Money to Be Made

 

Garden centers around the country are very busy with the spring rush, and some may be even busier than in a normal spring on account of the many people who are staying at home due to coronavirus lockdowns and have more time on their hands than usual for gardening and home improvement projects. In most cases the garden centers can maintain social distancing through written reminders posted throughout their facilities, and by setting up physical barriers and limiting the amount of shoppers on the grounds at any one time. Social distancing at a garden center is probably most difficult to maintain in the confines of greenhouses.

 

Amanda-Tapping
Amanda Tapping, actress on the Stargate series of television programs, visited the Arctic in March 2007. U.S. Navy photo by Jeff Gossett, of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory. Note the ice crystals formed on the outside of her face mask by her humid exhalations.

Staff at garden centers may try to diligently follow an advertised policy of wiping down surfaces with disinfectants, but that is not always possible considering shortages of disinfectant supplies and the inherently dirty environment around potted plants and associated materials. Management may require staff to wear masks whenever they are dealing with the public, citing CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Many customers wear masks voluntarily, while others are encouraged to do so by posted reminders. Few garden centers or other retail establishments go to the controversial length of prohibiting customers from visiting their premises without a mask.

Social distancing and disinfecting of surfaces are reasonably effective measures in countering the spread of a virus that is only one micron wide; wearing a mask is far less effective, at least when it is the kind available to the average citizen. Yet somehow mask wearing has become the definitive symbol of the coronavirus pandemic, as if it were just as important and useful as the other two measures, perhaps more so. It has certainly become an important symbol for virtue signaling. The problem is not that wearing a mask is bad, because it isn’t; the problem is that it encourages far too many people to attribute to it nearly magical properties that the typical surgical mask simply does not possess, contributing to a false sense of security.

The reason masks have become the symbol of the coronavirus pandemic is money. Wearing a mask in public makes it possible to re-open businesses for people to visit, with consumers sure in the dubious knowledge they are not spreading the virus to others in their proximity. More importantly than its real effectiveness, wearing a mask is a sign to others that you are going about your bit as a consumer safely and responsibly. No doubt it is a good thing to get people back to work making money for themselves and their families, particularly in the case of working class people who were ill prepared to stay at home for weeks or months without income.

A brief, entertaining overview of magical thinking.

To that limited extent, the promotion of mask wearing by the CDC, probably under pressure from the White House to get the economy moving again, has been a decent nostrum. If people feel safer going out to stores when they are wearing a mask and the shopkeepers are also wearing masks, then fine, for as far as that goes. But people should not lose sight of other more effective, less publicly identifiable measures, such as keeping your distance and cleaning hands and surfaces regularly, or just continuing to stay home as much as possible. Wearing a mask does not suddenly entitle one to get up in someone else’s face, for good or ill. Wearing a mask may be helpful while shopping at a greenhouse for supplies for a coronavirus garden. Greenhouses can be tight quarters, but everywhere else at a garden center, inside or outside, that mask you’re wearing and perhaps entrusting too much with your safety and that of others is scant protection that doesn’t amount to much if you’re aren’t taking more effective, less magical measures to keep the virus from spreading.
— Izzy

 

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