It’s challenge enough to reopen the economy amid the pandemic by embracing public health guidelines, adhering to state and local emergency orders, and recognizing that a return to normal will not happen until we first secure public health with mass vaccinations.
It’s another thing to defy the science of contagion and the inevitable spread of infectious disease by persisting with plans to organize large-scale entertainment events that attract crowds that cannot be effectively policed, despite the best intentions of the people in charge.
There aren’t enough mask police to stop the unmasked from ignoring social distancing rules amid the mix of crowds, alcohol, and fast food. Some people, no matter what, are going to party like there is no tomorrow. For some, unfortunately, that will prove to be the reality.
The staging of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo this month and a delayed Fiesta in June will contribute to the unnecessary spread of the coronavirus. More people will be infected and have to fight the disease, more hospital beds and intensive care units will be occupied, and more hospital personnel will be placed at risk. Finally, more people will die.
Is that any reason to party? For some, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Party at all costs. Let’s rodeo! Viva Fiesta!
Neither event will be the same. There will be no herd of longhorn cattle ambling down East Houston Street to signal the opening of the 72nd San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo this Thursday. The stock show, where proud teens show off the animals they have raised, will be broadcast virtually. The carnival has been canceled.
But there will be rodeos and music concerts in the Freeman Coliseum every evening from Feb. 13 to 27. Seating will be limited and people are being told they have to wear masks, but that same mandate at other past events in San Antonio has hardly been met with universal acceptance.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff sent a letter Friday to Stock Show & Rodeo organizers asking them to follow the lead of other Texas cities and cancel this year’s event. You can read it here. I am guessing that no one, including Wolff, believes there is any chance the letter will do the trick.
Supporters have told me canceling the rodeo would result in several million dollars in scholarships not being handed out. I would counter that truly philanthropic individuals could donate the cost of their tickets, sponsorships, or other contributions to demonstrate that scholarship will be awarded even if the show can’t go on.
Fiesta has been moved from its customary April dates to June 17-27, still 11 days long, despite the reduced calendar of events.
A delayed Fiesta is happening, as far as I can see, mostly for the primary benefit of the organizations and societies whose members love to pretend they are, indeed, royalty, their wealth and social position confirmed each spring by the ritual anointing of kings, queens, duchesses, and the like. There will be no Battle of Flowers Parade, no Fiesta Flambeau Parade, no Oyster Bake at St. Mary’s University, no Fiesta Arts Fair at the The Southwest School of Art, and no King William Fair.
But there will be plenty of other events built around food, drink, and social gathering, and that is exactly where people who believe they are somehow above spreading or catching the virus will be at risk.
“Delaying Fiesta 2021 until June puts safety first, and it is the right move for our community,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said last week, mentioning the City’s ongoing vaccination efforts. “We are working to be in a better position by June. We are deeply appreciative of the Fiesta San Antonio Commission’s willingness to work with the city’s health professionals to ensure San Antonian’s safety.”
Does the mayor really believe June will be a turning point in the calendar? I am betting he knows better, yet he, too, feels pandemic fatigue and is in an almost impossible position, constantly trying to fend off the privileged who want their lives to go back to normal before the rest of us can get back to normal. I’ll anger some who read this, but partying now is cutting the line.
And everyone will pay for it, not just those who party.
Nirenberg called on Super Bowl fans to enjoy this Sunday’s game without organizing watch parties. He’s right, of course, but isn’t he sending a mixed message by supporting a June Fiesta when no local public health official is predicting herd immunity will be achieved by then?
Even now, along the downtown River Walk and at various bars and eating establishments around the city, there is a cat and mouse game going on between owners and City officials. Who cares if a warning is issued, or even if the cost of doing business includes paying a fine? Better to give patrons what they want, which is freedom to ignore the pandemic and the individual responsibility that comes with containing it.
What can you do? Be patient. Stay at home. Skip the events. Tell the organizers and City officials that you do not approve. The sooner we adhere to the necessary precautions, the sooner they will be lifted.