On Sep. 4, the Central District Health (CDH) board approved lifting quarantine on all bars and nightclubs when CDH designated Ada County as category 2 — yellow — for schools. A few days later, CDH moved Ada County to the yellow category. With many of these bars able to reopen, I cannot help but wonder what this means for the Boise State campus.
States and cities that have allowed bars to reopen have seen an uptick in cases in the weeks following. San Diego tied one-third of community outbreaks to restaurants and bars. An analysis of COVID-19 case data by The Washington Post found that “states that have reopened bars experienced a doubling in the rate of coronavirus cases three weeks after the opening of doors, on average.”
Back in June, CDH moved Idaho into stage four of the reopening plan, allowing nearly all businesses to reopen. Soon after, however, Ada County began reporting higher case numbers than before, and on June 22, CDH moved Idaho back into stage three. Bars were required to shut down once again.
While the university itself is a “dry campus,” meaning that alcohol is not allowed on campus, the bars downtown are a short walk from Boise State. Ultimately, I am happy that bar owners get to reopen their doors, especially with the CDH working closely with them to make sure criteria are met to maintain safety.
However, bars reopening offer Boise State students the potential to become exposed to the coronavirus. Though many restaurants have been open throughout much of the pandemic, bars tend to be a more intimate environment for customers. Even with sanitary precautions being mandatory for their reopening, I worry about the potential of COVID-19 exposure.
Since symptoms of COVID-19 do not often appear right away when someone is infected, a person can carry and spread the virus for several days before they discover they have it. So, if someone is to be exposed to COVID-19, the people they encounter for the days after are all exposed as well.
Boise State students have always been a part of the city’s community, and many of those of legal drinking age tend to frequent the local bars. If just one student is exposed and infected, and they have in person classes the following day, they have just exposed 20-or-so more students, along with faculty and staff.
Further, each following day that they arrive to in-person classes, they expose more and more people to the virus. Thankfully, Boise State has applied several new policies in an attempt to lessen the spread on campus. In-person classes have less students, students are seated six feet apart, sanitizing wipes are provided for students to wipe down their space when the class ends and of course, masks are required on campus.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, if one infected person wearing a mask is six feet away from another individual who is wearing a mask, the infection chance is “very low.” Despite that, there still remains a chance of spreading the virus. Especially when I have seen a number of students across campus without their masks on or with their mask below their nose.
It really is a challenging discussion. Bars closing caused layoffs and unemployment for a number of people and a huge loss of income for owners. Even past that, bars can be a social getaway, which is something that a lot of people are in need of after months of quarantine, isolation and stay-at-home orders. Though I cannot visit bars myself, I understand the importance of them in our community and I struggle to see a clear solution that keeps people both employed and safe.
That said, the safety of the public should be a majorly concerning issue.
The facts seem to show that the reopening of bars has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country as restrictions loosen state to state. Sadly, in this unprecedented time of crisis in a world populated unlike ever before, there are not a lot of easy answers or solutions.