If you are beginning to harbor a suspicion that some of our COVID-19 rules are arbitrary rather than strictly science-based, consider this mandate:

A Wisconsin state agency is reportedly mandating that its employees wear face masks during video conferences, even if they are home alone.

In a July 31 email, the Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole reminded employees that the governor’s mask order, which requires anyone over the age of 4 to wear a face-covering while indoors, was to take effect Aug. 1, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

‘Also, wear your mask, even if you are home, to participate in a virtual meeting that involves being seen — such as on Zoom or another video-conferencing platform — by non-DNR staff,’ Cole said, according to the Sentinel. ‘Set the safety example which shows you as a DNR public service employee care about the safety and health of others.’

Of course, wearing a mask during a Zoom meeting has absolutely no effect on the safety and health of others. And, indeed, wearing a mask when alone in your house might not be a good thing for your own health, according to an increasing number of dentists.  

Far be it from me to suggest that the hall monitor mentality is taking over the world, but I did find official New York state COVID-19 “guidance” on bar food a bit bossy. Here are several examples from the FAQ portion of the guidance:

Q: Can a patron order only a dessert item along with an alcoholic beverage?

A: Yes, so long as the dessert item is a substantial item, such as a piece of cake/pie, an ice cream sundae, etc.; it should not be only a drink with whip [sic] cream, a cookie, a piece of candy, etc.

Q: Must I sell an item of food to accompany the order or may I provide it as complimentary?

A: While a charge is not necessarily required for the food, you must have a record that food was ordered with drinks, so bills/checks need to reflect the food that was ordered and served. Further, you should not provide food that is shared among parties.

Q: Must I force customers to eat a food item?

A: Food must be ordered and served.  We cannot require you to force someone to eat what they have ordered, but again, licensees are required to serve in a manner consistent with the purpose of this policy, and if customers are not at the premises to enjoy a sit-down dining experience, serving them alcohol is a violation. If it is evident to you that a patron intends to circumvent the policy, you should not continue to serve them.

Bouncer! That woman is not eating her peas!

When a bar tried to evade the Governor’s strict bar food mandates by serving “Cuomo chips,” Governor Cuomo shut down the lawlessness.

The other day I was in line at Trader Joe’s. Shoppers were coming out and yet nobody was being allowed to go inside. The line to go inside wasn’t moving.

I mildly suggested to somebody ahead of me that we should point this out to the fellow who was managing the line. “Somebody is telling us what to do,” she said in an anguished voice.  

Yep, somebody is.   

Masks and hand washing are crucial. We don’t want COVID-19 to go on a second more and most citizens are sympathetic and eager to obey sensible health rules.

But I am frankly alarmed at the docility that eccentric, perhaps even power-tripping, regulations assume in the citizenry. This is not the sort of rugged individualism that got us over the mountains in covered wagons.