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Is Shopping a More Acceptable Risk than an Outdoor Pool Party?

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to the realization that I hate the term “new normal.” It’s not because I am opposed to wearing a face mask when I enter public spaces or maintaining a social distance — I didn’t like an invasion of my personal bubble before the pandemic.

I dislike the term because it’s a constant reminder of the coronavirus — as if we don’t hear or read enough about it around the clock — when people just want to get “back to normal.” I think saying “new normal” may inadvertently cause people to panic and fear leaving the house, making what should be normal events seem like you’re walking out into the apocalypse.

By now we’ve all seen the pool party at a Lake of the Ozarks bar that happened over Memorial Day weekend. Videos showed very little, if any social distancing and not one attendee wore a mask, but that didn’t surprise me because that would make consuming alcohol a challenge.

Gary Prewitt, the owner of the bar Backwater Jack’s, which is located in Osage Beach, Mo., defended the event by saying “no laws were broken” and safety precautions were taken, according to Business Insider. Prewitt issued a statement on Facebook Tuesday about the annual event, called “Zero Ducks Given,” which has always been its name and has “absolutely nothing to do with the pandemic,” saying social distancing is not a legal requirement.

He cited advice from the local sheriff’s department, which says: “Social distancing is not a crime and therefore the sheriff’s office has no authority to enforce actions in that regard.” According to Business Insider, “The [sheriff’s] advice said that people must make a ‘conscious decision’ to come and that it was each person’s ‘right and responsibility’ to take on the risks of attending.”

Prewitt said medical staff was hired to perform no-contact temperature checks on those who attended and anyone with a temperature above 100.4 F was turned away. He said hand sanitizer was also given to attendees and the bar’s staff could decline to work the event with no repercussions.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said people seen shoulder-to-shoulder at pool bars was a “potentially dangerous” way to spread COVID-19, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He added that local health departments are responsible for ensuring people stay six feet apart.

As the country fights to return to what everyone is calling the “new normal,” what does that normal look like for bars?

Prewitt took health and safety precautions seriously by checking people’s temperatures before they entered. How is that any different from your employer taking your temperature before you enter the building where you will encounter people outside your immediate family circle? Sure, you might not be shoulder-to-shoulder with your coworkers or customers, but will you be six feet from them at all times? Unlikely.

Does Target or Home Depot take everyone’s temperature before they enter? No. And people have no problem standing in line waiting (often less than six feet from one another) to enter or stand next to each other in a small aisle while casually perusing merchandise like it’s any other day. Is this a more acceptable calculated risk than attending an outdoor pool party?

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on every one of us to stay home if we feel ill and calculate our own risks of going to the store, a restaurant or bar.

Two weeks ago, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ended the state’s extension of the governor’s “safer-at-home” plan and many bars reopened. James Lindenberg, owner of Club 400 in Waukesha, Wis., told WUWM, Milwaukee’s National Public Radio station, that people in the town “were definitely eager to get out and see each other and get a little bit back to normal.”

Club 400 frequent customer Doug Quinlan said he’s glad to be able to come sit and have a beer, according to WUWM. “I’m kind of comfortable with who’s here,” he said. “It’s a risk you take, but I always do that anyway. Just goin’ out to the bar is a risk.”

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