The time we’ve all been waiting for is here. The end of 2020, a year that will live in infamy. Any other time, that would call for a New Year’s Eve party to end all New Year’s Eve parties, but we’re not out of the woods by a damn sight.
I’ve already discussed my feelings about folks acting as if the calendar year makes any difference in the state of our society, but in case you missed it, my thoughts are summed up in this paragraph from that early-December column: “We can all act as if 2021 will be better than 2020, and there are signs that things might be turning a corner, but the truth is that the calendar doesn’t care. If we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past nine months, the past four years, the past 400 years, we’re doomed to repeat them in the short and long terms. Another trip around the sun won’t change that.”
That being said, it’s becoming easier and more likely for folks to fall into “pandemic fatigue,” which to me has always been the most bullshit, privileged term used in place of selfish fuckery, but I digress.
As the new year arrives, there’s plenty of reasons to let yourself believe that the pandemic is behind us. The vaccine has begun making its rounds, Donald Trump is leaving office (or will be dragged out) come Jan. 20, and everyone is eager to wash their hands of this whole nasty year and get back to normal. Just hold the damn phone before you hit that New Year’s Eve party.
What we went through in 2020 was years in the making, and it will take years to undo. Now, when it comes to certain things like climate change, those are years we don’t really have, so we’re just riding the wave at this point. When it comes to the pandemic, however, a little bit more patience will go a long way.
Of course, as so many Charlotteans and Americans in general have shown during the last few months, patience was never a strong suit for us.
Since the fall, COVID-19 cases have been skyrocketing, and since the fall, we’ve seen more people and businesses throw caution to the wind by hosting and attending packed parties with no safety protocols. We’ve seen dance floors crowded just as hospitals run out of room, and we’ve seen test-percentage rates climb as quickly as like on videos showing people congested in bars with no masks in sight. Viral videos have taken on a new meaning.
On Dec. 28, Queen City Nerve publisher Justin LaFrancois ran an online piece highlighting 13 such videos from the past three or four months. The idea was to show just how little some business owners care about the health of their customers and the community around them.
There are so many restaurant and bar owners who are struggling through this time while keeping safety protocols in place so as not to harm the people they serve or their families. These folks reach out to us all the time to share videos they’ve come across, wondering why their sacrifice goes unrewarded while selfish owners are able to flout executive orders with no consequences. Those are the folks I am concerned for.
We may have rubbed some people the wrong way by publishing that article, coming off as self-righteous snitches out to harm small businesses, but the fact is that each host of each party on that list is doing more to hurt the small-business community in this city than anyone who aims to hold them accountable for it.
Much of our own business model was built on hosting events (you didn’t think print newspapers are a huge moneymaker, did you?), and we’re just as ready (and desperate) as anyone to get back out there and have a good time with our readers.
But this idea that hosting parties and crowds when it’s not safe to do so is a celebration of constitutional rights is asinine. I’m all for throwing up a middle finger to the government — in fact, fuck them for not doing everything they can to get folks through the last nine months — but you’re not accomplishing what you think you are.
The biggest criticism I get when discussing this issue is that I’m blindly taking what the government feeds me, usually along with that old line: “Do your own research,” nothing but a buzz phrase for conspiracy theorists and other contrarians that means, “Find a guy on YouTube who disagrees with the things that thousands of experts agree on.” All I do is my own research; it’s my job. I’m comfortable in what I know and don’t know.
We’ll never have a healthy economy until we have a healthy populace. While packing the house on any given night might bring a few more dollars in, you’re only slowing down the process for everybody else.
Keep that in mind as we come upon New Year’s Eve if “pandemic fatigue” has you feeling like a party never hurt anyone. There are more than 550 Mecklenburg County residents who have died from COVID-19 this year — more than 6,600 in North Carolina and 338,000 in the United States — and they all caught the virus from somebody.
If you’re celebrating New Year’s, do it safely. Let’s bring in 2021 the right way.