As long as any clusters of infections are linked to parties, public-health officials will need to figure out how to help people avoid these dangers. Public health is a service industry, and it cannot serve customers without first trying to understand them. Instead of yelling at people for being careless and selfish—a perfectly understandable reaction—let’s start by asking why people are partying.
The end of the coronavirus pandemic is not, unfortunately, nigh. As these months drag on, people are seeking out social contact not out of selfishness but because, like going to the grocery store, human connection is an essential activity. Americans are experiencing a pervasive, long-term collective trauma, and our endurance will come from the relationships we’re able to sustain during the pandemic. Social capital—that is, the norms, values, and connections that people share—is an important determinant of how well they can weather and recover from a crisis. If public-health professionals want Americans to persist, they need to adopt messaging and policies that minimize infection while also maximizing resilience and well-being. Instead of turning partygoers into criminals, officials can offer safer ways for people to stay connected—and support struggling businesses in the process—by opening, redesigning, and loosening restrictions on the use of outdoor spaces. . . . The combination of criminalization and unscientific moralism is ineffective and counterproductive, and often leads authorities to take actions that may yield more infection.
It’s also rapidly robbing public health officials of any moral authority. But people tend to be control freaks in this field, and they mostly hear from angry, control-obsessed Karens.
h/t Glenn Reynolds