Coronavirus

Tepid Reopenings Are Producing the Most Absurd Pandemic Regulations Yet

Washington, D.C., policy makers are pairing their very gradual reopening with a series of complicated, confusing, and unworkable regulations.

|

The most COVID-cautious local and state governments are slowly easing their pandemic-era restrictions. These gradual reopenings, while welcome, are producing increasingly absurd and complicated rules for newly liberated businesses.

Earlier this week, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order eliminating some restrictions on restaurants, permitting live entertainment, and expanding capacity for retailers and other businesses. Come May 1, District dining rooms be allowed to seat 10 people per table (up from the current six), while restaurants can begin to host live entertainment without first having to obtain a special waiver.

Actual concert halls will also be allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity or 500 people, whichever is less. Retailers deemed "nonessential" will see their own permitted capacity rise from 25 to 50 percent.

These changes all move D.C., where 33.6 percent of people are at least partially vaccinated, ever so slightly toward a pre-pandemic normal. They also come with a number of carveouts and caveats that will limit their impact.

While individual party sizes at restaurants are increasing, for instance, restaurants' indoor capacity will stay at 25 percent. A midnight curfew for these businesses will remain in place as well.

People seated outdoors will be freed from the requirement to order food with any alcohol. Should you opt to sit inside, however, you will need to buy a snack while you're sipping on your beverage.

The restrictions on newly legal live entertainment come with even more micromanagement.

Bowser's order allows live music for outdoor diners, and for other forms of live entertainment, like comedy or trivia nights, to be performed inside for seated patrons. Indoor live entertainment can't be so loud that patrons would need to raise their voices above a conversational level, per the mayor's order.

The city's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) has concocted more rules still to bring the mayor's orders into effect. Under ABRA regulations, performers must stay six feet away from other performers within a designated "performance area."

That performance area, meanwhile, can hold 10 people if it's inside, or five if it's outdoors. That might help cut down on outdoor noise volumes but would seem to cut against the public health goal of pushing more people and activities into well-ventilated outdoor spaces.

At a minimum, prog rock bands playing outside will be put in the impossible position of choosing between their rhythm guitarist and keyboardist.

All live entertainers must remain masked, per ABRA rules, unless doing so inhibits their ability to perform. Unmasked performers, such as vocalists, trombonists, and harmonica players, however, will have to be 18 feet from seated patrons. Their face-covered bandmates can get as close as 12 feet.

"No dance floors can be constructed or used for dancing," reads ABRA's guidance, which also says that games like pingpong, pinball, and pool will remain prohibited unless they can be played safely by seated patrons.

The problem with D.C.'s approach to reopening is twofold: They're unworkable for businesses that'll have to comply with them, and they're an unsupported, seemingly nonsensical, means of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

"The average commercial townhouse in Washington, D.C., is 20 feet wide," Bill Duggan, owner of Madam's Organ Blues Bar, told me last week, saying that rules governing the space between performers and patrons don't take into account the size of most venues in the city. "Unless I can figure out a way to hang up the three or four people that could fit into that space on the wall, I'm shit out of luck."

Duggan has proposed letting all venues reopen on the condition that performers, staff, and customers all have been vaccinated.

One need not necessarily support "vaccine passports" to at least recognize they're a rational means of ensuring safer environments. One can't say the same thing about District rules that allow you to drink inside only so long as you're eating, or to visit a bar with 10 vaccinated friends, but not 12 of them.

An over-cautious, over-regulated reopening also contributes to the real problem of vaccine hesitancy.

If getting your shot still doesn't allow you to get a shot at the bar (ABRA rules forbid bar seating if someone is working behind it), many will reasonably ask themselves what the benefit of getting vaccinated is.

Rather than try to entice those people with the promise of greater normality and freedom, the District appears to be doing its best to make May 2021 as similar an experience to May 2020 as possible.

NEXT: At The New York Times, Intent Does Not Matter When Someone Uses 'the N-Word,' Except When It Does

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Science!

    1. Emergency!

      1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..VISIT HERE

      2. Authoritarianism!

        1. Flatten the curve!

  2. One need not necessarily support “vaccine passports” to at least recognize they’re a rational means of ensuring safer environments.

    Now do voter IDs.
    Then do immigration papers.

    1. I’m with you on immigration and voter ID.
      There’s already a market for phoney vaccine paperwork.

      1. Moreover, unlike immigration and voter ID, vaccine paperwork has an external reality more directly imposed upon it. For the former, no one else ‘in the system’ is harmed as long the rules are followed and, nominally, those outside the system aren’t exactly/directly harmed whether the rules are followed or not. Nobody really cares if John Smith spends 80 yrs. casting a single vote in his district and then dies. He’s not accidentally going to spread voter fraud to other people by doing so. Similarly, documented immigrants aren’t going to infect non-natives with illegal immigration.

        1. Nobody really cares if John Smith spends 80 yrs. casting a single vote in his district and then dies.

          Sorry, nobody really cares if John Smith spends 80 yrs. casting a single vote in his district under the name Jerry Smith and then dies.

          1. They will care if he voted for SleepyJoe.

    2. One need not necessarily support “voting passports” to at least recognize they’re a rational means of ensuring that the person voting is legally eligible to vote and is not dead.

      One need not necessarily support “immigration papers” to at least recognize that they’re a rational means of ensuring that individuals in this country are here legally.

  3. This will all get steadily worse u til we rid ourselves of the democrats.

    Ask yourself, is tolerating the democrats worth my freedom?

  4. At a minimum, prog rock bands playing outside will be put in the impossible position of choosing between their rhythm guitarist and keyboardist.

    This is why I’ve always been an advocate of the singer also playing an instrument. You can have your rhythm guitar player AND your keyboardist and still only have 5 people

    1. That would violate a prior DC law barring any musician from taking on more then 1 role in a band. Because jobs…

      1. I can’t tell if you’re joking. Please tell me you are joking.

    2. Good luck finding a female vocalist who is also going to lug gear.

    3. Which is extra silly because singers and horn players are much more likely to spread the virus.

    4. Park a microphone next to the drummer. If he can’t sing just turn it off.

  5. In places where every adult, especially adults older than 60, has had the opportunity to get vaccinated for almost two months now, there should be no restrictions. Zero.

    People- both vaccinated and unvaccinated- can choose the level of risk for which they are personally comfortable. The lock-everyone-in-their-home-to-save-grandma argument no longer applies. Granny’s been vaccinated.

    1. If you’ve been vaccinated, you should give exactly zero shits whether the person next to you is vaccinated. We are six to eight weeks away from everyone having had the opportunity to get the vaccine, get the subsequent booster, and wait the recommended two weeks after the booster. Once we hit that point, all restrictions should end. Every single one.

  6. This is the government at work, and yet somehow, we still look to the government to tell us what is safe.

    Fight the Power. Just remember that the Power is under new management. Management that makes stupid rules and spends trillions of dollars so voters focus solely on what they will get. Management that is incompetent, deceitful, and very dedicated to maintaining its grip on our daily lives.

    For some reason, my feeling of hopelessness is quite high today. I’m sick of wearing a mask in a room with another person who is also wearing a mask even though we have both been vaccinated. I am sick of sitting in my car while some vet tech with a cutesy mask comes to get my dog while I give my credit card information over the phone from 15 yards away. I’m sick of assholes riding bikes wearing masks. I’m sick of new rules, new studies, new regulations, and our demented president (who is deemed a great success based on speaking mostly coherently for an hour). I am sick of articles like this one, but I keep reading them.

    I was going to quit smoking, but I’m not sure how long I want to live in this new society. We aren’t going back. The most important thing Trump said in all his debates and speeches (IMHO) is that we needed to learn to live with the virus. He’s right. But we won’t. We have President Gloom instead of President Diarrhea-of-the-Fingers on Tweeter.

    1. If you do smoke make sure you’re wearing a mask while you do so!

  7. Went to a restaurant the other day. Walked in sat down place was nearly full. Nobody acting like it was the end of the world, just folks being social having a meal. Like it’s been for a year. Only briefly was there panic in that spring of 2020, then life went on. Oh yes I realize the psychotic leadership in your major cities and blue states made you do differently. blmantifa made you afraid. Biden keeps fucking up the message. I get it. Just get out and do it.

  8. D.C. is all about the feelz.

    They make a big noise about how many guns they’ve recovered from felons, but don’t mention that the seldom prosecute those felons, or refer them to the Federal Prosecutor.

    1. Why put more democrats in prison?

  9. games like pingpong, pinball, and pool will remain prohibited unless they can be played safely by seated patrons.

    WTF?

  10. Perhaps the reason – strike that, the cause of the myriad senseless restrictions and re-opening guidances is that the whole thing is the result, really, of another mass psychosis, Covid-19. Yes, Covid-19 is a real disease. But at root, it’s just another kind of flu. Mortality is amazingly low, unless an individual is otherwise in trouble healthwise. Yet, virtually our entire economy was shut down. We, following our “leaders”, have been fools.

  11. This “pandemic” (notice the quotes here…I use the term very loosely) has been the most perfect pretext for increasing the reach of big government seen in many a generation now and these scum-sucking libtard Democrat dictator wannabes aren’t about to give it up without appealing to every last technicality they can possibly sink a claw into.

  12. What is the endgame?

    1. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that you are being oppressed by a cabal of brilliant masterminds who have carefully arranged everything to their whim? It may not be the reality you wanted but at least someone has a plan, right? They were just pretending to be retarded, right?

      There is no plan. There is no endgame. They really are as stupid as they seemed and there’s nothing you can do about it. Buckle Up. This next part might get bumpy.

    2. Why would the game ever end? They make all the rules, and are always winning.

  13. Hell yes, those damnfool clowns deserve statehood.

    1. Only if by “statehood”, you actually mean “Purge”.

  14. With restrictions like that, what’s the point? Just stay closed. I would hate to be anywhere under those conditions.

    1. I think that may be the idea.

  15. Here’s an example of silly rules. I saw my local minor league team was going to allow fans at games. We would be seated in a pod of four people away from others. I was told that even in our pod at an outdoor stadium we would have to wear masks.

    These are people that I rode to the game with and three of them live together. In addition, we are all vaccinated. The team said they were following policy. I asked them who’s policy since the CDC said vaccinated people could gather in small groups (a pod?) unmasked. They also said that vaccinated people didn’t need masks anymore outside as long as they can socially distance.

    I guess we only want to follow the CDC when they agree with their crazy controlling ideas. The science has deserted the masketeers, and they don’t know what to do.

    1. I work for a minor league team. We’re following the city’s ridiculous rules (their #thescience is different than the CDC’s). The way to get around it is to be “actively eating,” i.e. have an opened bag of peanuts and eat one every so often… Until we have to ban peanuts altogether to protect that tiny sliver of the population that is vulnerable to peanuts.

    2. I’m not going back until normal. It just doesn’t sound like fun to sit in a mask three feet away at a ballgame.

  16. Hello,Many binary operations are rippers. I invested about $320,000 then i decided to withdraw after several week but the withdrawal wasn’t successful, then I tried to contact the binary operation email and phone number, but got no response from them that was when everything started looking weird. Some weeks later I got a mail from them insisting I should invest more money if I want to withdraw my money which I rejected, and I never hear from them again that was when I knew I had been scammed. I was really devastated at those moment and felt so bad that my hard earn money is gone. After some month I came across a lot of testimonies on many bitcoin site how HACKSOLUTION7 AT gmail dot com had helped many people recovered there stolen, scammed or duped money on bitcoin or any other form on digital currency. I contact them and they promised to help me get my money back, asked me some personal details of the scammer which I provided. The result was amazing I recovered all my stolen money back within 72 hours I was so happy as I never believe I could get my money back. Thanks HackSolution you restore Joy into my life after several pain I’m so indebted!!!????????????????

  17. It’s D.C. I don’t give a fuck if they starve

  18. Want we really need is job opportunity ,

    They should know that People- both vaccinated and unvaccinated- can choose the level of risk for which they are personally comfortable. The lock-everyone-in-their-home
    https://wapexclusive.com ,-to-save-grandma argument no longer applies. Granny’s been vaccinated.

  19. “These changes all move D.C., where 33.6 percent of people are at least partially vaccinated, ever so slightly toward a pre-pandemic normal.”

    So given that ~40% of Americans have been infected DC should be right at HIT.

    Also, that quote is another example of ignoring natural immunity.

  20. How many progressive rock bands have more than 5 people (at a time)? And they are more likely to have a brass or woodwind instrument than a rhythm guitar

    Yes, 5 people. Emerson Lake & Palmer. 3 people. King Crimson originally had 5. Moody Blues, 5. Pink Floyd, 4. Genesis, 5. Early ELO had 5.

    Okay, Starcastle had 6

  21. oh ….Sorry, nobody really cares if John Smith spends 80 yrs. casting a single vote in his district under the name Jerry Smith and then dies. https://www.wapexclusive.com

  22. Just i am I’m with you on immigration and voter ID.
    There’s already a market for phoney vaccine paperwork. https://wapexclusive.com ,this is absolutely confusable

  23. “Rather than try to entice those people with the promise of greater normality and freedom, the District appears to be doing its best to make May 2021 as similar an experience to May 2020 as possible.”

    Well DUH – You didn’t think they were going to cede control of people’s lives so easily did you?

Please to post comments