Yes, Virginia, you still need to wear a mask.

The day after I learned that Massachusetts was offering free COVID-19 testing at a location near me, I called and made an appointment. I drove to the site at the Lawrence General Hospital parking lot the next day, and less than five minutes later, after some unpleasantness with my nose, was on my way home. Forty-eight hours later, I learned the test result was negative. I was relieved. I could stop worrying that I would accidentally kill my 96-year-old mother by giving her SARS-CoV-2.

The next time I went outside, I wore a mask, one of the cloth masks I bought back in March. I’ve been wearing a mask religiously ever since that negative test. Before the test, if I forgot the mask when I took out the dog, I would shrug and tell myself, “Next time.” Now, I go back and get it.

I’m SARS-CoV-2 negative, but I’m still anxious. It isn’t only that the position of the Trump administration scares me. The idea that there are more infections because we are doing more testing is ludicrous. It’s also innumerate. Testing tells you something about how many infections are likely to exist at a particular time. It’s a snapshot and an approximation. But testing does not cause the number of whatever is being tested. It tells you about reality; it doesn’t create reality. (By the way, often, about two weeks after an increase in infections, there is an increase in deaths. It’s hard to get more real than death.)

I’m still anxious because at the grocery store, people wear a mask, but don’t use it to cover their noses. One day, I watched a man pull his mask away from his face to sneeze and cough. He didn’t even bother to sneeze into his arm.

I read the COVID-19 news like it’s a magic ritual that will protect me from illness. Most of the time it just contributes to my anxiety. But every once in a while, I read something useful. The latest research shows that wearing a mask reduces the number of viral particles that get into your nose (“Masks May Reduce Viral Dose, Some Experts Say”).

I’m not wearing my mask to protest dangerously foolish or rude behavior. I’m wearing a mask because it decreases my exposure to virus particles as well as yours. I’m wearing a mask because a COVID-19 test is a snapshot in time. My status was negative on July 31, 2020. Who knows what it is now?

And, anyhow, I have to take care of my mom.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Most recently updated September 21, 2020

In March when many people were protesting social distancing, I found reasons to appreciate it. I’ve been appreciating things that I never thought I would, like post-nasal drip–I think it means I don’t have COVID-19.

Top 10 Reasons to Appreciate Social Distancing

So, I’m okay with social distancing. The other day at the grocery store, I felt perfectly justified in calling a guy out for getting into my personal space. He still said it was okay for him to do that, but at least he didn’t pull out a gun.

Here are 10 other reasons I think social distancing isn’t so bad

  1. I appreciate the Police’s song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” in a new way.
  2. I feel frugal when I have a 50 pound bag of dog food delivered.
  3. Open-the-economy protests give me a whole new understanding of the phrase, “cull the herd.”
  4. I really mean it when I wear my hat that says, “Not in the mood to wash my hair today.”
  5. I don’t feel awkward saying once again, “I’ll have to miss the progressive dinner this year.”
  6. There are no students upstairs playing knee hockey on the simulated wood floor.
  7. Developing a habit to wipe down the stove top, sink, and refrigerator was a snap.
  8. The governor waived late fees on overdue excise tax payments.
  9. No one tells me to “Just relax. It’ll all work out.”
  10. I don’t feel guilty about not visiting my mother.

Massachusetts and New Hampshire phased out the lock down this summer, and I visited my 96-year-old mother every week. Now, of course, I feel guilty for visiting her.

Less than 10 Reasons I’m Okay with Wearing a Mask

Over the summer, COVID-19 hot spots moved from the East Coast to the middle of the country. Many people protested mask mandates and refused to wear masks. On September 21, 2020, the total death count to date was close to 200,000. A little more than 40 percent of those deaths occurred in the Midwest.

I think wearing a mask isn’t really all that bad. Here’s why:

  1. I can cosplay Red Dead Redemption 2 without spending money on expensive costumes.
  2. When I wear my sunhat and mask, the age spots on my face get worse more slowly.
  3. My frown when people don’t follow the traffic pattern at the grocery store is invisible beneath my mask.
  4. People don’t look at me funny when I wear a balaclava in mid-September to keep my nose warm.
  5. A mask is easier to breathe through than a balaclava.

Most of life is unpredictable. But I will probably find more reasons to appreciate social distancing and masks.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Where Has All the Money Gone? (with apologies to Joan Baez)

Why is no one talking about the $4 trillion in cash corporate America had on the books in January 2020? I read the Bloomberg Open and Close newsletters every day. Did I miss or not understand some bit of news in February, March, and April?

The financial state and fate of the U.S. postal service is a hot topic in political forums this week (April 27 through May 1, 2020). It joins on-going questions about the economy, the physical and financial health of the U.S. workforce, the public health responses to the Coronavirus pandemic, when a vaccine will arrive, and when life, work, and the economy will return to normal. A question not on the table, though, is corporate America’s $4 trillion in cash. Unless, of course, all that cash just disappeared.

We ask whether the federal government should provide financial support (aka a bailout) to keep the USPS operating past September 2020. It’s a good question, but we get caught up in the debate. Some people believe that the Constitution requires that the government fund the USPS to keep it operating. Others think the government’s money (that is, our taxes) are better spent otherwise and believe privatizing does not violate the Constitution.

The USPS debate; the arguments between Congressional Republicans and Democrats about the Coronavirus stimulus package; the arguments between governors and President Trump about when and how to relax stay-at-home guidance; the militaristic actions of protestors in Michigan; and the rapid deterioration of the economy over the past three months have roiled our minds for weeks.

Sometimes, the questions we ask are like the distractions a magician uses to perform a trick.

The questions provide a distraction from the discomfort of social isolation, the financial fear, and the fear of a disease we don’t yet understand.

I tried to find a way out of the anxiety going round and round, faster and faster—I have never liked amusement park rides down monster-filled dark tunnels. I read the Book of Job. I wrote a list of my top ten reasons to appreciate social distancing.

But, my anxiety turned to anger as I looked at photographs of mass burials in New York and read stories about meat production employees packed into workplaces that killed them and drove the pandemic into their families and communities.

My anger turned to rage at photographs and stories of farmers destroying food—potatoes, chickens, milk—because it was produced for restaurants that are now closed. Ten thousand people in Texas were in line to get food from a pantry, and we can’t figure out the logistics of redirecting food from restaurant use to groceries and food banks. We can give the agriculture industry $23.5 billion, but we can’t figure out how to buy excess food and distribute it to people who need it.

Once I reinstated a calmer mind, I began to ask other questions. A little Googling produced interesting information, as I pointed out at the beginning:

In a Harvard Business Review article from January 17, 2020, I read that “U.S. non-financial corporations are sitting on just over $4 trillion dollars in cash, according to the latest Flow of Funds estimates…”
https://hbr.org/2020/01/why-are-companies-sitting-on-so-much-cash.

According to an article in the Washington Post on March 26, 2020, the coronavirus stimulus package is $2 trillion.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/americas-2-trillion-coronavirus-stimulus-package-ignores-the-rest-of-the-world/2020/03/26/f1a8577c-6f9f-11ea-a3ec-70d7479d83f0_story.html.

I wonder what corporations are doing with that $4 trillion in cash.

 

I’ve been quiet here, but that’s because I’ve been writing at Countable. Check it out. It’s a version of democracy in action and less of an echo chamber than other discussion forums.

In my work as a ghostwriter, I meet a lot of wonderful people with interesting stories and lives. They inspire me, as does everything I read, hear, and see. Here, I share the thoughts and ideas that come… Read More

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