Here’s a perfect example of how religious exemptions — for a virus that doesn’t care what anyone believes — are hurting all of us.
In West Virginia, a teacher at Bridgeport High School apparently wanted to book 4T Arena — a place that usually hosts weddings and other special events — for the school’s unofficial homecoming dance. It wasn’t sanctioned by the school, so don’t blame the administrators, but this teacher wanted to host the event anyway.
It was a disaster waiting to happen. Any educator who’s chaperoned a high school dance could tell you it’s damn near impossible to pry kids off of each other at a dance, much less keep them socially distanced. Even if everyone wore masks, the close proximity and the sweat and kids singing along with the music would still create unnecessary risk.
Maybe you’re thinking the school could stop her. But they can’t block a teacher from hosting a private event, nor can they stop students from attending an event on their own time. It’s not like this would be advertised or promoted at the school.
The arena, however, had to follow the rules set by the county, and the county’s health department said a giant high school dance would not be allowed. Smart move. Crisis averted, right?
But wait! The teacher then called the arena and said she needed to rent the space for a religious “vow renewal” ceremony that would bring together 200 people.
It turns out county health officials can’t say no to a faith-based event.
So the event happened. The Christian lie gave the teacher cover for hosting a high school dance. The public only learned about this after parents began posting pictures of it online:
12 News has obtained social media posts, tagged at the 4T Arena with pictures of teenagers in traditional dance attire, some using the term “foco,” which is internet shorthand for “fake homecoming.”
12 News also came across a Facebook comment, left by an adult, on a post about the event, which encourages people who attended the event to take down pictures.
4T owners told 12 News that the event had approximately 60 people in attendance and that the venue is 14,000 square feet.
There was at least one person at the event who was COVID-19 positive, according to health department officials from both Harrison and Taylor counties.
It’s not clear if the virus spread. The venue’s owners said everyone wore masks and spares were on hand for anyone who didn’t have one… but commenters online have said pictures showed kids not wearing them. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true.
High school dance with kids glued to each other with Axe body spray. Adult chaperones. It’s just an idiotic risk to take during a pandemic and we probably won’t know the full extent of any consequences until it’s too late. Making matters even more complicated, the county where the event took place is next door to the county where most of these attendees live, which makes it harder to do any meaningful contact tracing.
The school district wouldn’t comment on whether the teacher was disciplined in any way.
But we can cast blame on the teacher, the students who went to the dance, their idiot parents, and everyone else still dumb enough to think COVID can’t possibly affect them. They obviously don’t understand that someone could be asymptomatic and transmit the virus to other people. But we can still blame state officials who allow religious exemptions to pandemic restrictions, as if faith-based parties are somehow “essential.” And we also can blame the venue for remaining open at all; if the Republican-led government just gave them money to remain closed, we’d all be safer.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Philip for the link)