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Consistency Is Key For COVID Response But Completely Lacking: RILA Demands Change


Last week, RILA (Retail Industry Leaders Association) – the other retail trade organization – petitioned the National Governor’s Council to mandate mask-wearing in every state. Why? Because retailers know this is the only way to keep its frontline employees safe while ensuring the customer has the best possible experience (i.e. not contact or pass along a deadly disease) while visiting within the 4 walls of the store. Seems simple enough.

Well, it turns out that wearing masks has become almost shockingly politicized, exemplified by a now-famous council meeting in Palm Beach County which heard arguments against their use, including gems like “God’s breathing apparatus is perfect” to “I would die for my country, but I will not wear a mask.” There was also a woman who seemed to equate wearing a mask to wearing underwear or something like that. Neither were acceptable to her. I have no words.

Because everything about COVID-19 has been politicized in the US, something bordering quiet chaos has occurred. Anyone who has spent any time here over the past four months know that every state is a mishmash of its own rules and regulations and standards in the days of Covid-19.

Truth be told, even the states themselves don’t have consistent policies. I live in Florida, which has become famous for opening too soon, and has become the new virus epicenter, I think in the world. But the southern 3 counties: Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade (where I live), did not follow state guidelines (or the lack thereof). We actually have standards, went slower and have backed away from some of the “phase 2” openings that we had earlier on. As you probably know, the virus is spreading like wildfire here and even with backing up, we lead the state in new cases. We also lead in in percent positive tests. Yup, we do. In fact, Florida as a state leads the nation in rate of new cases per 100,000 residents (we’re running neck in neck with Arizona), not just in total new ones each day.

The reason why is clear: lack of compliance with this mishmash of laws and regulations. More and more of my friends are reporting seeing more and more unmasked people when they go out. I went kayaking yesterday, and no one who was unloading their kayaks were wearing masks. None. When I asked them to put their masks on, they laughed at me. I didn’t push it. There were more of them, and they were likely better armed than I was. But I directly associate this with lack of leadership, lack of consistency. You know they were their damned seat belts

Retail workers are not safe in this rebellious mess: store employees have been spat on, yelled at and physically attacked for insisting customers wear masks.

I actually visited my first store in 4 months a few days ago. I will not mention the name. Let’s say that I’d grade the store a C. The body of the store seemed to have enough space, and the checkout stands had the now obligatory, socially distanced line markers on the floor. But when I went to pay, the store did not take contactless payments, and did not cover the stylus (that we use for the famous and oh-so-secure signature capture) was with plastic. That is or should be in the requirement.

So is RILA correct? Certainly it would be a start to have all the governors agree on one set of standards. It’d be really nice if it came down from the Federal government, but, well, you know. I’ll settle for 50 governors agreeing on something. Something sensible.

Let’s get on with it. Everyone is talking about Wave 2, but Wave 1 still rages. The US is #1, alright. Worst in the world. I received an email from a friend in Australia. He lives in Brisbane, where they’ve had 2 cases. He said, “Born in the USA used to mean something. Now we all just feel sorry for you.” Swell. Absent Federal leadership, the governors, at least must unite. And my only message to our own governor is “Dude - get with the program. I know you want to run for president in 2024, but blind allegiance to stupidity isn’t going to make that happen.”

Well, I suppose I can hope, but at this moment, I’m not so keen to head out into the insanity that is Florida in the age of COVID-19. It’s embarrassing, and dangerous.

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Articles & Opinions July 14, 2020
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