Gov. Walz is not following the data in closing cinemas

On November 18th, as Gov. Walz’ latest round of shutdowns went into effect, the owners of the Woodbury 10 Theatre posted this message on Facebook:

Too many people call for further shut downs to fight Covid-19. Too few of them spend much time reflecting on what that means. Reading this post from a guy desperate to keep his livelihood intact would, you would hope, give them some pause for thought. It is, after all, very easy to call for more shut downs when you won’t feel any great pain from them.

Cinemas have been linked to no cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the world

The worst of it is that there is no basis whatsoever in the data for Gov. Walz to subject Mr. Block, and others, to this.

In a recent article for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Ordoña asked: “…just how risky is it to see a movie indoors?”

The argument from the exhibition industry to keep theaters open relies on confidence in the COVID-19 protocols theaters are putting in place — including mask mandates, enhanced cleaning, automatic seating gaps between parties, limited auditorium capacity, staggered showtimes and other measures. They say no outbreaks have yet been traced back to movie attendance.

“That’s not just [in] the U.S. but anywhere in the world,” said Patrick Corcoran, vice president and chief communications officer of the National Assn. of Theater Owners, which introduced the “CinemaSafe” program that theaters can opt into. “There have been people who have worked at movie theaters or who have attended movie theaters who have had it, but it hasn’t been passed on to others in that environment through any tracing.”

“The guidance looks great on paper,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Francisco. “If you have a well-ventilated movie theater and people keep their masks on for the whole time and they are socially distant, and you don’t go to the movies when you’re sick … it’s probably going to be a relatively safe environment.” [Emphasis added]

So why are politicians shutting cinemas down?

while Chin-Hong agrees there are “no documented COVID cases linked to movie attendance to date globally,” he adds, “The absence of an association does not mean that there have not been any transmissions.” [Emphasis added]

This, of course, is true. But it is, of course, also true of absolutely anything at all. If we are going to shut things down when there have been no documented cases anywhere in the world of them being responsible for spreading Covid-19 because the merest possibility exists that they might have, we will be shutting down absolutely everything. I would like to think that nobody would support such lunacy, but these days you never know.

Gov. Walz’ Magic 8 Ball approach to Covid-19 policy

Sadly, this is a consistent pattern for Minnesota’s smaller businesses.

Gov. Walz’ frequent claims to be following ‘the data’ and ‘the science’ are, to put it politely, wrong. He was not following the data when he closed Minnesota’s bars and restaurants. He was not following the science when he banned family get-togethers for Thanksgiving. He was not following the data when he closed the state’s gyms. And he was not following the data when he shut down Minnesota’s movie theaters. Yet, while he keeps stamping down on sectors and activities which are responsible for little if any of Covid-19’s spread, Gov. Walz continues to do little about the situation in Minnesota’s care homes, where 70% of deaths have occurred.

There is no apparent rhyme or reason to these policies. They are certainly not being driven by ‘the science’ or ‘the data’. Let us hope that when Gov. Walz has finished with the state’s economy, Woodbury 10 Theatre is still there.

People queuing up outside Woodbury 10 to purchase popcorn in the hope it will help the cinema get through this

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.