’s very confusing and the rules seem inconsistent. That’s because they are.

Why is it that you can get alcohol at a store but not at a bar? Why can fans attend a baseball game at Constellation Field in Sugar Land and not one at Minute Maid Park in Houston? Why are some stores, libraries, and museums open and others are not?

I can’t pretend to have the answers for any or all of these. All I can do is speculate and postulate theories. When I look at the myriad of seemingly conflicting guidelines, there is one thing that becomes abundantly clear. The rules appear to be driven by behavior. And a lot of the bad behavior tends to be fueled by alcohol.

Let’s face it, people in bars are not going to social distance and they sure as heck are not going to wear face coverings. That’s two strikes against the three main things we are told to do to help control the spread of COVID-19. The third is frequent washing of hands. It’s a good bet that doesn’t happen in bars either. Three strikes and you’re out.

That brings me to baseball. There is a huge difference between the rules for Major League Baseball and the Constellation Energy League. For one thing, before Major League Baseball could get going it had to hammer out a difficult and complex agreement with the players union. The MLB can also derive significant income from television and radio revenues. Constellation Energy League (a.k.a. the Sugar Land Skeeters) doesn’t have that option. It must have paying fans in the stands to help recoup some of the enormous expense the owners are incurring to bring back local baseball.

Again – and this is just speculation based on observation on my part – I think another reason why you can have fans at Skeeters games and not at Astros games is due in large part to behavior and alcohol. The Skeeters are a much smaller, family-friendly venue. Your temperature will be taken at the gate. They also have very strict rules regarding masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing. The Astros could do this too, but Minute Maid Park is a much larger venue and too many fans are there to party and are more likely to avoid the health and safety rules (see the aforementioned bars).

Imagine the public relations nightmare they’d have if they had to eject a bunch of fans for not wearing face masks or for violating social distancing guidelines. You can also see the lawyers circling like sharks if there were to be an outbreak of COVID-19 traced back to the ballpark. It’s just not worth the headache.

For some venues, it all depends on how comfortable ownership is with being open and how well they prepare to have people returning to their establishments. The ones that do the best job at enforcing masks, social distancing and the use of hand sanitizer and/or handwashing are the ones that are the most successful. A perfect example of this is Space Center Houston.

I went to the center recently and was highly impressed with the measures they had taken. First, they have timed entry, so all tickets must be purchased online and for a specific time. When you arrive, your temperature is taken, and you must rub sanitizer on your hands. Second, you must have a mask and you must practice social distancing. Third, they have hand sanitizer stations everywhere and lots of reminders to use them. Lastly, not everything is open. The theaters and most of the frequently touched exhibits are closed. For now, the tram tour only goes to Rocket Park. The Mission Control Center and the training facility are off-limits. At Rocket Park, half of the giant Saturn rocket inside is cordoned off and tours are guided by staff.

A trip there is still worth it as the space center has just debuted its newest exhibits. Of primary interest is the space-flown SpaceX Falcon 9 booster rocket. It’s really cool! Inside the center they have a special display about the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. There are objects in the exhibit that have not been shown to the public before.

Getting back to understanding the complexity of the COVID-19 rules, the main thing is this: Face coverings, social distancing (or personal orbit, as the space center called it), and washing hands frequently works. And on this note I have to call out Austin County Judge Tim Lapham for his gross negligence in failing to encourage the use of face coverings. This is a failure of leadership for someone who is both a political leader and a volunteer firefighter. He of all people should know better.

If we want to get this disease under control and get our lives back to normal, we have to do the things that work. No, they will not prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they will significantly reduce it, and that is the goal. Like it or not, we all need to do our part, if not for yourself at least for the sake of others.

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