COVID rants

I’ve spent a TON of time lately thinking and talking about precautions around viral transmission. Yes, I’m the one who wrote the big scary STD post ages ago and I STILL think about cross contamination, viral load, exposure risks, etc.

Every breath you exhale carries thousands of micro droplets. Sneezes and coughs carry many more, and larger, droplets as well. Speaking falls somewhere in the middle. Normally we cover coughs and sneezes because those droplets can get, like, visibly and ickily large, and it’s not hard to tuck your face into a sleeve or hankie for a few seconds. We don’t cover our breathing because it’s too uncomfortable to be worth it and we don’t cover our speaking because it’s even more uncomfortable, and makes it much harder for said speaking to be understood.

This virus has changed those priorities because the risks have shifted. It lives longer outside the body and, when contracted, kills more than other airborne viruses we’ve encountered in a very long time. Now we cover our mouths when speaking or breathing in the general vicinity of other people, and limit the chance of any stray droplets reaching our loved ones by staying far enough away that said droplets are unlikely to reach their eyes, noses, or mouths in high enough concentration to establish infection.

Cool. So wearing a cloth face covering, surgical mask, or N95 respirator inside buildings or small spaces makes a huge amount of sense. Droplets are more likely to hang in the air inside a building than outside where air moves much more freely so minimizing them coming out of us is great. Standing six or more feet away from your friends while outside speaking to each other is super helpful in managing the risks of droplet contamination. Also, this virus is highly vulnerable to simple soap and water. Any time you re-enter your home, it’s a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you’re very worried, ditto with your groceries and deliveries whenever possible.

These are great ways to limit risk of exposure to this exciting new virus and help protect yourself and those around you.

All of my precautions I take are to protect the people around me. Perhaps I simply haven’t confronted my own mortality yet, but my age and clear health history leads me to believe I am at low risk for hospitalization. Not seeing clients who are in constant contact with the public, seeing clients much less often than usual, social distancing from my friends and family, shopping less frequently and more efficiently, wearing a cloth face covering when doing so… I do these things not to prevent getting COVID-19 but to minimize the chance, if I contract it, of spreading it to my community.

I also suspended my cancellation policy for the first few weeks when there was less information and preparedness than there is now. I heavily encourage anyone who is stressed or paranoid about catching this to just stay home. Families with immune compromised folks? Stay home. Underlying conditions that put you at high risk for hospitalization? Stay home. I’ll feel much better once we see a high number of people successfully vaccinated and being successfully treated in hospitals but until then… if you’re not going to the grocery store, don’t come see me, either.

I was once told that you cannot mitigate all risk and that has stayed with me ever since. If I never took any risks, I wouldn’t have the incredible life I have now. I work in an illegal industry, making intimate contact with new people al the time. I take risks every day, and so do you. We cannot prevent tragedy or disaster by cutting ourselves off from the world, though we can make sensible decisions to limit both the chances of bad things happening and the results should they happen anyway.

So, my beloved darling, when you ask if we can wear canister filter respirators during our appointment, I say no. Because that tells me that you either understand how they work and are only interested in protecting yourself, or you don’t know how they work which is even worse. I adore you, and I would love to see you, and I will wait until I can kiss you without instilling fear in your heart. Because what we do here is loving, gentle, connected, and I would be failing you if I agreed to contaminate that with fear.

If you’re comfortable going to the grocery store and shopping during busy hours, you can feel comfortable that, though the degree of contact you and I make is much deeper, it is also contact I am making with many fewer folks. I leave it up to your to weigh your need for human touch and a drop of normalcy against your health concerns, and to make adjustments you see fit. I already trust you to make smart health decisions. That has not changed.

Now. For the ranting.

We’ve gone over why we wear face coverings, right? It’s (mostly) to protect those around you. So why are people wearing them alone in their cars with the windows up!?!?!! Who are you protecting!!!??! I just… I suppose if your hands are contaminated and you don’t want to touch it but you will when you get home…. ok, that kinda makes sense. And delivery drivers, totally. But you’re alone inside your own vehicle!! Why are you wearing a mask!?!

And on the other hand: Why, you absolute moron, did you pull your face covering OFF YOUR FACE to LEAN IN and SPEAK to the poor guy behind the cheese counter!?!??!! Speaking is WAY worse than simply breathing, and you were wearing your hankie while you shopped. WHY DID YOU TAKE IT OFF!!%&$??@!# If that’s how you’re going to wear it, just don’t wear it at all and make it clear to the rest of us to steer clear.

And then there’s: walking into the center of a street in order to keep social distance between us *while wearing masks and jogging OUTSIDE with the breeze blowing*!?!!? You’d rather risk getting hit by car in order to keep 12 feet between us than simply hold your breath for the single second it will take to pass me 4 feet away and reach the fresh air on the other side of me? Do you even understand fluid dynamics and air flow? WTF people!?

And the crown jewel: A provider who feels that wearing a mask during an appointment with a client affords her meaningful protection. As if spending 30+ minutes breathing heavily in the same small, badly ventilated space is going to be magically mitigate by a wisp of fabric. Fabric face coverings work by limiting the potential of one person receiving a high enough viral load from the other to cause infection. But unless you’re both wearing a type of mask that forms a seal against the face and filters out particulate, the amount of time and type of interaction you’re having makes that a futile gesture. You know how everyone is complaining about fogging up their glasses while wearing masks? Yeah. That’s all contaminated air that, without good ventilation or filtering, just hangs out in the air. Even if she wears her N95 mask, unless the client is, too, as soon as she takes it off and takes a deep breath there goes her protection. You also have switch out masks regularly in order to maintain their effectiveness which is why washable fabric is so highly recommended right now. That and the heavier duty single use stuff is going to people who need it more.

I’m not upset at people taking precautions, I’m upset at people taking precautions THAT AREN’T EFFECTIVE. It tells me that they aren’t taking the time to understand why hey wear a mask or keep their distance, they’re just blindly following orders. For the same reason I HATE pedestrians who don’t look both ways before stepping into a crosswalk, I get angry at people improperly using their PPE. I love that someone walked to a marked intersection and waited for the light to change. But a crosswalk, much like a mask, isn’t a force field. It as flaws and often fails. Someone wearing a mask, alone, in their car, is someone who went to the trouble to walk to a crosswalk and then didn’t bother to look before crossing. Sure, they’re probably fine and it’s better than crossing without looking *not* at a crosswalk, but I’ll just be over here, crossing mostly at crosswalks but occasionally in the middle of the street, and obsessively looking both ways the whole time. I’ll be wearing my cloth face covering when it’s most effective, and making other decisions designed to protect my community while still maintaining a degree of normalcy when possible.

One Reply to “COVID rants”

  1. I love it. I saw a bunch of people playing beer pong outside the other day, no masks, just a bunch of people whooping and hollering over open containers of liquid. It’s like nobody watched CSI growing up.

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