At first it seemed like a flippant remark.
A young female – likely in her 20s – said to no one in particular that “this isn’t the zombie apocalypse” near where I was standing in line weeks ago to get a chance to enter Food-4-Less, not in search of toilet paper but a single bag of lima beans. For some reasons lima beans – as well as navy beans – have become as rare in Ceres as being able to buy as non-rationed paper goods.
Later that night I got to thinking about the “zombie apocalypse” wisecrack.
Based on what I understand – not from watching Netflix that is loaded with such cinema fare – from my granddaughters who over the years have tried to engage me in conversations about the subject that I short circuit by asking them “if zombies are brain dead they can’t be alive as they would have no bodily functions so how can you kill them” there are a lot of nonsensical rules about zombies that make sense to zombie fans. The main reason that they make sense is they are consistent.
I wish I could say the same thing about the pandemic as nothing seems to make much sense after a while.
This past Saturday I did my weekly shopping for myself and a friend who – based on two premises of an immune system and age – should stay away from stores.
My first stop was Grocery Outlet where an alarmed cashier politely told me I must not have seen the sign that reusable bags were no longer allowed. When I stopped by Food-4-Less afterwards they were no longer limiting access or the store to 50 people at the time as they did the previous week. I figured I’d better not take my reusable bags in. To my surprise the cashier said they were told it was OK to use reusable bags. She added that they are told different things each day in regards to the pandemic.
I also made a trip to a few stores for other items my friend needed.
In one center, an ACE Hardware store was making people line up outside – six feet apart of course. There must have been 20 folks in line. Next door at the Dollar Store there were no lines outside but there were easily 30 in a long line inside the store waiting to check out. Again there was six-foot social distancing.
Is it safer to social distance outside or social distance inside? Do gloves really make that much difference when we pay in cash or with cards that touch other surfaces and ultimately end up in our pockets? Long before there was COVID-19, researchers with nothing better to do told is it was nearly impossible not to come in contact with dollars that didn’t have traces of cocaine. Whether that is wracked science based on a small sampling and amplified by conjecture or is ironclad fact depends on what prism of logic you are looking through.
Some stores reportedly tried but failed to get people to go one way down specific aisles based on the assumption if people all face the same direction if a virus is breathed out from an infected person it won’t land on their faces or hands.
But perhaps the most bizarre was a Shell station that had a sign on a fountain drink dispenser that said for the duration of the pandemic reusable cups would not be allowed. If you are the only one using reusable cups how would that spread COVID-19? It seems more logical that someone with COVID-19 could spread it by grabbing one use cups or – worse yet – as they go for a straw or lid. And if that is a concern wouldn’t it make more sense to only allow cashiers wearing gloves to pull items from refrigerated cases or shelves for customers?
Keep in mind this is a gas station with perhaps 48 fuel nozzles handled by who knows how many people.
There seemingly is no rhyme or reason to many of the rules on dealing with the pandemic. But if you talked to zombie entertainment enthusiasts they don’t dispute zombie “rules” that are contrary to logic simply because there is consistency.
In the mythical zombie apocalypse you can buy into the storyline because it is consistent regardless of how far-fetched it may seem.
Six-foot social distancing is universally applied thanks to universal guidance and therefore it has led to an extremely high rate of compliance.
It would help if there was consistency in how stores go about other nuances among pandemic rules. Perhaps a universal edict that all essential stores allowed to remain open need to limit the number of customers inside at any given time based on the square footage of the public portion of the store. Basing it on a consistent ratio anchored in square feet would carry more credence instead of individual stores coming up with what appears to many as arbitrary rules.
As for re-useable versus one use bags, I’ve been using some of mine now for more than five years with no known ill effects yet there have obviously germs on them from the second they flew off the production line.
It seems clear social distancing and keeping gatherings to 10 people or less along with shutting down a good part of the economy along with only allowing essential travel is effective although Sweden can make a strong case for the precision scalpel approach of only quarantining the most vulnerable of society.
But even if Sweden is ultimately far more effective with its approach it’s a little too late to change course.
What is needed is a way forward that is as consistent as possible whether it is through more weeks or even months for “stay at home” orders or as we eventually move slowly back into normalcy.
If masks really are effective then it should be mandatory for everyone to wear them when they are outside their homes. The same goes for gloves.
Maybe we should have firms ordered by the government to create 330 million face masks a day so everyone has a new one every day when “America is reopened for business” if indeed that will help things.
People have bought into social distancing because the message is clear and the application virtually universal.
The young lady’s point was well made. This is not the zombie apocalypse where the rules of engagement are clear and universally applied even if they don’t seem logical.
Instead the “rules” connected with the pandemic either seem to change daily or are different from store to store including those next door to each other.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.