Meet the Americans still going out and gathering in large groups
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[March 19, 2020]
By Andrew Hay and Jessica Resnick-Ault
TAOS, New Mexico/NEW YORK, (Reuters) - As
people in San Francisco shelter in place and New York City was warned to
prepare for a similar measure, some 40 people met in New Mexico for an
Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Wednesday amid White House pleas to
avoid groups as the country battles coronavirus.
Officials are telling Americans they must practice social distancing and
avoid groups of more than 10 people to slow the spread of the pandemic.
But in many places, especially outside large centers, people are defying
the message. Among the reasons: The urgency has been slow to become
apparent; they do not believe in the steps; or their livelihoods depend
on ignoring the guidance.
Large crowds of people were still swimming and sunning themselves on
Florida beaches over the weekend. Scores of people were at Walt Disney
World Resort before it closed on Sunday, and in Rogers, Minnesota, more
than 300 people attended a benefit for a county worker who received a
lung transplant last year.
"We ended up dropping the food and running because I felt it was
irresponsible," said Melissa Dooley, who catered the Rogers benefit on
Saturday, which was held in banquet hall after the original community
center venue cancelled. "We were literally in and out in 10 minutes."
In Taos, New Mexico, the Alcoholics Anonymous group met in a town park
on Wednesday morning after the church building they normally use was
closed. They spread out on tables underneath a covered concrete picnic
area, some standing on the outside to maintain social distancing.
While they were complying with the state's ban on gatherings of 100
people or more, they were not following the White House guidance to
limit groups to 10 people.
"We have to keep meeting," said one member, who asked not to be named.
As early as 10 days ago, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert,
Anthony Fauci, began warning about the need to social distance and avoid
crowds, then on Sunday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) said gatherings of 50 people or more should be
cancelled for the next eight weeks.
NO WORK, NO PAY
Just a day later President Donald Trump tightened that guidance, saying
people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people to slow the spread
of the virus across the country.
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A shopper wears a protective mask at the Union Square Greenmarket,
amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York City,
NY, U.S. March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Gabriella Borter
When asked what his message was to people who were not listening,
Trump told a news conference on Tuesday: "I'm not happy with those
people if they're not. But, you know, those people are being shouted
down by other people ... it's almost like self-policing."
In some of the country's largest and most affected cities, like New
York, Chicago and Washington, the message seemed to be getting
through, with events cancelled, restaurants and shops closed and
many people working from home and avoiding groups.
Elsewhere, it has been slower to take. In Las Vegas, where casinos
were only shut down statewide on Tuesday, local photographer Carrie
Pollard is due to photograph a wedding later this week. She said
there are supposed to be fewer than 50 guests to comply with local
rules and that it would be held at the couple's home instead of a
hotel as originally planned.
"If I don't work, I don't get paid," Pollard, 39, said. "I'm more
worried about the economy and financial stability than about the
With coronavirus cases now reported in all U.S. states, Trump said
on Wednesday he believed the message to try and stay home was
Along with avoiding gatherings of more than 10, the White House
guidance also asks people to avoid discretionary travel, shopping
trips and social visits.
However, Brett Lindell, a 50-year-old props stylist, said he planned
to fly to San Francisco this week where he would stay at a friend's
home, and he wasn't concerned about the risk of contracting the
"I'm just not worried about any of it," said Lindell, as he smoked a
cigarette with five friends on Wednesday outside a cafe in New
York's East Village neighborhood.
"The thing that I'm most concerned about is the fact that it's
separating people," Lindell said, though he added that he was trying
to be respectful of people who wanted to social distance. "The fear
part of it is unbelievable."
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