‘Quarantine shaming’: US navigates sweeping new social norms amid coronavirus

‘Quarantine shame’ – calling those who don’t follow social distancing rules – part of a new and surprising reality for Americans who must navigate a world of rapidly changing social norms in the age of COVID. -19. As schools close and shelter-in-place orders spread across the United States, the divide between those rigorously practicing self-isolation and those still trying to lead some semblance of normal life has never been so clear. To complicate matters: what was socially acceptable just 48 hours ago may now be taboo, as government officials race to contain the virus with ever-expanding circles of social isolation.

“The time matrix seems to be changing. I have never seen several days pass so slowly and watch the collective consciousness move more and more in one direction day by day,” said Paula Flakser, who lost her job as a bartender when the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in California closed this week.

For those who have to go to work, the gap is also widening.

Steve Diehl, who is considered an essential employee at his job at a warehouse near Chicago, wears a mask to work because a family member has a weakened immune system. He is afraid of catching the new coronavirus or transmitting it to his loved one at home.

Diehl posted a sign at the entrance to the warehouse asking people to put on provided masks “to protect the immunocompromised family,” but several co-workers did not wear them, he said. One of them coughed into his hand as he stood near Diehl’s desk – then started touching things on his desk with the same hand.

“It irritated me enormously,” said Diehl, who posted a photo of himself wearing a mask on Twitter. “And when I made a comment about it, they ignored it.”

Others who try to juggle working from home while caring for children who are also at home make smaller, more mundane choices that nonetheless elicit shocked responses – even reprimands – from co-workers. , friends and even family. Is it okay to run for coffee? Can you allow your children to go to the playground? What about sending children to daycare, which remains the only lifeline in many states that have closed schools?

Flakser, the woman who lost her job as a bartender, said she was devastated by the hundreds of people who flocked to her small hometown of Bishop, Calif., Los Angeles and other big cities to pick up drinks. holidays the minute schools closed. The 42-year-old climber posted angry messages to the crowd on Facebook and was quoted in an online climbing magazine, Thundercling.

So many people descended on a rock climbing site called Happy Boulders over the weekend that lines of people marched through the narrow canyon. The routes to the top mean dozens of people are grabbing the same holds in the rock over and over again, which can spread germs, she said.

“When people in urban areas flee, they flee to vulnerable areas that have incredibly limited medical resources – and that seemed quite legitimate and selfish, she said in a phone interview. knocking on our door.”

By Wednesday, the crowd had dwindled — possibly due to the article and social media posts — but “this weekend will be the real barometer,” Flakser said.

His concerns echo those who criticized St. Patrick’s Day revelers who flooded bars in Chicago and New Orleans and those who called out college students who crowded beaches for spring break. An Instagram video of hundreds of revelers crammed into a “booze cruise” in the Bahamas has prompted comments calling for a boycott from the company that organized it.

Part of the strong online reaction to these massive breaches likely stems from authorities reportedly struggling to enforce the new rules and relying on a social pact to keep everyone safe. In Oregon, for example, restaurants that continue to provide dine-in service would only face a misdemeanor — and social shaming is far more effective.

Jeff Carreras, owner of Tracey’s Original Irish Channel Bar in New Orleans, said he faced similar scathing criticism over the crowds that gathered outside his bar on Saturday. People on Facebook have accused him of hoarding money while ignoring growing warnings about the dangers of crowds during the COVID-19 outbreak.

A poster, Claire Hassig, said on the bar’s page that her 70-year-old mother had to walk to her car and was mobbed by “drunken idiots with no respect for social distancing or her safety”.

Carreras said he kept the crowds inside below his capacity of 250 and didn’t set up the usual outdoor bar – but crowds formed anyway. It was the bar’s idea to ask the police to separate them when their staff couldn’t, he said.

“There’s no way I’m attracting, encouraging the public to come out and spread a virus as bad as it is,” he said. “We did everything we were asked to do.”

Those appalled by the behavior of some of their fellow Americans this week hailed the crackdown by many state and local governments that add daily lists of closures and bans.

Bars in a working-class area of ​​Portland, Oregon were busy on Friday and Saturday nights but are now dark after Governor Kate Brown banned all dine-in service at dining establishments and bars nationwide ‘State.

Alec Bhurke, who wrote an angry Facebook post about the weekend crowds, said most people probably only needed that kind of advice from authorities to recognize the seriousness of the crisis.

“People don’t understand … the implications of what even a single day does to the body count (of the virus) at this point,” he said Wednesday. “But people should know better – and they should do better.”

Winkle, for her part, has re-examined her approach to social distancing since the weekend event. It helps that Mesa instituted a restaurant serving ban in restaurants and bars on Tuesday.

“I understand, and I understand where they’re coming from,” he said. “I definitely took it to heart and thought maybe it was time to start slowing things down.”

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Associated Press writers Kevin McGill in New Orleans and Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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