Why People Should Mask Indoors, Regardless of What a Judge Says

An image of masks

Most Americans who follow the news have at this point heard the ruling from a judge striking down federal mask mandates for airplanes, trains, and other forms of public transportation.

Some celebrate the ruling. Others look at it with dismay (me being one of them). I say that every single American should mask up on public transit, and other indoor areas, without giving a care about what some judge said.

Here’s the thing—judges are supposed to be legal experts, not public health experts. So to make an individual public health decision, such as whether one should wear a mask on a bus, based on a ruling from an apparent legal expert who’s not a public health expert, is simply ill-advised. It makes about as much sense as using a judge’s court decision to help you decide whether to take a vaccine, use a certain medicine, or use a certain treatment for an illness you are experiencing, because judges, in most cases, are probably not experts in the medical field.

And speaking of public health, the public health is such that it is simply not wise to drop the masks on public transit yet. It’s not wise because the virus, while not as deadly as it used to be, is claiming hundreds of lives a day,[1] and therefore remains far more lethal than a seasonal flu.[2] It’s not wise due to how it leaves the immunocompromised, who are at greater risk of serious illness or death than other populations, vulnerable to the virus. It’s also not wise because it leaves the little children who are currently unable to get vaccinated—those under the age of 5—vulnerable as well. And it’s not wise because we don’t know how many people end up with long COVID from the current strain of the virus.

Believe me, I don’t find masks comfortable at all, and I long for the day that I can make decisions on what to do with my daily life without having to keep the pandemic on my mind. But we are not there yet—not while we have a pandemic far deadlier than the deadliest flu seasons, and not while the lethal nature of it leaves some of the most vulnerable among us particularly vulnerable.

And yet, in spite of the imperative to protect these vulnerable populations, some people or individuals have a tendency to care more about their own freedom to be unmasked than the wellbeing of the vulnerable people around them. To those who feel that way, all I can say is that I hope and pray that you learn to care about someone other than yourself and your own desires; namely, that you learn to care about the most vulnerable among us in any situation, including and especially the one presented to us by the current pandemic.

And so, for the sake of caring for others, it is (still) time to mask up indoors.

[1] https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

[2] The flu claims 12,000 to 52,000 lives each year. As of the time I am writing this piece, 346 Americans a day are dying of COVID on average, which means over 126,000 deaths if we were to multiply the average number of deaths by the number of days we have in a calendar year: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html

Coronavirus Update From New York City: January 28, 2021

I hope all of my readers, regardless of where you are, remain healthy and safe during these challenging times. My family, thankfully, continues to remain healthy and safe.

I was talking on here last week about how the United States had recently surpassed 400,000 deaths. Now we are approaching 425,000 deaths. Such is the rate with which people are dying. Needless to say, the new Biden administration has their work cut out in terms of trying to save lives.

In my area, the test positivity rate has upticked slightly to just over 14%. At least it’s not rising as it was around the holidays, but the rate is still concerningly high. That being said, the COVID hospitalization numbers in my area look less bleak than they did even a couple of weeks ago–the hospital closest to where I live is at 85% of overall hospital bed capacity and 79% of ICU capacity. Now, those rates are still too high for comfort, but at least these numbers are not in the 90-100% range like they were the previous couple of weeks.[1]

Needless to say, with the way the COVID situation is, I can’t help but roll my eyes with how there are murmurs of indoor dining returning to New York City. I am deeply sympathetic to the challenges that restaurants are facing financially, but I think the answer to the financial woes would be to give restaurants enough assistance to make it through the pandemic while practicing COVID precautions. I could be wrong, but I’ve heard some countries taking this approach. Unfortunately, it seems like the United States is reluctant to do the same.

The hope in turning things around, of course, lies with a combination of practicing the proper health precautions (social distancing and mask-wearing) as well as the vaccines. I reported in last week’s COVID update post about shortages of vaccines; that remains an issue. Hopefully, that will change as Biden’s COVID team gets up to speed.

[1] To find what the hospitalization statistics are for your area, go to this website and do a search for the county you live in (only applies for those in the United States): https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/12/09/944379919/new-data-reveal-which-hospitals-are-dangerously-full-is-yours#lookup

Wealth Over Health: It’s Not Just a Trump Thing

A couple weeks ago, some people criticized United States President Donald Trump for trying to get the United States back to work, which would have defied what public health experts were (and still are) recommending about practices such as social isolation. Some friends and media have expressed shock at the president’s attitude toward the coronavirus, even dubbing it as a “wealth over health” type of attitude.

While I was angered and dismayed that Trump took such a dangerous attitude toward the coronavirus, I also recognize that attitudes similar to Trump’s, attitudes about prioritizing wealth and/or other results over health, is painfully common in society.

I’ve heard horror stories of people in numerous industries feeling that they have to sacrifice their health in favor of the bottom line. Some of my friends and acquaintances in the financial sector have told me stories of how they are expected to stay up late doing work, and then get up at ungodly hours of the morning to see how stock markets open in the Far East or in Europe. I have friends in government tell me about working 16-hour days, often at the sacrifice of self-care (both physically and mentally). I have friends in the nonprofit sector tell me about the work (as rewarding as it may be in certain cases) being so draining that it’s harmful to their physical and mental health. I’ve had friends in the business world who’ve encountered bosses who would work their employees until they are beyond ragged, all in the name of making every last dollar possible.

In summary, prioritizing wealth over health (whatever “wealth” may be, whether that’s money or certain other results) is not just a Trump thing. It’s an issue in many parts of American society, and Trump is only the most famous representative of the wealth-over-health attitude that exists in so many places.

So, if you think Trump’s attitude about the coronavirus was dangerous (I, for one, thought it was), don’t just get angry at Trump. Look at so many of the people around us, and as you look around, see whether some of those people have a Trump-like attitude about work.[1] You might be surprised—a Trump-like attitude about wealth over personal health is a lot more common than many of us realize.

[1] I’ve generally been lucky to have bosses who didn’t ask me to prioritize wealth over health. I am grateful for that. I know some who are not so lucky.