champagne glasses

As we stare 2021 in the face, here’s hoping that our elected leaders take a stand against one of the most serious public health threats currently facing the state of Arizona.

New Year’s Eve.

Which this year might as well be known as “The Planet’s Largest One Night Superspreader Event.”

One of the things we have learned about COVID-19 this year is that the virus thrives on congregations and people spending time together unmasked and in close proximity. 

That makes holidays especially dangerous in terms of community spread, as we saw a couple weeks after Thanksgiving, when positive case numbers spiked in Arizona and across the United States. 

As someone who has urged a balance between social restrictions and the economic damage those restrictions create – and as a human being who values family, spirituality and interpersonal connection – I was loathe to suggest we legislate Hanukkah and Christmas out of existence this year. 

But let’s be honest: New Year’s Eve has no such emotional or familial weight. It’s mostly just an excuse to tie one on for folks who are into that sort of thing.

Personally, if history is any indication, I’ll be asleep before the ball drops in Times Square in New York City – where they intend to have a televised celebration sans crowd in 2021. 

As for the rest of you, you may not like this, but I’d be thrilled if our state’s governor, mayors and county supervisors took a page out of Tucson and Pima County’s book for one night only and declared a mandatory curfew beginning at 10 p.m. sharp and lasting until 5 in the morning.

We can exempt first responders, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, essential workers and the homeless, along with anyone else headed to work or dealing with a legitimate emergency.

In keeping with the Pima County measure, bars, restaurants, clubs and other businesses that help people defy the curfew – say, by serving champagne at midnight – would be subject to having its license or business permit revoked. 

As for individual curfew breakers, I’d rather not tie up police officers writing citations as opposed to, say, tracking down New Year’s drunken drivers. But a stern warning wouldn’t bother me much.

For the past nine months, I’ve found myself repeatedly caught between two warring factions: People who think COVID is fake and believe every mitigation measure is abysmally stupid and people who want to lock down the entire state “because if a lockdown would be enough to save even a single life, then that’s our responsibility.” 

I have disagreed with both sides at every turn, arguing instead for two things these camps seem to have forgotten: personal responsibility and balance.

The notion of a New Year’s Eve curfew irks me, because it represents government depriving citizens of our freedom. 

With that said, it’s not much of a deprivation: one night where we’d be forced to head home a few hours early. Balanced against avoiding the inevitable positive case spike, especially after the Christmas holidays, one night of curtailed fun seems a small price to pay.

With the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already being distributed and an end to this nightmarish year – and potentially the pandemic  – finally at hand, now seems like a lousy time to risk your health or the health of those you love.

 Regardless, even a cursory scan of the events listings shows lots of nightclubs planning to host lots of New Year’s parties to welcome in 2021. Not to mention thousands of intimate gatherings that will happen in thousands of living rooms.

There oughta be a law. Because hoping people will display some common sense has failed all year long.