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Sep 27, 2021

Thar’s Gold In That Thar Pandemic!

A few of the lesser-known beneficiaries of the ongoing plague

By Ed Goldman
A late-summer story in the Wall Street Journal talked about individuals and companies that benefited financially from COVID-19—and presumably will continue to as we deal with COVID-20 and its anticipated sequels (oops: variants).

Notable beneficiaries have included, as you might imagine, manufacturers of hand sanitizers, masks and, natch, the lifesaving vaccines themselves. Others who’ve profited include food delivery services (like DoorDash, which may have added to its speed by not leaving a space between its two-word name) and food takeout places (like almost every restaurant that wanted to stay in business).

Edgy Cartoon

Dome and Domer

But who and what else experienced fiscal gains during the pandemic? We ruminated and developed the following list:

1. ANTI-VAXXING HOUSES OF WORSHIP. One prominent Bitcoin-chasing “minister” has told current and potential congregants that he’ll provide them with a letter to excuse them from wearing masks at church. This is a bit like those helicopter-parent letters asking that Little Billie be excused from climbing the rope during gymnastics class or doing the high jump during the track unit because his fear of heights is so great he asks God every night to make him shorter.

2. RURAL BEER BARS. This is not to imply that there’s a product categorized as “rural beer,” though I think a diligent consumer could make a case that you’re not apt to find Cantillon Lorek 1998 on tap in a watering hole called Broken Noses. (To clarify: At Skinner Auction House seven years ago, a bottle of Cantillon, a sour beer, sold for $2, 583. Reportedly, pretzels required a co-signer. Salt extra.)

In any event, some vaxx- and mask-defying saloons in the Sierra foothills did so well during the pandemic’s first round that I’m sure a few of them thought of becoming franchises. That might have worked if the owners took into account location, which is meant to suggest that a place whose entire physical plant smells like a cake-free horse urinal isn’t likely to thrive in certain zip codes, especially the ones so exclusive they aren’t listed—even with the United States Postal Service.

3. THE FLORIDA ANTI-TOURISM BOARD. When I first moved to the west coast, someone told me that “Calif” stood for “Come And Live In Florida.” (I was eight years old and laughed so hard my pants smelled like a rural beer bar.) In any event, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis—a Republican from a declassified planet beyond the Little Dipper, which is also Ron’s nickname—has unintentionally become, through his death-welcoming rants against masks and vaccine, the Sunshine State’s ultimate proponent of NIMBB (Not In My Back Bay).

DeSantis has chosen a unique way to prevent gentrification, a problem for genuine earthly Edens like Idaho (where they filmed the classic movie “Northwest Passage,” which wasn’t actually located there—nor did they ever even travel there in the movie) or even Austin (which is pretty much Sacramento with a Stetson). He rejects science and common sense but still begs the federal government (though denies he did so) for ventilators. In short, he’s a one-man shill for the funeral industry.

4. PANDEMIC CONSPIRACY BUFFS. This probably goes without saying but a cottage industry—well, make that a cottage-cheesy industry—has sprung up on social media whose goals are to: (a) firmly fix blame on the Wuhan Lab where COVID-19 was allegedly first detected and officially denied by the government (the disease, not the existence of a lab, at least not yet); (b) discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci for daring to tell the American people the truth about the disease and ways to combat its spread; and (c) somehow bring Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Satan into the conversation. The wilier pandemic conspiracy buffs have found a way to monetize their operation by selling T-shirts, coffee mugs and defective masks that provide an equal lack of protection to wearers and their unsuspecting victims (including: everyone).

5. MAKERS OF THE PLASTIC RESTAURANT BUBBLE. This ingenious product, a spinoff of the useless Cone of Silence on “Get Smart,” allows eateries to encase outdoor dining areas in Saran Wrap walls, giving diners the hilarious impression that being trapped outdoors in an enormous plastic bag with other diners is safer than sitting with them in an airy indoor restaurant.

While technically as specious as having people wear masks to enter a restaurant then allowing them to remove the masks as soon as they’re seated, the plastic restaurant bubble may be the wave of the future. I can just imagine R. Buckminster Fuller (creator of the geodesic dome) turning over in his grave—fully masked, of course.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).