COVID: The Devil's in the Retails

December 1, 2020

Are super stores the super spreader? That's the question El Paso Mayor Dee Margo is asking. In a Texas city that's been so ravaged by the virus that they've had to bring in mobile morgues, Margo thinks it's time people take a long hard look at the data. While everyone's trying to shut down churches, the real culprit might be an industry no one's bothered to regulate.

On CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, the mayor talked about the alarming numbers. "We did a deep dive in our contact tracing for the week of November the 10th through the 16th and found that 55 percent of the positives were coming from shopping at large retailers -- what we'd term as 'the big box stores,'" Margo said. "And those are considered essential under CISA guidelines under homeland security." And, like most local leaders, he said, "I don't have any control over any limitations there."

In El Paso, one of the COVID hotspots that actually reached hospital capacity, Mayor Margo thinks more stores should be putting "voluntary limitations" on the number of shoppers. Interestingly enough, those companies have been virtually untouched by the restrictions. Instead, far-Left governors and state officials have been too busy targeting houses of worship to keep the real problem in check. It's not the people in the pews but the shoppers on the produce aisle that pose the greatest problem of spreading the coronavirus.

Of course, this is even more infuriating when you consider that most of these church gatherings haven't led to coronavirus outbreaks. That's part of the argument several people have made in court when their congregations are treated unfairly. "Nobody's saying that the government can't take steps to try to stop the spread of the pandemic," Becket attorney Joe Davis said on Monday's "Washington Watch." "Of course it can, and it should. What we're saying is that it's entirely inappropriate for churches and synagogues, houses of worship, to be effectively shut down entirely while all sorts of... secular activities are allowed to go forward. There's been no evidence that religious worship is sort of uniquely contributing to the pandemic by any stretch."

And yet, the government -- in places like New York City -- tried to reduce 1,000-person capacity sanctuaries to 10-25 people. It's absurd, especially when people step on an airplane, and passengers are jammed in like sardines, sitting elbow-to-elbow for hours. Why can they wear a mask and it's fine, but we can't sit in a church for an hour taking even more precautions and socially distancing?

It's a good illustration of the overall problem, Joe said, which is "you've got government officials sitting back and saying, 'Well, this activity is essential, and religion is not essential. And that's just not a judgment that the First Amendment allows the government to make. Religious worship is a core part of this country. The First Amendment is the First Freedom. And so, to say that it's not essential is just not something that the Constitution allows the government to do."

Frankly, I'm not for shutting anything down. I'm for governments allowing people to use common sense in protecting themselves and others from the virus. What I am against in no uncertain terms is government treating a place of worship as less essential or important than the super spreader Walmart store down the street. We will only keep these fundamental freedoms if we protect them -- by using them.