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Aberdeen Drops Coronavirus Regs After Helping Save Millions of Lives; Free Market Kills Five Local Eateries

Aberdeen booted its coronavirus restrictions Thursday night. Discerning the rationale from the confused pile of quotes in the paper is difficult, but generally reasonable Councilman Clint Rux appears to have said that, if there’s a surge in coronavirus cases, “Businesses can’t be shut down again…. That’ll be more of a death knell.”

Five Aberdeen restaurants have already experienced their death knell in the last three months:

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Twin Dragon
  • Palm Garden
  • Jersey’s Sports Bar & Grill
  • The Brass Kettle

Mayor Travis Schaunaman, who apparently sees and says everything through the political filter he thinks will please his Republican patrons, blames the city’s coronavirus restrictions, which he staunchly opposed. Mayor Schaunaman is, of course, wrong:

To be fair, KFC had problems for years with having enough employees to sustain regular hours. The Palm Garden was on the market pre-COVID-19. And Jersey’s Sports Bar & Grill folded right when COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, posting on Facebook March 24 that its closure would not be temporary [Victoria Lusk, “Restaurants Closing and Changing Hours; Local Business Updates,” Aberdeen American News, 2020.06.11].

Schaunaman’s scapegoating of his fellow council members’ sensible efforts to check the pandemic also appears to fail economic analysis. According to tax figures discussed by outgoing city manager Lynn Lander, the pandemic, the economic and social impacts, and the city’s moderate regulatory responses appear not to have had any major impact on restaurant revenue in Aberdeen:

While the city’s 2% sales tax has seen an increase, Lander said, during that same time period, the city’s 1% sale [sic] tax for hotel and motel stays, and restaurants and liquor sales is down 1%. Those tax receipts go into the city’s promotion fund and support a variety of agencies including the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Aberdeen Downtown Association. Several other local agencies also receive money from this fund [Elisa Sand, “May Sales Tax Report Shows Aberdeen Up More than 18%,” Aberdeen American News, 2020.06.11].

I’m not sure how that happened when statewide spending at eating and drinking places in April dropped 42%. I can’t imagine any amount of take-out orders making up for the loss of in-seat dining and all the concomitant upselling and tipping. But somehow it appears that coronavirus didn’t eat up Aberdeen’s eat-out spending.

It appears more likely that the free market, not coronavirus regulations, killed restaurants in Aberdeen this spring. Free-market fundamentalist Schaunaman ought to be pleased to trumpet market forces culling the herd. But he’s more interested in soothing what shreds of conscience remain beneath his business-über-alles, anti-life GOPism by blaming regulations for problems they didn’t cause and ignoring the real story, that Aberdeen’s coronavirus restrictions were part of a wildly successful worldwide exercise in government saving lives from market madness:

Shutdowns prevented or delayed an estimated 531 million coronavirus infections across six countries — China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, France and the United States — researchers from the University of California, Berkeley report June 8 in Nature.

And shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives across 11 European countries, scientists at Imperial College London estimate in a separate study. In Europe, interventions to reduce the coronavirus’ spread brought infection rates down from pre-intervention levels by an average of 81 percent, the team reports also in Nature June 8. In all countries, R naught — an estimate for how many people an infected person might transmit the virus to — was less than one, meaning that each infected person passed the virus on to less than one person on average. With that level of viral transmission, the pandemic would eventually die out in lockdown scenarios [Erin Garcia de Jesus, “Lockdowns May Have Averted 531 Million Coronavirus Infections,” Science News, 2020.06.09].

Science has said from the beginning of the pandemic that social distancing was about saving two million lives in the United States and protecting our hospitals from catastrophic overcrowding. We’re doing that by staying the heck away from each other… and apparently, in Aberdeen, at least, by picking up a lot of pizza and burgers at the drive-through.

Our change in civic rules and personal habits is not proof of Travis’s ideological agenda. Our community efforts didn’t kill those five restaurants; our efforts saved lives.

Related Science: So Liberated™, Aberdonians could stop the next wave of coronavirus by wearing masks:

…a new modeling study out of Cambridge and Greenwich universities suggests that face masks may be even more important than originally thought in preventing future outbreaks of the new coronavirus.

To ward off resurgences, the reproduction number for the virus (the average number of people who will contract it from one infected person) needs to drop below 1.0. Researchers don’t believe that’s achievable with lockdowns alone. However, a combination of lockdowns and widespread mask compliance might do the trick, they say.

“We show that, when face masks are used by the public all the time (not just from when symptoms first appear), the effective reproduction number, Re, can be decreased below 1, leading to the mitigation of epidemic spread,” the scientists wrote in the paper published Wednesday by the Proceedings of the Royal Society A [Mike Moffitt, “Study: 100% Face Mask Use Could Crush Second, Third COVID-19 Wave,” WCVB-TV, 2020.06.11].

But notice, that study talks about masks plus lockdowns, and Councilman Rux says we’re not doing that again.


  1. jerry 2020-06-13

    Hey Aberdeen, here is what you can expect. Rapid City did a great job of containing the virus, but them dollars, always them dollars, keep fueling the greed.

    “A woman in her 50s became the eighth person from Pennington County to die from COVID-19 illness. Her death was reported Saturday by the South Dakota Department of Health along with 16 more new cases of coronavirus in Pennington County.

    There are now 378 total positive tests and 177 active cases in the county. There were 189 total tests reported Saturday for Pennington County.”

    For something that was a hoax and then supposed to magically disappear in April, this seems to be pretty persistent.

  2. jerry 2020-06-13

    Hey Aberdeen, you need a disclaimer. So here is one that the fascist in chief will give out before you can enter.

    “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” the disclaimer reads.”

    Change a couple of names and there ya go.

  3. Debbo 2020-06-13

    There is a reason Greed is so deadly. I wonder if there’s a mathematical model to work out how many people greed has killed, say just in the 21st century?

  4. Caleb 2020-06-13

    I answered an RNCC one-question survey today. IIRC, the question was, “Do you believe liberal Democrats are trying to gain political influence by trying to shut down the economy for as long as possible?”, or something to that affect. Talk about a leading question aimed at exploiting decades of deep conditioning! Seems to me the Republican party is trying to create a civil war.

  5. Deb 2020-06-14

    Actually Councilman Rux spoke in favor of keeping social distancing in force. He said that if all restrictions were removed and then there was an uptick in numbers and a new emergency ordinance were to be put in place THAT would “be the death knell.” In the end he voted to get rid of the ordinance, but it was a moot point since 5-4 in favor of keeping it didn’t meet the 60% threshold to pass.

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