The Clock Still Ticks as Petitioners Celebrate
Nine days til midnight.
Update: The organizer who posted the petition has objected to clams that its language has been altered.
Names do not appear in this post.
As news of the dining industry’s petition spread—to predictably mixed reviews from the general public—one reporter made a critical error in judgment. Of the nearly 2000 signatures available at the time of publication, the reporter chose to highlight only a handful.
Unsurprisingly, the names brought to readers’ attention were some of the most prominent among the group. Big names make for big stories after all. And the chance to convert a spotlight to a heating lamp is tempting in its own right.
This comes at the risk of burning oneself, however. Some readers went on to harass one of the named operators, who explained that she had misunderstood the petition’s purpose. Later on, testimony from two more operators confirmed that the message relayed wasn’t unclear, but rather altered. Allegedly, the petition’s initial wording made no claim about violating the Governor’s orders.
[There were plenty comments under the shared article that they couldn’t access it because of a paywall. That readers can access five free articles per month, surpass that allotment, and complain that more of a professional’s work should be provided for free at their demand is an example of why journalism/art/food is the way it is. I’ll write more about that eventually. For now I’ll just say: pay creatives for their work if you want it to progress.]
As online industry groups weathered a surge in in-fighting about the petition, Gov. Beshear addressed the possibility of extensions Wednesday:
"…At this point, we have no expectations that we will continue the current order. We have gotten through two cycles of restrictions, and we anticipate that it will have a slowing effect on the virus."
Petitioners took to social media to celebrate a premature victory and congratulate themselves for a job well done. One of the organizers went to lengths to assure his group’s opponents that there were no hard feelings. We’re all in this together, he insisted, let’s not hold grudges. Over behavior in a public health crisis, that is.
Progressing from “We can’t trust the Governor to do right by us” to “He said it’s over! We won!” is both illogical and self-centered. But to think you’ve reached the finish line with nine days to go proves the short-sightedness we’re dealing with.
While Gov. Beshear is addressing the possibility of reopening based on numbers from the last two weeks, they do not reflect the consequences of Thanksgiving mingling. Per the CDC, it can take anywhere from two to fourteen days after exposure to show symptoms.
We’re only nine days past the holiday. The two week mark falls on Dec. 10th, leaving three days to spare before the Governor’s current order expires. If he were to repeat his strategy of forewarning operators that action will go into effect in a few days, that’s right on time.
I personally don’t believe the Governor’s timing to be malicious or maniacally plotted. (Nor do I believe him to be power-hungry as many detractors do, since these unpopular actions would hinder his chances at re-election.) But there’s no denying the timing was poor.
If the Governor sought to flatten the post-holiday curve, his restrictions should have set in pre-holiday. Cases were already trending upward by the end of October, frequently surpassing the highest numbers from the second wave. The Governor could have shut down indoor dining by as late as November 12th and alleviated some of the consequences the late restrictions have caused.
The weather was much more suitable for outdoor dining in the earlier half of November. The holiday rush wouldn’t typically be in full swing. And most importantly, the restrictions would have precluded many infections prior to Thanksgiving. Meaning families who still chose to celebrate with elderly relatives would be far less likely to take the virus to someone more susceptible. What’s more, the restrictions could have gone farther in scope without fear of disrupting major retail cash flow.
None of that is to say that his late actions were without merit or that he’s actively operating against his constituents’ best interests. What it does say is that the community spread that could have been disrupted was not.
Rather than make these points or ask customers to reach out to their state and federal representatives, the associations that lobby for the restaurant industry have chosen to pitch fits and dupe operators with escalating claims on a petition. It’s not that they aren’t capable of foresight or collective movement. Their members distributed flyers with carryout orders to oppose Louisville’s proposed restaurant tax in 2019.
You should contact your representatives, by the way. Let them know your local businesses need support. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to insist that prior rounds of assistance be scrutinized given the evidence of widespread fraud. Here’s lists for Kentucky’s state and federal delegates.