Where the Arlington sidewalk ends

4 August 2020

6:09 AM

4 August 2020

6:09 AM

Watch out, Gretchen Whitmer! The queen of draconian and idiotic coronavirus restrictions is getting a run for her money thanks to a new ordinance passed by the Arlington County Board in Virginia.

The board unanimously voted Friday to ban groups larger than three people from congregating together on streets and sidewalks. Pedestrians are also required to maintain six feet of distance between each other at all times. Rule breakers could be slapped with a $100 ticket.

Catholic University professor Chad C. Pecknold pointed out on Twitter that the policy would have an adverse affect on families, writing, ‘Friends, I don’t know any other way of putting this. When municipalities dictate that my family of five cannot legally walk down the street together, we are in the throws of a new despotism that will not end well for any of us.’

Arlington’s social distancing measures usually exempt individuals from the same household, but a news release about the ’emergency ordinance’ doesn’t indicate that is the case in this instance. Of course, that makes zero sense whatsoever in regard to stopping the spread of COVID. If a group of individuals are living in the same space, touching the same objects, using the same bathrooms, and eating the same food, why on earth would it matter if they are within spitting distance of another while standing outside? I called the Arlington County communications director to confirm there are no exceptions for people who live together. She did not answer her phone, return a voicemail message, nor respond to an email.

The ordinance is also likely to confuse residents who have been offered conflicting rules from the county government. If we cannot stand in groups of four on the sidewalk, why are we allowed to eat at a restaurant with a party of six? Why can we host events of up to 250 people? Why could hundreds of protesters march down Clarendon Boulevard in June, sardine-like and sweaty?

While normal people scoffed at these new rules, the Bulwark‘s Jim Swift insisted it was no big deal to ask parents to separate their children while going for a walk: ‘If you have three kids, one parent walks with one, the other with two. Six feet apart. It is not hard. Unless you just want to posture, which is the point.’ No wonder local governments feel they can get away with increasingly extreme lockdown measures; the default setting on too many individuals is to nod along and obey.

I understand that Arlington officials are concerned about the uptick in activity on the streets over the past several weeks. I have seen firsthand the large groups of young people waiting in line at the bars in Clarendon or congregating on street corners deciding their next destination. The solution is not an illogical and excessive crackdown on all individuals who gather outside in relatively small groups (which is supposed to be much safer than confined indoor spaces, anyway). This ordinance appears to be just another instance where zealous government officials, drunk on their newfound power, go way too far in the name of public health.

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