Picking and Choosing

cop stop virus 0720

Yesterday a police car parked in front of Pat’s Screen Printing for probably half an hour. Normally this is nothing I worry about; sometimes the police are even customers (the chief himself came in to purchase masks for his staff early in the pandemic) and sometimes officers park near crosswalks to make sure cars are stopping as required for pedestrians — a service I appreciate as a frequent pedestrian.

But yesterday I figured this meant it was our turn for inspection, and I worried. Needlessly, it turned out, since no officer materialized in our store. And I hope needlessly even if one does come in, because I feel we’re reasonably compliant on most items on the checklist and making an effort on the others.

I am not, I will volunteer to you, cleaning the bathrooms every hour. We are not offering them to customers, and that means no more than three people are using either one, and we’re the same six or seven people who are touching every other communal surface in the shop.

I do a thorough wipe down of the building every evening, and sometimes midday, and we might be offending customers by spraying Lysol as soon as they depart. (That’s not on the list but we’ve been doing it since we re-opened.)

What I want is for inspectors to come in as we’re spraying or wiping and when two people are gone either to lunch or due to scheduling. What I assume will happen instead is that they will come in as we have more customers than our sign mandates (which I had Vann change yesterday to “two individuals or one family unit”) and as four of us are standing in a less-than-six-foot circle on the other side of the curtain.

“Really, we follow the rules most of the time — you came at our one bad moment.” I don’t see that winning us any points on the checklist.

The newspaper ran a feature about the business inspections, which are being described as “educational.” When I think about it, most of the businesses valleywide either never participated in the county Zooms or haven’t been there for weeks, although there’s always the possibility they watched the recordings later. Not everyone follows the county updates that are provided twice a week, and not everyone is going to read either the health orders or the bulletins sent out by the county and the two chambers of commerce.

There’s a lot of information at hand — too much, really — and when it changes sometimes by the day, well . . . it’s good that Kara keeps the shop running while I try to follow the information trail. Not everyone has that luxury, especially when they’re trying to clean bathrooms every hour.

I am still puzzling over McDonald’s, which closed voluntarily at some unknown juncture after three employees tested positive for the virus. I haven’t been inside, so I’m not privvy to their inner workings, but every employee I saw as I went along the drive-through was masked and gloved — and pleasant, which is huge.

This as opposed to Arby’s, where Lynn and I have eaten one and a half times. The time we drove all the way through, our food was brought to us by an unmasked, ungloved employee who was taking multiple bags of food to multiple cars, many with unmasked drivers. The half time, two weeks later, we left the long line without ordering and on the way out saw the exact same employee in the exact same conditions: unmasked, ungloved, carting food to multiple cars.

I felt so much safer going to McDonald’s, and somehow that turns out not to be the case.

For all the information the county provides, it isn’t very forthcoming on patient information. I’m not asking for HIPPA violations, but it seems useful if they could say where they think the problem originated at McDonald’s. Employees all went to the same house party? They aren’t wearing masks when they’re out of customer sight? Or maybe, the one that scares me: they did everything right, but we think unmasked customers brought the virus in?

Yesterday’s information also included a missive from the Gunnison chamber board, saying there was no blame to place and that we all need to work together to try as hard as we can to avoid rolling back. Their e-mail referenced a column in the Crested Butte News by John Norton, once a mucky-muck at the ski area and now the director of our Tourism Association.

Mr. Norton generally skews far more conservative than I do, and since I hadn’t read his column I was prepared to be angry with him. But it turned out I agreed with every single word he wrote. Sorry, chamber board.

He was ranting about the exact thing you all have been putting up with me raving about since this began: the favoritism shown to the “essential” businesses. The littlest businesses have been required to be closed and then limited in both employees and customers. None of this has been imposed on “essential” businesses; I was assured by the county early on when I inquired that these businesses would obviously do the right thing.

But they don’t, and they haven’t, and as we’re edging toward a more restrictive yellow status, Mr. Norton is concerned about all the little guys who will bear the brunt of the economic fallout (while “essentials” have generally thrived), so he “placed some blame,” as he said, calling out City Market, Safeway, Tractor Supply and Walmart. He also fingered locally-owned enterprises: Western Lumber, Three Rivers Resort and True Value, whom he accused of “making a political statement.”

While employees at most of these places have been masked, at least recently, there appears to be little effort to require the same of customers. I’m still mad at the Safeway manager for being so insistent that he couldn’t touch my bags while allowing me to be crowded by an unmasked customer. (Dang it! I meant to fill out my survey and never did.)

“We may still escape Yellow [status],” Mr. Norton concluded. “But a continued cavalier attitude on the part of some of our major businesses in the valley may push us over the edge.”

Now, I know Western Lumber was the early recipient of a county inspection visit, and I will find out this morning if they are still adhering to the requirements. I’ve been shopping at True Value, where the two clerks I generally encounter are always masked and there aren’t enough other customers for me to be concerned about (which is why I’m there and not at Ace, which has far better selection but tons more people).

But I would like the county to lean on the groceries. I don’t think either one of them has gone out of its way to assure customer safety, and I wouldn’t patronize either one except for the part where they’re so darn essential.

And here’s how the governor is “helping,” which doesn’t seem to me to be any sort of help at all: initially he recently banned liquor sales at 10 p.m. Now he has amended his executive order to say that if you’re a liquor store or grocery (because we seem hellbent on helping those poor groceries any way we can), you can sell liquor any time you want.

But if you’re a bar or restaurant selling take-out liquor, you must stop at 10. The governor has benevolently allowed these places to deliver liquor, but no pick-ups. Go to your big-chain grocery instead.

It’s very difficult to make sense of the world these days. I get that measures are intended to keep people safe, but so many of them seem intent on keeping us safe from small businesses rather than the virus, and I would like to see that change.


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