Face mask rules don’t always make sense, but . . .

Let’s admit there is something about face mask requirements that really doesn’t add up.

Illustration courtesy of Yale University

Some of you won’t agree, but most people understand that masks offer some degree of protection. You can argue about how much, but would you be happy if your surgeon and OR staff were not masked? Of course not. 

Although the presence of germs was speculated as early as 100BC, Louis Pasteur gets credit for popularizing the idea of unseen danger in the air and how humans could protect themselves.  

The People In Charge — meaning the Centers for Disease Control, Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, academics, pundits and physicians of all stripes — has been all over the lot. 

Very early on we were told by the PIC, nah, don’t use face masks, they don’t help. Six months later we were told they would save more lives than a vaccine and were mandatory in many places. 

When masks were first pooh-poohed, I suggested the government was caught flat-footed, there weren’t enough masks for hospital workers and there was fear the people who needed them most would not get them. I bought a few and started wearing them. And I still do, although I don’t think they are our version of magic underwear.

All along, without question, the Trump Administration has been downplaying everything connected with COVID-19. I will not recap all of President Donald J. Trump’s crazy statements because I don’t intend this to be partisan.

When I first tackled the subject  of coronavirus in March, the projection of the PIC was for a potential American death toll of 3 million. However you feel about the president’s actions, we haven’t lost 10% of that number, and while the fight goes on, we are unlikely to get anywhere near that horrible total.

We are closing in on 220,000 dead, and we are spiking right now, so the worst has not passed as we head into flu season. Most PIC agree on this. 

And — guess what? The World Health Organization, one of the worst of the PIC, is now saying lockdowns are not necessary, except as a last resort, which is what most conservatives were saying all along.

Maybe they were right.

Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson keeps ringing the bell for Sweden, one of the rare countries to gut it out with no lockdown. Carlson portrays Sweden’s death toll as a little higher than its neighbors. He does not admit it is six times higher than Denmark and 10 times higher than Finland.

That is a major difference. 

Here, Trump has and does oppose shutdowns. Why? Perhaps simple patriotism, perhaps because a crippled economy hurts him politically. 

After shutdowns of various lengths and severity across the nation, the screws were slowly loosened, with states requiring certain levels, and with municipalities often imposing different rules. 

Philadelphia restaurants, under Mayor Jim Kenney’s orders, opened slower than restaurants in the rest of the commonwealth, under Gov. Tom Wolf’s order.

Orders coming from different authorities resulted in unequal applications that were expressed in a meme that showed a full airline cabin contrasted with empty pews in a church.

I flew to Florida last week and was shocked to find my American Airlines flights completely filled, including the middle seats in coach. So, yeah, airline traffic may be down by two-thirds, but airlines just grounded most of their planes, leaving the few flying to be full. Face masks are required to board a plane, and also required in the airport, irrespective of the usual social distancing requirement of 6 feet (which PIC now tells us is inadequate).

Half Pint and me, masked and shielded

Since there can be no social distancing in the planes, I wore a face shield in addition to my face mask. AA did offer a snack, and drinks, which requires passengers to lower their masks, exposing them to harm. A brief exposure is less dangerous than a long exposure, but it is still a risk.

That brings me to the reason I travelled to Florida — to attend the bar mitzvah of my grandnephew, the son of my favorite niece. My attendance was, in essence, a command performance.

The religious ceremony was held outdoors, with seating on straight back chairs that could be moved, so that family units could group together and apart from others. People called up to the head table to join the service often removed their masks to be heard, and for the photographer.

Bar mitzvah grandnephew (left) reading from the Torah

The reception, and lunch, was indoors, with guests seated at tables of eight, more than six feet apart. But you can’t eat with a mask on, so off they came.

While some tables were composed of people who live together, others were not. I sat with my sister and brother-in-law, plus two of their neighbors. I love my sister and brother-in-law, but loved ones are just as likely to infect you as strangers. The virus does not have a family exception. 

I kept my mask on, in the high heat and humidity, for the outdoor ceremony, but removed it inside, which was air-conditioned. Wearing them, and not wearing them, with the same group of people is what I meant when I said things really don’t add up. It is one example.

So what do we do, especially when the PIC often gets things wrong, then corrects them as more is learned about the COVID-19 plague?

What I do is follow the best advice of the best people at the moment in which I live, knowing the advice is subject to change. It seems wiser than ignoring the advice of the PIC because I don’t like it. 

I don’t like it when my doctor tells me to lose weight, but I am trying to do it. 

12 thoughts on “Face mask rules don’t always make sense, but . . .”

  1. HAPPY WEDNESDAY !!!
    Stu,
    who was that young chick, sitting next to you on the plane ? You old scoundrel, you.
    Mask or not to mask, that is the question……. When this all started in China, I said to shut down the country for two weeks and see what happens. I meant shut down completely. The President got most of it right. The problem with the government – at all levels – is that they don’t like to make decisions. Especially “in two weeks “. The info is constantly updated, yet no one wants to make the decision in fear that they could be wrong, thus held politically criminal .
    You were right about the PPE shortage. The previous administrations at all levels never have enough money, so why waste it on stockpiling for an emergency that may never come. Well, boys and girls. Never came around a lot sooner than anyone expected.
    So, here is Stu. Getting up there in years and a little worn around the edges. Can’t blame him one bit for wearing “protection ! ( couldn’t resist – protection ! ) Here I am, a few years Stu’s junior. Asbestosis in both lower quadrants. Mitral heart valve repair and a whole bunch (4) of artificial joints. I’m probably a good candidate for the COVID. I wear a mask when I go out, but not around people that I see often. Yea. For sure I’m playing a crap game, but…….
    stay well everyone. there’s an election coming up with fire works to follow !
    Tony

  2. Your last comment makes the point that most people take the advice of their doctor even though he or she may be less informed than we are. Most people I have spoken to in Florida are very tired of too many different opinions and have totally relaxed. If the entry door says must wear a mask then it is worn until they enter and it is removed to eat or drink. And now with the new flu season the conversation is where and when do I get my 2020 flu shot. We used to be a country where marching to a different drummer was a sigh of individuality but today with weak leadership and two elderly egomaniacs running for leader of the free world, throw in the corona and 2021 will make this years protests using candles turn into Frankenstein torch parades.

  3. The snapshot of your grandnephew’s ceremony reminded me of the time many years ago when my wife and I were privileged to attend Harry Gross’s bar mitzvah. Harry was up in years, but had never been through the rite. His wife, Helen, was his incentive. A good memory.

    Masks? Bushwah. If air can get through the masks, so can those teeny weenie Covid-19 bugs. And here is an example of the silliness: I take my wife to a restaurant (pick a name, we’ve been to many). We enter, masked. We are led to our table, masked. We then remove our masks for the next hour or two while we eat and converse among all the other diners, also unmasked. Overhead, the air in the restaurant is being recirculated by large fans or via the HVAC system. Ergo, all of us diners are breathing and rebreathing the same air, as are the waiters, cooks, bartenders, etc. The masks are a placebo, but designed to get us, like sheep, to follow orders of a nutty government no matter how ludicrous. One final note: looking at the photo of you and Miss October, you’ll note that over your left should are two mask-less men, blithely chatting away.

    1. I noted the disconnect or masks on for ceremony, off for food. The guys on the plane had ordered drinks, which require lowering masks. So, yeah, there is something illogical about it, but I would have have a window screen with some holes in it than no screen at all.

    2. Bushwah? You seem to be willing to take a major chance with a deadly illness because masks might not be perfect protection. An N-95 mask has at least two layers filtering out 95% of airborne materials. When breathing, the moisture increases the efficiency of the mask in trapping hydrophillic particles (i.e. the virus). Would you ride a bike (motor or pedal) without a helmet? How about not putting a bandaid over an open cut? Very possible though taking unnecessary risks is pretty dumb when reasonable alernatives are available. At he very least, wearing a mask protects others from any contamination from you! Think again.

      1. Vince, as usual, you are very cynical. Considering your cynicism I suggest you do not waste your time going to vote for Trump since he is going to lose.

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