The Look of the Future
The Look of the Future vichie81/

A few nights ago, I visited Ba Bar with my family. We decided to eat there because many of its outdoor tables were empty. But there were lots of people dining inside of the restaurant, which, even if tables are socially distanced, is something I have yet to find the courage to do.

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At Ba Bar's entrance, my family was met by a young man who held a gadget that checked the temperature of a human being. He would not let us eat inside or outside without determining that our temperatures were normal. Once we cleared the check, we chose a spot, and ordered drinks and food—I had an Oxtail Phở because I love to suck big bones dry. (The other great oxtail dish in town is found at Lil Red Takout and Catering.)

Ba Bar is the only restaurant that has checked my temperature, though I've heard other establishments are doing it as well. But the vast majority of restaurants do not. Why not? I asked the leaders of our state, country, and city.

Here is what Mike Faulk, the Deputy Director of Communications for Governor Jay Inslee had to say for Inslee:

We have not considered or discussed temperature checks for people entering restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies or any other public setting. Temperature checks are more appropriate for work settings since people spend a long time with work colleagues (up to 8 hours per day). The risk of transmission in a grocery store or pharmacy is very low since people are not in them very long.

(Quick note: King County's Alex Fryer referred my questions to the State Department of Health, "as temperature checks of customers in businesses would be more closely aligned with the requirements of the state’s Safe Start program." As for Mayor Jenny Durkan, I unsurprisingly heard nothing back from her or her team. This is, of course, consistent with her lukewarm attitude for matters that do not concern sweeping the homeless out of sight, supporting the police, and checking budget deficits.)

Now, one can agree with Jay Inslee's point that grocery stores and pharmacies should not bother checking temperatures, as people do not spend much time in these places. It's usually an in-'n'-out affair. And science has shown that time is a key factor in human-to-human viral transmissions. But a restaurant is another story altogether.

Indeed, according to the latest outbreak report from the Washington State Department of Health, the highest number of non-healthcare COVID-19 outbreaks have originated in "food service/restaurant" settings. The DOH recorded three outbreaks in that sector during the second week of August.

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And one of the most famous and well-documented COVID-19 infection incidents happened in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China that "involved three family clusters." One of the families traveled from Wuhan, which was then a COVID-19 hotspot. One member of the Wuhan family had the virus. This one person spread it to nine people who were in the restaurant for about an hour.

True, the restaurant's ventilation system played a role in the spread of the virus in Guangzhou, but time was also of the essence. True, again, that temperature checks are effective only for those with symptoms, but not for those who are asymptomatic. But the person who spread the virus in Guangzhou was sick, and a temperature check most likely would have stopped him from entering the business. The point here is not there's no harm after checking temperatures, but the practice certainly presents another barrier for the virus.

The fact of the matter is COVID-19 is not going to just go away. It's also unlikely that there will be a permanent cure for it. A sober examination of the past eight months of accumulated data, scientific studies, and reported infection patterns shows that the most likely future between the virus and us is of a coexistence that's similar to the one we have with AIDS.

The future will be about checking temperatures, performing regular tests, state-of-the-art contact tracing, wearing masks in public places. The GOP and those in parts of Eastern Washington can keep dreaming about the supreme importance of maintaining the American way of life, but the American way of life can only continue if one is fine ending every day with more dead joining the dead, who were more for the dead from the day before. We on the left are not like that, and so it is up to us to impose laws that put life into the heart of being pro-life. Make restaurants check temperatures.

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