I respond to your concerns about masks, school closures, and other topics

“Wearing a mask is uncomfortable. I have a hard time breathing. My glasses fog up. It is hard for others to understand me when I speak. Furthermore, I am concerned about breathing my own carbon monoxide (sic).”

Many doctors, construction workers, asbestos removers, and others wear a mask all day. Yes, they aren’t all that comfortable, just like motor cycle helmets aren’t all that comfortable. But this is about saving lives – other peoples’ lives, so this is serious business. As a glasses wearer, wearing a mask especially tight (this may mean choosing certain masks), breathing through the nose rather than the mouth, and shaving cream help with the glasses. We also don’t exhale carbon monoxide*. Get your Biology 101 right. Wear your mask.

*Correction: Technically, although we exhale much more carbon dioxide, we do exhale some negligible level of carbon monoxide.

“I’m not anti-mask. I am just anti-mask-mandate, and I’m anti-no-mask-shaming”

Seat belts were optional for decades, and many people just plain chose not to wear them. People had all sorts of misguided beliefs and complaints about seat belts. They supposedly impeded movement. People falsely believed they would be luckier flying through a windshield than harnessed in a demolished car. Some people just plain didn’t like them. It was only in the early 90s when they became mandatory and drivers faced fines that the overwhelming majority of drivers actually wore them. And unlike seat belts, which primarily protect the person wearing them and anyone unlucky to be in their path when they become a projectile, masks primarily protect others from a virus that, unlike car accidents, spread exponentially. Nothing in the Constitution gives you the right to not wear a mask to protect others during a pandemic, and if you feel entitled to not wear a mask that could mean life or death to those you love and those you do not even know, you should be ashamed of yourself.

“If social distancing works, why masks? If masks work, why social distancing?”

Because combining two or more safety precautions that are not one hundred percent effective decreases risks in an exponential way. Mask-wearing, while effective, is not 100 percent effective. If two people are both wearing masks they became exponentially more effective. If the two people are also practicing social distancing and taking other precautions even more so.

Because many people think in analogies, let’s return to automobiles. Automobiles today are safer than they have ever been because they may employ multiple imperfect safety systems – three-point seat belts with pre-tensioners, head rests, crumple zones, air bags, power-assisted antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, backup cameras, lane departure warnings, collision detection, and automatic emergency breaking. On top of that, driving becomes safer when we are safe drivers. Drive a safe speed. Adjust for inclement weather. Don’t tailgate. Put down your phone. Call a cab or have a designated driver when you have been drinking. This combination of safety measures makes for a much safer driving experience.

“They originally said masks don’t work. Now they said they do. What if they say they don’t work again? I don’t know what to believe.

This is called a “novel” Coronavirus because it is new, so we don’t know as much about it as we do about Measles, Scurvy, Anthrax, or Malaria. We are learning new things about it all the time, and the farther along we get the better information we will have. We have better information now than we had in March. After originally thinking masks weren’t that effective, new information became available. We learned that transmission is dose dependent. We learned that masks are indeed effective, particularly against spreading the disease to others. And that is a hard one for people to swallow. The mask isn’t necessarily to protect you, although it does protect you somewhat. The mask it to protect others. Caring for others. Novel thought, huh?

“What’s the big deal about opening up schools? People in other industries like grocery stores have been working through this for months.”

By now I hope every grocery store is making the necessary accommodations for shoppers and employees – masks, six feet of distance, one way aisles, contactless pickup, etc. etc. etc. These accommodations, while requiring somewhat of an adjustment and inconvenience for workers and shoppers alike, do not ruin the shopping experience. Want to buy some ears of corn, pancake mix, balsamic vinegar, and a 12-pack of Ruby Red Squirt? You are in luck.

Schools are a bit different. At this point, in order for schools to operate with some semblance of safety, the adjustments necessary would ruin the educational experience so much that it would not provide any benefit in terms of education, socialization, or even childcare. Two shortened days of school per week with teachers and students, all masked, staying six feet apart, will not make for a good experience.

Furthermore, we are talking about kids. If we as adults aren’t great about mask compliance and children are not getting supportive messages at home, are they going to be compliant about mask wearing and physical distance when they get to school? Are first graders going to successfully not pick their noses for an entire day? Is the kid who flips over desks when he gets angry going to keep his mask on? Will they never be used as slingshots? What will happen at lunch, which is traditionally “mid-day scream time,” when students need to take off their masks to eat? How about the bus ride, a time that has historically been the “scream hour” that bookends the school day, when students cannot stay six feet apart?

“But kids are low-risk for Coronavirus.”

Kids live with adults – parents and even grandparents. They also go to school with teachers, and our teaching population is a bit older now.

“Kids aren’t going to the hospital when they get sick.”

But their parents and grandparents, who they infect, are.

Also, please have some respect and acknowledge that medically fragile children exist.

“They have been able to open up schools along with this, that, and the other thing in Denmark, along with this, that, and the other place. Why can’t we do that here?”

Because people in those countries stayed home and wore their masks without making a stink about it. That could be happening here too, but we have some very strong and misguided feelings about what “personal freedoms” means. (By the way, the folks who seem to feel that not wearing a mask is a personal freedom do not tend to seem particularly supportive of protesters exercising their first amendment rights, particularly if they are using those first amendment rights to promote something they do not personally agree with.)

Parents who work depend on schools for childcare.

At this point, are you able to support your family by working just two partial days per week? Having your kid in school that much isn’t very helpful, is it? And what did you gain by unnecessarily exposing your child, yourself, and teachers?

Yeah, I need my kid(s) to be in school five days a week. So why can’t kids go to school five days a week?

Children each surrounded by a minimum of thirty six square feet each takes up some serious room. Because, in order to maintain six feet of social distancing, at best half of students can be in classrooms at the same time. And it’s actually even worse than the pure numbers would suggest because of the ways classrooms are laid out and used. You can’t have students seated in front of a swinging door, with their noses touching a whiteboard, blocking the beam of a projector, blocking an exit, or in other places in the room.

So why not just send them all to school?

How many children, teachers, and parents’ lives are you willing to sacrifice in order to make this a reality?

Or if you are the kind of person who thinks in terms of dollars rather than lives, how much longer are you willing to delay the eventual economy recovery due to the frequent massive interruptions that would frequent occur?

I don’t trust anything the government or the “MSM” says.

This isn’t just our government or networks associated with the huge media conglomerates saying this. This is coming from health experts from around the world. Also, how is it that people who question anything they hear from governments or mainstream media sources accept the most ridiculous ideas as truth without question from iffy sources like yelling men from the Internet?

“The media caters to peoples’ fear. The government wants us to be fearful. I am not going to be controlled by fear.”

Let’s not get carried away with that. If I go for a bike ride, I wear a helmet. I probably won’t get in an accident, and the helmet isn’t all that comfortable. It messes up my hair. So why do I wear a helmet? Because not wearing a helmet is dumb. I also lock up the bike if I need to go inside, which is added inconvenience and weight. Because I want my bike to still be there when I return. Is that being controlled by fear? And, yes, you probably should be fearful of a disease that could have you or your loved ones struggling to breathe, dying alone in a hospital bed. Or, worse yet, not receiving any care whatsoever because the capacity of hospitals was overwhelmed by folks “not willing to be controlled by fear.”

“The numbers” are massively inflated.

Really? What is your source? If you were to call up the families of victims would they tell you “Nope, he or she didn’t have it. Fake news?” I’m pretty sure you just want to believe this.

The numbers are only going up because the amount of testing has gone up.

If you were to walk into a hospital, would doctors, nurses, and others on the frontlines confirm this? Or is it possible that you just want to believe this? Or would they say that, no, sometime around Memorial Day everyone became apathetic and just kind of gave up? Because that’s what happened.

Not many people in my county have died.

Yet. It seems cities, where lots of people live and work in close proximity, get it first, and then people in those areas get smart and make adjustments while people in less populated areas, feeling invincible, do not make those adjustments and then get hit harder later.

“[Insert name of densely populated urban area],” which instituted a strict lockdown, had a huge number of cases. [Insert name of isolated rural area], which never instituted those restrictions, saw very few cases.”

This is a “chicken and egg” scenario, and by the way, it is widely accepted that the egg came first. New York and such put those lockdowns into place because there were a large number of cases. South Dakota didn’t because nearly no one lives in South Dakota and nearly no one has any reason to go there. Until Sturgis. What could possibly go wrong? By the way, my family is from South Dakota.

“I had to wear a mask, and I still got a cold. Therefore, the mask doesn’t protect me.”

The most likely explanation is that, while you wore a mask, someone else didn’t, and they gave you a cold. Although the mask is somewhat effective at protecting you, the mask is primarily to protect others. Just like how if that person wore a mask you would not have gotten a cold. Does the concept of protecting others make sense?

By the way, we have no way of knowing or appreciating how many times we were protected by others wearing masks. Because we didn’t get sick, so we didn’t know about it.

“Woodstock was held during a pandemic.”

Yes, Woodstock, an outdoor festival, was indeed held during the Hong Kong Flu pandemic, which was a much smaller pandemic than this one.

“Imagine the cost to society if Woodstock hadn’t happened.”

Uh, Pete Townshend would have smashed his guitar somewhere else? Jimi Hendrix wouldn’t have played the national anthem for a crowd of hippies? Woodstock wouldn’t have led to such cultural milestones as, say, Altamont?

“You are more likely to die from a car accident, heart disease, or other causes.”

Nope, not true at all. Covid-19 is currently the largest killer in America, overtaking heart disease and the other big ones.

The overwhelming majority of people who get it don’t die.”

First of all, but some do, any how many is OK with you? Second, the people I know who have it and have not died will tell you it’s pretty miserable to have when you do survive it. I don’t walk into a beehive, even though I am pretty sure a bee sting will not kill me, because I know that a bee sting is unpleasant. And for many survivors, we are talking about months, years, or a lifetime of something much worse than a bee sting.

“I don’t know or interact with anyone who is elderly or high-risk.”

Do you also not interact with anyone else who interacts with anyone elderly or high-risk? If one were to draw a web of your social circle with branches extending out a few degrees of separation, would that web not include a single medically-compromised, elderly, or obese person, perhaps a person who doesn’t even know they have an underlying condition? And does that web of interaction never include strangers?

“These people who died would have died of something else eventually.”

Gee, if John Lennon hadn’t been shot, he would have eventually died too. If Kobe Bryant hadn’t gone for a helicopter ride he too would eventually die. I understand that there is an assumption that folks highly at risk for dying from Covid-19 are approaching the end of their lives anyways, but are we saying, “So-and-so who would have lived to be 82 only lived to be 68, and so-and-so who would have lived to be 85 lived to be 74, and that’s OK?” Even if you are morally OK with peoples’ lives being shortened by years or decades, do we want that many people all filling up hospitals at the same time?

The economy can’t handle more of this.

First of all, how many lives are you willing to sacrifice for the economy? Second, if we were to bite the bullet and take this seriously, like pulling off a bandaid, the economy could really open up again – back to normal, restaurants open to capacity, bars serving until 1:45am, etc. – sooner. Kids could be back in school every day without masks. The economy certainly recovered after the Spanish Flu.Why did they call it the “Roaring ’20s?” But first we need to get through this. This means working together. This means empathy. It’s amazing how foreign of a concept that is to so many people.

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