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US: Bail Out the Bars

The United States has a long history of bailing out critical industries in times of crisis: railroads, automakers, airlines, banks. At various times, Washington has swooped in to salvage them all.

And now it may be time for another targeted bailout. For the sake of public health, and public morale, Congress needs to save America’s drinking establishments. We need a national bar rescue.

As the coronavirus crisis has worn on, it has become increasingly clear that allowing bars and night clubs to reopen is simply not safe, because they are the exact sort of crowded indoor environments full of people loudly shouting, singing, and swapping respiratory droplets through which the disease spreads most easily. It’s widely believed that allowing people to back into their favorite watering holes fueled the recent explosion of COVID-19 cases across the South and West, and at least nine different states, including hot spots Arizona, Texas, and Florida, have been forced to shut bars back down to try to contain their outbreaks. Late last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott admitted that if he “could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars.” Anthony Fauci, the government’s lead infectious disease expert, was even more blunt during a Senate hearing a few days later. “Bars: really not good, really not good,” he said. “Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really have got to stop that.”

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