From The Side of the Road… using COVID as an excuse

In the past (almost) two years, there have been numerous changes to services in the hospitality, travel, and entertainment business in the name of public safety and limiting the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. This is especially true with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, and now the highly concerning “Pi” variant, that is reportedly even more contagious than Omicron but which affects only mandolin players. 

A lot of these changes are logical: extra sanitation and disinfection procedures, changes to ventilation on airplanes and in places where people gather, the discontinuing of Walmart’s policy of having their greeters kiss all entering customers on the lips. Those all seem like wise adjustments to protocol.

Some changes, however, just seem like excuses to stop performing time-consuming or expensive services. I notice this especially in hotels, where they no longer offer cleaning service for anyone staying more than a day, and some have eliminated breakfast, or have replaced it with a bag containing a packet of instant oatmeal and a toy apple. A few I’ve dealt with have decided that airport shuttle service is no longer COVID-friendly either, and have suspended it. The former shuttle drivers have now been employed putting oatmeal packets in bags.

I understand some of these decisions, but some seem just a little too conveniently cost-saving for these businesses, too.

A little closer to home, I’m surprised by some of the recent decisions of touring bluegrass bands, using COVID concerns as justification for the following measures:

From the band Blue Ryver:

Due to the extra time required to thoroughly wash and sanitize our hands, we can no longer guarantee that we will be on time for any given show. We will do our utmost to start within 30 minutes of our contacted starting time, while we do our part to keep everyone safe.

From Doug Fenster and Bluegrass Window:

We have made a decision as a band to change our strings only once a year. This is difficult on us, too, trust us, but we feel that the less our strings are handled at this time, the safer everyone will be. Though our strings may sound less bright than you or we are used to, we feel they’ll match the somewhat muted tones achieved from singing through masks.

And this, from Lonesome Bryck:

We regret that due to COVID-19 safety considerations, we can no longer transport our own musical instruments when flying to shows, and will now require all event producers to supply us with vintage instruments meeting the specifications outlined in our contract instrument rider. 

From the web site of Lana Dee and Blue Mountain Atrium:

Because of recent safety concerns, and to do our part to combat the spread of COVID-19 by promoting social distancing within our band, we have reduced the size of the band from six pieces to five, letting our lead guitar player Jason Mason go for the foreseeable future. True, we found him annoying anyway, and it’s one less person to pay, but we will be able to stay more distant on stage this way, and we feel that’s for the best at this time. We are also no longer singing quartets.

From Distant Creek’s longtime manager Fuzzy Flowers:

We regret to announce that Distant Creek has decided to raise CD prices from $15 to $20, which will help avoid the money-handling and one-on-one interaction required to make change for $20 bills. Members of the band will also no longer sign CDs, shake hands, or answer awkward questions about past band personnel. We appreciate your cooperation. May we all stay safe and healthy during this difficult time.

Finally, a statement from the progressive acoustic stringband, Sweet Green Cartwheel:

We at SGC have made a decision that we will no longer answer requests for Wagon Wheel until the pandemic is completely behind us. Playing this song—which has its redeeming qualities, no doubt—has always led to excessive dancing among our fans, which we just don’t feel is safe at this time. Thanks for your understanding.