Anthony Fauci said it about as clearly as anyone could: Stop going to bars.
A new surge of coronavirus cases has quickly overtaken the country, and even caused previously declining case counts in Pennsylvania to reverse course. Things have gotten so bad in Allegheny County that officials ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, and casino for one week, starting July 3.
While there are likely many factors fueling this new spike in cases, public health officials have specifically pointed to bars, nightclubs, and college-town taverns as likely breeding grounds for the recent spike in cases.
The evidence seems overwhelming. Delaware closed down bars indefinitely in beach towns after seeing a spike in cases. At least 152 people contracted coronavirus after spending time in a bar in East Lansing, Mich. Another 100 or so cases are linked to Tigerland bars in Baton Rouge, Lou. Minnesota has traced at least 328 recent cases to bars all across the state.
“Bars: really not good, really not good. Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really have got to stop that,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told Congress earlier this week.
It’s as if bars and nightclubs were perfectly designed to spread the virus to as many people as possible. You can’t socially distance at a bar or wear a mask while you drink, and alcohol lowers inhibitions, making it easy for people to nudge closer to one another. Plus, bars are usually very noisy, which means a lout of yelling and laughing loudly — a perfect way to transmit the virus. And unlike restaurants, people tend to linger in bars for hours.
Yet that didn’t stop leader after leader in states across the country from reopening their local watering holes, in most cases before daily coronavirus counts even started to come down. Now many states — including Texas, Florida, California, Colorado, and Arizona — have been forced to shut down bars again as COVID-19 cases overtake their cities and counties.
I feel bad for bar owners and employees, who tried to play by the rules only to have frenzied patrons run wild. But at this point, it should be obvious to everyone we’d be much better off if people traded tequila shots at the club for mixed drinks at home. Bars may be closed nearly everywhere soon, but at least liquor stores remain open.