A remarkable aspect of our COVID response is the overarching ability of the experts, public, and media to ignore that restrictions in effect in one area have been removed in another location with no negative impact on results. While population wide measures can be difficult to quantify given the variations in demographics, age, health and other factors between locations, the same events can provide an indisputably direct comparison point. There is no major difference in experience or risk between attending say, a hockey game or a theme park in Texas, Nashville, Toronto, California, Florida or North Carolina.
Games are all relatively similar. Capacities are similar, loud shouting and yelling is similar — outside of design choices, attending sporting events is a remarkably consistent experience.
The same can be said of theme parks. The actual experience of attending a theme park is nearly identical wherever you go, with the main differences being layouts and designs. People walk from ride to ride, stop and eat at indoor or outdoor restaurants, go on indoor and outdoor attractions, and gather in groups throughout.
Theme parks should, if controlling large hybrid indoor and outdoor gatherings, social distancing, masking and capacity restrictions were actually important mitigation techniques, provide an extremely risky environment for COVID spread. Tens of thousands of people attend major theme parks each day. Guests travel from out of town locations, they stay in gigantic hotels, take the equivalent of public transit and stand in long queues with other guests in poorly ventilated indoor areas. Most importantly, when comparing the same brands, the experience is comparable, regardless where the park is located.
Sporting events should theoretically be even more risky, given huge attendance numbers and stationary seating positions for minutes or hours at a time.
All that said, it’s been incredible to watch the ability of politicians, experts, media members and the general public to ignore the reality that the same exact businesses are operating in other areas with no discernible impact on results. Seemingly due to a desire to believe that restrictions and guidelines are carefully designed by elite, educated experts, are demonstrably beneficial with regards to COVID outcomes, and worth the associated ancillary costs.
We’re seeing this cognitive dissonance play out right now with the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, MLB regular season and major theme park brands with operations in California and Florida.
One of the most authoritarian COVID regimes has been found in Ontario, Canada. Ontario has all the elements to create a near perfect storm of reliance on pseudoscience — an overwhelming expert class, ideology and politicians terrified of criticism from the arbiters of acceptable discourse.
So naturally, among many other nonsensical, unnecessary measures, Ontario prohibited any fans from attending the recently completed playoff series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. In the same series, neighboring Quebec allowed 2,500 fans to attend a game, presumably because science is different there…Well, I’m being too hard on Ontario. They did not prohibit all fans from attending, they allowed 550 fully vaccinated healthcare workers to attend one game. That’s right, 550 fully vaccinated healthcare workers for one game. That’s it.
Just 700 miles to the south, a closer distance than some areas of California are from each other, this is what a playoff hockey game looked like:
No vaccine passports, no 550 person healthcare worker capacity, no 2,500 in a 20,000 seat building — a nearly full house of packed in fans, with no socially distanced pods, in a poorly ventilated indoor, high risk environment. For exactly the same event that was essentially banned in Ontario.
So let’s see how the trends have looked, shall we?
Let’s start with North Carolina, where this incredibly dangerous event was held:
If you’re surprised by the fact that it hasn’t mattered, you haven’t been paying attention.
Let’s check in on Nashville, where authorities have steadily allowed increased attendance:
Nope hasn’t mattered there either, case rates are similar to North Carolina and continuing to decline.
It’s too soon to see a potential impact from the game in Quebec, but it’s worthwhile to look at their numbers right now too:
So the rates there are roughly the same as in North Carolina and Nashville, yet they’ve had one game with any fan presence, which was all of 2,500 people.
Now let’s look at The True Followers of The Science™ in Ontario:
Cases are down -68% from their most recent peak, with case rates only slightly higher than in Quebec, Nashville or North Carolina. Yet they’ve only allowed in 550 fully vaccinated health care workers, while other locales are bringing in 12-14,000. For literally the same event. It’s Science™. Or something.
You might be saying, well maybe North Carolina and Nashville still have many other mitigations in effect, maybe that’s why it hasn’t mattered.
While not hockey, we also know that large indoor gatherings in Texas, where the state has ended COVID-related restrictions, did not matter either:
Maybe you’re wondering — well what about vaccination rates? Maybe Ontario has a much lower vaccination rate, and that’s why they were more conservative despite evidence that largely attended indoor sporting events don’t seem to matter?
Here’s the current vaccination percentages of people who have received at least one dose, by region:
Ontario: 51.16% (as of May 22)
Quebec: 53.67% (as of May 22)
North Carolina: 43.2% (as of June 1)
Davidson County: 47.1% (as of June 2)
Nope. That’s not it. It’s just a dedication to pseudoscience.
We can see this same commitment to ignorance in California, where MLB teams have been limited to 20-33% capacity, with vaccinated sections allowed to seat larger groups.
Meanwhile, Texas already conducted this experiment, allowing full capacity with no vaccine requirements, no mask mandate and absolutely nothing happened:
So did California immediately end their restrictions after seeing how pointless they were? Lol, no, come on now. Follow the pseudoscience.
Let’s move on to theme parks, which again, are essentially the same, regardless of location.
To start with, we can see how much of an impact closing and opening Disney theme parks had on COVID-mortality rates:
Got it, so Orange County, CA did much much worse, despite the parks being closed for well over a year.
But that’s not the entire story — to fully showcase the absurd difference in policy for literally the exact same environments, we need to run through the rules currently in effect for theme parks in the state of California:
Mandatory face coverings and weekly Covid testing for workers.
Performers who cannot work with a face covering must stay at least six feet away from all other persons, unless they and others working within six feet are tested twice weekly for Covid.
In-state visitors only, and no more than three households in any visiting party.
Indoor rides may last no more than 15 minutes.
Outdoor queuing only, with six-foot physical distancing between households.
Adjust the ride loading process to support physical distancing while still complying with ride manufacturer rules for weight distribution on the ride.
Parks must provide replacement face coverings to guests who lose their face covering on a ride.
Parks must discontinue rides with a high rate of guest loss of face coverings, or where wearing a face covering would be dangerous.
Eating and drinking will be allowed only in designated areas. Concession stands must be accompanied by additional designated and shaded eating areas. No eating or drinking allowed in queue or in attractions, including theaters.
Outdoor live performances and shows only.
Walk-up ticket sales will be allowed, but parks must collect the name, address, and phone number of guests for contract tracing.
The rules also encourage parks to implement mobile ordering and electronic tickets to minimize waiting inside the park and physical touching of ticket media by park staff. The state also recommends that parks adopt virtual queueing and eliminate single rider lines and that parks comply with other state Covid safety rules, including those for ventilation and cleaning and disinfecting workplaces. You can read the entire PDF document on the state's website.
Got all that? Enjoy that true clinic of nonsensical pseudoscience? I sure did. Meanwhile, Florida’s theme parks have continuously removed restrictions, or never had any of these unbelievably pointless rules in the first place. For example, it’s never been a requirement for theme parks in Florida to restrict visits to local residents only. Because that makes no sense. Most recently, and most importantly, Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida recently removed the requirement to wear masks outside. A requirement that’s nowhere close to being lifted in California.
See what a huge impact it’s had?
Ah right, it hasn’t mattered at all.
For comparison, here’s Orange County, CA where Disney will be operating with masks, indefinitely:
No difference, low case rates all around.
I can just hear it now, well maybe Orange County, Florida has had more vaccinations, that must be why their numbers have declined or been unaffected by removing masks, or not having a lengthy list of nonsensical requirements for theme parks:
Orange County, FL: 44.4% (at least one dose, as of June 2)
Orange County, CA: 55.5% (at least one dose, as of June 2)
Nope, that’s not it either.
What this all comes down to is the simple truth — mitigations, restrictions, banning events, contact tracing, masking, limiting indoor queues…they just don’t really matter. They’ve never really mattered. There was never any “science” to justify any of this, it was theoretical guessing from unprepared experts who all simply panicked and followed groupthink of those who shared their credentials. They decided the best course of action was to throw anything and everything at the wall, in large part because the media has demanded it and promoted it. As a result, the public has accepted the propaganda, and many have refused to accept the reality that the experts they look up to have been wrong and their sacrifices haven’t really mattered. It’s irrelevant that the results haven’t matched up with what experts said would happen, what matters is that experts keep insisting that they’re right, and benefitting from the commitment to willful ignorance. It was the right strategy because they said it was the right strategy, and that’s final.
We are literally conducting experiments each day, seeing the same exact events, the same exact businesses open and operate across different locales with similar or less restrictive conditions. Sane, rational politicians and experts would look at the results, see how little the restrictions have mattered, and immediately remove them in order to avoid causing more economic destruction. Unfortunately, there are extremely few sane, rational politicians.
The war on reality is endless and indefinite, and the key to continuing the pointless slog of interventions and mitigations is to ensure that the public remains ignorant of how useless it’s all been.