First rule in a pandemic: Don’t do anything really stupid. Check.
But that rule is being violated more often than mask mandates. Case in point: As Jackson County has moved to shut down tiny Rae’s Cafe in Blue Springs for blatantly violating the county’s mask order, nearly 75,000 screaming Kansas City Chiefs fans packed GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium for the team’s opener last Sunday.
A little incongruous, perhaps?
Yes, I know it’s safer outdoors. And as a lifelong Chiefs fan, I love seeing the fans back. But maybe Rae’s needs to reclassify itself a stadium and increase capacity?
I normally admire a defiant spirit, but not as much during a deadly pandemic: I’m just not going to take up for the cafe. And you have to admit it’s a cynical bit of fiction that Rae’s became an exempt “private club” by charging $1 at the door in an effort to avoid the public mandate. The cafe is wrong to defy the law, and the county is right to enforce it.
But let’s be honest. People at Arrowhead were side by side, front to back, yelling at the tops of their lungs. You think the diners at Rae’s were in greater danger from the COVID-19 delta variant? Talk about a fractured fairy tale.
Many folks have highlighted the hypocrisy on social media — but mostly to defend the cafe. That’s where we part ways. As one observer noted on Twitter, enforcing the mask mandate at a diner is fair. Doing it just down the road from a boisterous, intimate gathering of 75,000 of your closest friends is what’s unfair.
Yep, it’s more than a little incongruous. But being uneven and unfair is one of the ways we’ve violated pandemic rule No. 1 not to be stupid.
We all know that across the continent, particularly in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, mom-and-pop stores were shuttered by state and local lockdowns while many big-box stores remained open. You don’t get much more unfair or incongruous.
Meanwhile, many elected leaders across the nation were caught violating the very restrictions they enthusiastically (and imperiously) imposed.
The do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do behavior among leaders got so bad that the Heritage Foundation created a COVID hypocrisy tracker — chronicling, so far, 82 incidents in which leaders were deer-in-headlights caught in the act of trampling all over their own words.
One of the most notorious, of course, is California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was rightly savaged after attending a lavish lobbyist’s birthday party in the teeth of restrictions last November at the tony French Laundry restaurant. The duplicity helped fuel the failed recall effort against him.
Oddly, the tone deaf San Francisco Mayor London Breed attended a bash at the French Laundry the next night. And just last Wednesday, a headline says, the maskless mayor “got down with legendary Bay Area musicians at indoor jazz club.” No word if Marie Antoinette was spotted on the dance floor.
Just hours after voting to ban such a thing, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was seen eating outside in Santa Monica. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo enjoyed a family Thanksgiving, which is fine, but which included folks from five households. Such gatherings were then limited to people from three different households. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock counseled citizens to “Pass the potatoes, not COVID. … Avoid travel.” He then went to Mississippi for an old-fashioned family Thanksgiving.
Amid a deep freeze and power outages last February, Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, flew to Cancun — after having mocked Austin Mayor Steve Adler for recording a stay-at-home message to constituents from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
To a much lesser extent, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was embarrassed, and later regretted, that his “politeness undermined our important public health message” when he posed for a photo in a group of unmasked admirers at the Lake of the Ozarks in summer 2020. You know what? I believe he was just being polite. But see Pandemic Rule No. 1.
Does any of this mean that a local diner should be allowed to violate the Jackson County mask mandate simply because Arrowhead was open for business at near capacity? Of course not.
But it sure looks and feels moronic. And it doesn’t help the credibility of COVID precautions.