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by Elizabeth Nolan Brown
Surging coronavirus cases, surging restrictions. Rising COVID-19 case counts around the country are spurring new rounds of virus-related restrictions on business hours, at-home social gatherings, and in-person schooling.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new orders go the furthest into hygiene theater, creating new limits on how many people can gather in private houses (10) and shutting down bars and other establishments that serve alcohol after 10 p.m. with little scientific evidence that such arbitrary limits will really help slow the spread. Even putting aside more philosophical concerns about dictating how many people can gather in private dwellings, the idea makes little practical sense, since there’s a big difference between 10 people crammed into a tiny studio apartment and spread out in a four-story brownstone. Its necessarily selective enforcement threatens to come down hardest on politically or culturally disfavored communities. (See, for instance, New York City’s obsessive focus on pandemic transgressions in large Orthodox Jewish communities.) Similarly, there’s little reason to expect alcohol-serving establishments to be less safe than restaurants that don’t serve alcohol. And giving New Yorkers fewer hours in which to congregate in semi-public spaces like bars and restaurants means more people packed into small indoor spaces at once, potentially exacerbating the virus’s spread.