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The problem with shutting restaurants

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President Barack Obama wanted gun control laws. He shouted for them and didn’t get them, but gun-lovers, afraid that he would, purchased firearms to the point of sales doubling. Congress wanted affordable colleges. It passed a student loan program in effect telling colleges they could recklessly raise tuition, and they did, egregiously so. Students imprudently borrowed sums they miserably struggle to repay.

The lesson is that, whatever the government wants, it may well deliver the opposite. For disbelievers, here is example three out of endless choices: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York shutting down restaurants to keep prospective diners from coronavirus infections they will more likely sustain at home. He ought to know as much because, back in May, he himself spoke of a survey showing two-thirds of virus patients in hospitals had become infected in their own households. He said he was shocked, though apparently not shocked enough.

The data, he said then, came from 113 hospitals, and you wonder if he has caught up with more recently reported statistics about infected New Yorkers. Something like 1.4% of them made the virus acquaintance in restaurants and bars, whereas 74% of them did so in their homes. None of this is to say that restaurants don’t have their imperilments, especially minus masks or social-distancing, but gubernatorial dictates have the same imperilments and more, including 110,000 American restaurants going six feet under this year.

I don’t take this lightly because a friend of mine is an immigrant who first left Iran for Turkey, Turkey for England, England for Canada, and Canada for American opportunities gone astray. He started a terrific small town coffee house, although it took years for lively crowds to provide the financial footing to feel secure about his family. Security is now missing as he struggles with governmental restrictions. The worry in his eyes is hard to forget.

Five other Democratic governors besides Cuomo have recently told restaurant owners to shut down their businesses, but Cuomo stands out because, for one thing, he recently won an Emmy award for TV acting. It had to do with his virus press conferences, and, sure enough, he was smooth, confident, proud, articulate and, when his brother on CNN interviewed him about his genius, full of laughs. His hypocritical talk is better than his wobbly walk.

What the actor did not dwell on was his initial do-nothing reaction leaving his state with more virus deaths than any other. He shrugged his shoulders about shoving people into nursing homes where they and others died as a consequence. He recently broke his own rules. He recently said he did not trust Trump to check out vaccines adequately.

At one point in the virus mishmash, Cuomo looked so good and New York was improving so much that some in the commentary business said he just might make a good vice presidential or even presidential candidate. Although that kind of talk faded, Cuomo has written a memoir about his leadership in combatting the virus. Sadly, the virus is right now pushing harder than ever, not just ruling out a Pulitzer and dimming talk about 2024, but, with Cuomo’s assistance, eliminating more jobs, increasing poverty, leaving still more small businesses shed of a future and causing more residents to seek rescue in other states.

Vaccines are on the way and the worst of the pandemic may be over by the end of next year. But if state governments are going to bypass the research and creative thinking that says shutdowns should right now be a thing of the past, much that has happened to America could be around for a long, long time. Be careful but be smart, governors.

Jay Ambrose wrote this piece for Tribune News Service.

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