Stadium construction gets exempted from stay-home orders, because the economy

Good news, everybody! More and more of the U.S. may be under orders to stay indoors to stop COVID-19 from spreading out of control and forcing hospitals to decide who lives and who dies, but at least the people who are building new sports stadiums can stay on the job. Inglewood Mayor James Butts has directed that construction of the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium will continue as a “critical government service”; no official word yet on the Las Vegas Raiders stadium despite the state of Nevada ordering all “non-essential” business to close, but I for one will be closely watching the construction cam to see how many construction workers are still showing up on the job.

If this seems weird, it is in fact super-weird that in a world where supermarkets have strict attendance limits and people queuing up outside have to remain six feet apart, stadium construction work is continuing as normal. And pretty much all construction work, really — while Boston has ordered construction activity to cease (at least, except for work on government-owned property), most local governments have granted exemptions to construction projects even during mass shutdowns. Check out this excited article from yesterday about construction progress at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, right across the street from the Jacob Javits Convention Center that may soon be pressed into service as a coronavirus field hospital!

Inglewood Mayor Butts said he was ordering construction workers to stay home if they’re sick and wash their hands regularly, but this report from Somerville, Massachusetts (next door to Boston but without a construction-halt order) is not encouraging on that front:

Construction workers at the new high school being built in Somerville are also at risk of spreading the infection, according to a tradesman on the project. It starts early in the morning when workers meet under the I-93 overpass and pile into vans and buses to get to the job site, he said. Some of them work side by side, and crowd around the canteen truck that arrives every day at 9 a.m. with pizza and Italian sausages. Many of the porta-potties don’t even have soap, he said. There’s also talk that workers who arrived from a closed job site — construction has been halted in Boston and Cambridge — had previously worked with someone under quarantine.

But aside from foremen telling workers to wash their hands and keep their distance from each other, it’s “business as usual,” he said, and there’s been no official guidance from Suffolk Construction Co., the general contractor.

“They’re not going to do anything until they’re told to do something,” he said, “and if they’re not told to do something, it’s just going to get worse.”

There hasn’t been much reporting on any reasons given for keeping construction sites open while nearly everything else is shuttered, though the Los Angeles Times did describe Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office as saying that construction work was “essential to the economy.” Which, you know, I’m pretty sure teachers and waiters and jigsaw puzzle fulfillment workers would say the same thing, but they’re increasingly staying home because they realize that unlike doctors or food providers, their work can be put on hold for a few weeks without leading to mass deaths. Construction work, though, is apparently officially considered too big to fail; it’s yet another reminder that some people’s economic activity is considered more equal than others.

UPDATE: Just saw that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio replied to a press question yesterday on continuing construction by saying that “the guidance was to continue that work because it is outdoors, because clearly any part of the economy can still allow people to have a livelihood that’s so important as we see so many other people losing their livelihood, and because a lot of what is constructed obviously is crucial to our future.” So there!



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14 comments on “Stadium construction gets exempted from stay-home orders, because the economy

  1. I am a huge Islander fan, and I believe they should shut down the arena construction for a few weeks. Why won’t they? Politics

  2. We can crush this if our when our leaders indicate we are progressing. Otherwise people will get frustrated and we will be no better off if we hadn’t done anything.

    1. Well, the millions of people who won’t have died in the meantime will be better off.

      If the latest from Hong Kong is any guide, it will only take a couple of weeks after we come off lockdown for virus cases to begin surging again:

      1. Millions will die regardless of what we do. Reasonable people can agree to maybe do a month of stay at home unless the government tries martial law. If the government tries that they will lose.

        1. Millions will not die regardless of what we do. The epidemiology is extremely clear: This is a choice between staying at home as much as possible for the next couple of months or so (and then probably some similar restrictions on and off for the next year), or accepting a couple million additional deaths.

        2. “What we are saying is to use the time that social distancing is buying you to essentially ramp up production of personal protective equipment and ventilators, and get ubiquitous fast testing available, so that if we can make it into the summer months without too much damage we can use that time to get ready for the fall. And then, in the fall, when the virus comes back, if you have aggressive testing you can identify people quickly, you can isolate them, you can quarantine them, you can do the contact tracing. Essentially, you get a do-over from the time that we lost in January. But we will be much, much better prepared, and when we are better prepared we can stay ahead of it. You won’t have to have mass school closings. You can imagine in some communities there might be outbreaks that get bad, and you shut down schools for two weeks, you test everybody and isolate people, and then you can open the schools back up. So we may have some of those periods during the fall, but we don’t have to go through what we are going through now, where we have extended periods of social distancing and really destroying our economy. So we think there is a way to thread this needle.”

          1. “Bargaining” is an important phase of grief.


  3. I find it interesting that at a time when no taxpayers are allowed to set foot inside already completed arenas anywhere in the western world, these projects have been exempted because of their ‘crucial impact’ on the future. As what? Government run mortuaries?

    Also exempted – and I am quoting Vincente Fox directly here – “that stupid fucking wall”. You know, the one that even 8yr olds (with school backpacks on) can climb…

  4. Cuomo’s order specifically exempted construction as an essential business. Same as liquor stores. And bars, as long as they give you alcohol to go (SLA changing rules for the time being.)

    The construction project in Syracuse is also ongoing. Though Syracuse and the western half of the state report far fewer cases than downstate.

  5. Not to play devil’s advocate, but is maybe there’s a concern that abandoned construction sites would encourage thieves to come in and strip the places clean, thereby creating a whole host of other problems? If a stadium, especially a publicly financed one, suddenly faced a huge spike in costs as a result I could see it causing more financial stress.

    Then again, maybe it would have just made more sense to install security measures than turn these sites into potential petri dishes for COVID-19.

  6. Age old question. What does this society value? $? Or human life? Stay tuned. The question is to be answered shortly.

    1. Positive encouragement will accomplish both. If the message is always it will get worse before it gets better. We are going to need scooby snacks if this is going to work

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