A modest proposal for retail and service businesses



As we learn more about who is at risk from COVID-19, the people I talk to (and who message me) are falling into two camps: 1) those who just want to get back to normal and are willing to risk catching the virus; and 2) those who want to make sure they don’t get the virus.

The first camp doesn’t want to wear masks, and the second camp wants everyone to wear masks. The second camp has more weight to their argument because the virus is dangerous to many of them, so how do we protect them while the first camp gets the economy going again?

Early on in the pandemic, Publix began offering specific hours, early in the day, for older shoppers; my idea is to extend this to those who want everyone to wear masks. For example, retail stores could require masks (for employees and customers) from opening until mid-afternoon (going on the assumption that stores are cleanest and that air exchangers make the air cleanest first thing in the morning), then open for customers without masks (and employees without masks, at their discretion) from mid-afternoon to closing. I would even go so far as to not limit occupancy and not stand 6 feet apart, but that’s probably too far for most people… yet.

It’s important for everyone to realize that, as we open up, we will see higher numbers of positive cases. As long as the hospital availability stays at an acceptable level, this is good for the community. Every person who recovers from the virus is someone who can’t be infected in the near future (although we don’t know how long immunity lasts, it is likely that at least partial immunity lasts for some time, and it’s probable that people are protected at least until the promised vaccine appears), and people who have recovered don’t have to worry about the possibility of transmitting the virus before they are asymptomatic.

The most important part of this idea is that it will allow us to see the actual proportions of people who are willing to go back to normal. Polls have been saying that 70%-80% of people want to stay safe and locked down, but I don’t believe that represents the people I’ve been talking to. If businesses are swamped in the early hours but empty in the later hours, they can increase the mask-wearing hours. Or if, as I suspect, the non-mask-wearing hours are more popular, they can move in the other direction. 

The most important element of this will be protecting retailers from lawsuits brought by people who claim to have been infected during a non-mask-wearing time. This can be accomplished by state action (I’m not a lawyer, so I won’t bother to propose anything specific here) and by posting prominent signs about which policy is in effect when people walk in the door.

I don’t want to live in a society where we all wear masks, and nobody who is proposing mask-wearing has told me at what point we stop wearing masks. Even a vaccine won’t provide 100% protection, although maybe it will reduce the perceived risk enough that people are willing to loosen restrictions. Many people are now arguing that there is no acceptable level of risk, and the people who are vocally in favor of mask-wearing could prevail for years to come. The only way to balance the two views is to essentially create two societies: one that comes as close as possible to where we were 2 months ago (when the virus was already everywhere but the panic hadn’t started), and one that keeps people completely safe from the virus. This modest proposal seems like a reasonable way to start figuring that out.

  • Whenever I see someone wearing a mask, I ask them
    If they are sick. If you have a compromised immune
    System, then wear a mask and stay home. If you are
    Healthy and have a good immune system, then live
    A healthy normal life. If you watch mainstream media,
    They keep pushing testing and social distancing, and
    Wearing masks. It’s seems that people have this fear
    That they are going to die if they catch the flu. Experts
    Say you have a greater chance
    Of dying from a car crash on your way to work than from
    Covid 19…that covid19 is similar to seasonal flu.
    I believe the median age for covid 19 deaths is 83 and
    They usually have an underlying condition.
    There’s a lot of people who would rather not go back
    To work and collect unemployment or free money…
    There’s a lot of people who hate Trump and would
    Destroy our economy & country because they don’t want
    Him to be re-elected. A lot of people want government to
    Take care of them and want more taxes and green new
    Deal. Some people can take care of themselves and want
    Smaller government. I don’t mind government, good government…I don’t mind taxes, reasonable taxes. Government, if ruled by the people, is our most useful tool…
    Otherwise , it’s our worst enemy. He who sacrifices liberty
    For safety deserves neither…I would rather be free than live
    In the gilded cage of a tyrannical government…There’s
    Nothing to fear, but fear itself. Go about and live a healthy
    Normal life and be happy. Put your faith in Jesus & God,
    Not government.

  • I’m a high risk person, I think. I have respiratory conditions that have still left pulmonary effusion fluids around my left lung over 5 years. But I’m not wearing a mask. I would be adjusting it all the time, therefore touching my face. I’ve been using hand sanitizer for quite a while. Used it extensively on my last trip to Dizzy Whirl in October of last year. It’s makes good sense.

    Even with hand sanitizer, you would have to use it almost constantly to be safe. I use a stylus to push card transactions and don’t use that one on my cell phone or anything else. The newest data shows that the half life of the virus on many services is very short.

    We are also now finding out that many more could have had the virus and antibodies were sufficient to keep them from being symptomatic. Yet we don’t know whether those that are asymptotic do actually transmit.

    Right now in the State of Florida, our death rate based on our population is around .02%, not 2%. I will continue to hand sanitize as best I can. I don’t mind doing social distancing as I normally do that anyway.

    At the age of 68 and with conditions that make me very concerned about the flu and contracting pneumonia, I’m going to do what I need to do to keep myself healthy. Anyone with a compromised immune system should be careful. And the data is showing that those without those issues are far mor less affected.

    It will be a long time, if ever, that a vaccine is developed to control this as there has not been one yet developed for the last SARS. A way to open up elderly care facilities to families to visit is very important. That can be done with better testing of residents, staff and incoming visitors. It will be easy to test visitors with 5 minute test, yet staff may require daily test upon entering. Think about that…but it can be done.

    For now….open up my restaurants! Open other businesses that are suffering. For this point on you will see plexiglass structures, more sanitizing, ordering online for delivery and even more social contact by applications. It’s moving us forward in a way to retain the past.

    Jerry Meriwether

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