4th of July 🇺🇸: To Party 🥳 or Not to Party 😷
2020-07-25 16:46:00 -0500

I know that July 4th (2020) was a while ago, but this post was a long time coming. I’ve felt very uneasy about writing this, but I think my experience is an important one to show: we can’t control everything in the world, and we certainly can’t control other peoples’ actions. All we can do is try to make the right decisions for us and for our community.

Disclaimer: Everything I say in this blog post is my opinion, and other people and companies have a right to have differing opinions than mine and to make different decisions than me.

I am a member of an events group in the Twin Cities called Events & Adventures (E&A). I joined in 2017, and overall, I’ve been pretty satisfied with my membership. For sure, there’s times where I feel like I’m in an adult high school (complete with cliques, drama, and teachers that do nothing to help students). But the past year and a half has been relatively drama free, and I’ve been enjoying attending 3–5 events per month. I’ve even met my significant other through this group, and so, I’d certainly say that this club has been a priceless asset in my life; I would still join E&A even if I went back in time. But there’s been one particular area lately where I’ve been very disappointed in the club: COVID precautions, mask requirements, and safety measures during the pandemic.

Like most businesses, E&A closed shop in March/April of 2020 for the pandemic. Nobody knew when life would get “back to normal”, but I think many of us assumed it’d be a few weeks. Well, as we all know, a few weeks turned into a month, which has now turned into a few months, and it probably isn’t even close to over yet. And as Minnesota and the United States started to open their doors to customers again, so did E&A.

So, when I learned that E&A was going to be hosting a 4th of July party at a member’s house with a large outdoor yard, I was pretty excited to be given the chance to leave my apartment, put on a mask, and socialize in-person again. So, my partner and I eagerly signed up for the event, which was capped at a 40 person limit to allow for proper social distancing.

The week before the holiday gathering, my partner and I also decided to attend an event titled Hops and Hounds at Unleashed, an indoor/outdoor dog park/bar. My partner and I brought his mom’s dog, and we were eager to see friendly faces again, even if it was at a social distanced, outdoor (and humid, and hot) setting. But when we got there, I was immediately put on edge: our host wasn’t wearing a mask. As we watched more people arriving to the event, we were dismayed to see that my partner and I were the only ones wearing masks in the whole event. I expected the group to move outside to the patio; if we’re outside, there’s less need for a mask. But everyone chose to stay indoors.

As the night progressed, we slowly started to realize that we weren’t seeing any social distancing whatsoever. People that I am pretty sure did not quarantine together were hugging and standing shoulder to shoulder… and nobody was wearing masks. I’m not talking about all of the other customers at the venue, although at least two-thirds of them weren’t wearing masks either.

The entire event and lack of safety measures concerned me. As soon as we got in the car to leave, I confessed that I had a miserable time. Of course, I didn’t like how it was hard to see peoples’ facial expressions and it was more difficult to talk, but most importantly, I was concerned about how I felt like nobody else cared about whether they spread COVID or not. That night, my partner and I decided to cancel out of the 4th of July party, regardless of the fact that we wouldn’t be able to get refunds. When I went to cancel, I also realized that the minimum cap of the party had been raised… from 40 people to 60. No matter how you cut it, 60 almost-strangers meeting at one big gathering, even outdoors… seems very anti-pandemic to me.

My partner and I also canceled out of almost all other events we had signed up for for the remainder of July. Seeing what seemed like the other members’ disregard for safety was unnerving. On that night, I felt 100% positive that if Minnesota has an outbreak, these are the exact types of people that would be making it worse. People that are generally young, healthy, and seem to value socializing and partying more than their health and the health of those around them. To this day, I still don’t understand how a mini-outbreak hasn’t spread through E&A yet, but if it happens (to be honest) I won’t be surprised.

Of course, I cannot speak for the other members of the club. Clearly, I saw the event through my own lens of worry, concern, and care for others… they may view the situation very differently. Somebody else who was at Hops and Hounds has said the event had plenty of social distancing and the situation was fine… from my perspective, I’d beg to differ. But everyone has a right to their own opinions, and they can make their own choices.

It’s important to note that E&A is following all guidelines set by Governor Walz and the venues of the events. If the venue requires a mask indoors, E&A claims they would enforce that as well. Now that Walz has ordered an indoor mask requirement starting this Saturday, I’m sure more E&A events will be enforcing masks. I don’t believe they’re breaking any laws or rules. It’s simply the concept of only doing “the bare minimum”—following the laws—when (in my opinion) the mask ordinance and the rules are very underwhelming and overdue. It is my opinion that more could, and should, be done, and E&A as a company and E&A’s members are not meeting my expectations.

My partner frequently points out to me that E&A is a company built on close contact, socialization with strangers, and getting to know each other at events repeatedly and personally… which is just about the opposite of what proper COVID precautions require. The fact that E&A is a company that wants to make a profit does not elude me. I understand that E&A’s customers want socializing, and E&A wants customers. I understand why it’s tempting to open the in-person events back up and say “This is fine.”

I just think it is too much too soon. And at the end of the day, all of us have to take care of ourselves and make our own decisions… figure out what’s the next best thing and the right choice for each of us individually. And for me (and my partner), that choice was to socially distance ourselves from E&A, at least for the time being. The company’s disregard of epidemiologist and CDC recommended COVID precautions and too-flexible requirements for social distancing and mask-wearing caused mental stress, concern, and obvious health risks that I just don’t feel comfortable dealing with.

It’s hard… knowing what to do and what the right choice is. And I’d be a hypocrite if I said that I’m being the safest person out there. I go for walks outside, and don’t wear masks because I don’t stand by anybody for a long period of time. I meet with small groups (less than five people total) of family and friends and we try our best to wear masks and stay a few feet apart. I don’t wipe down my doorknobs every day, and I don’t always wash my cloth mask between runs to the store. I’m not perfect. What matters is that we try our best…. we try to adapt to the “new normal”, try to keep a positive attitude, and try to make the next right decision, even if we didn’t make the perfect one last time. We can’t control other peoples’ actions and what they believe, but we can control ourselves. We can make the choices that feel right for us, and for our community.