“It’s not like we want to do that,” Ms. Sully said of the task of forcing patrons to re-seat themselves. She and her co-workers resented the government’s restrictions. They told me the rules felt unfair and piecemeal in a place where cases of the virus itself have been so few, adding that the regulations were a pain “for everyone.”
Many locals share this attitude: though most abide by government guidelines, others are increasingly resistant to rules like social distancing, which in a place where no one is sick, can seem bizarre and almost arbitrary. (Don’t stand up while drinking alcohol. Only the bride and groom may dance at weddings. Check in to venues for contact tracing. Hand sanitize.)
And while some express empathy for Victorians — now under some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world after second wave of the virus — others express a kind of one-upmanship and pride that Queenslanders are not sick, because people in the state did the right thing, as compared with their counterparts further south.
Others go even further with their scorn.
Driving in Cabarita Beach, a sleepy beach town on the border between northern New South Wales and Queensland, I became the unwitting recipient of what I have dubbed “plate hate,” when a man, upon seeing my Victoria license plates, shouted: “I hope you didn’t bring any viruses with you.” (For the record, I had crossed from my home city of Melbourne in accordance with government restrictions.)
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 17, 2020
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
This kind of state tribalism is raising new and sometimes ugly questions about the reality of living in a pandemic world.
What happens when some places seem to be randomly and unfairly struck by the virus, while in others, life can go on as normal? When authorities escape blame, say for breaches in quarantine, will frustration fall unfairly on individuals? What about when they task citizens with policing new rules — in dance clubs for example — that other states have deemed to be too draconian or ineffective?
Are you experiencing moral and public health conundrums in a place hit hard by the virus, or not at all? We want to hear about your experience navigating pandemic rules around Australia. Write to us at [email protected].