“Ma Freedums”

Only in ‘murica do we argue against the entire scientific community1 on proper precautions to avoid the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus. And because we live in a economy with zero safe-guards or systems to survive this kind of crisis, many are forced into the false choice of opening up everything to ‘save’ jobs and the economy or close everything and keep people safe but let the economy crash. This is what comes from unregulated capitalism aka greed.

The right wing propaganda campaign has convinced 10’s of thousands of Americans the pandemic is hoax, and only when it bites them in the ass do they suddenly realize it isn’t. Forgetting a hoax would require the complete and total cooperation of the global medical community, counted in the low millions of people, the rest of the free world is already recovering from the pandemic and slowly reopening their economies. Meanwhile, our new cases and deaths are setting new records almost weekly now.

And when it isn’t ‘hoax’, it is a conspiracy. Depending on which version you read, it was deliberately spread from China, created in a lab who knows where, a giant ploy by the Democrats to throw the election, and/or [insert famous person’s name here] ploy for world subjugation. A global pandemic just to get 45 out of office? You’d rather believe that than the cold hard truth?

Then we get to the mask propaganda, which has reached levels previously relegated to the Hilary/pizzgate drama. Only in ‘murica is being required to wear a mask to protect yourself and others considered tyranny, a democratic ploy, a sign of the end times, an enactment of a world order meant to enslave all humans, or taking away ‘my freedums’. Take your pick.

If you get your news primarily from social media, it is easy to think the majority of people feel this way. Actually, thru repeated polls most people consistently support the restrictions and understand why they are necessary. Unfortunately, the idiots go out and put us all at risk so they can’t just be ignored.

The tyranny theory is usually reserved for the “coming for my guns” crowd. You know the ones. The incels, the darkweb conspirators, or propagandists who go out of their way to correlate completely random events to “uncover” a secret plot with various nefarious outcomes. Yes, we get it, it makes you feel special. Just some random dude (dudette) in the middle of America somehow discovered what every educated scientist over looked. Oh right, they are in on the conspiracy. *wink, wink*

Contrary to popular conspiracies, Obama nor Hillary are involved. Bill Gates is not working on a vaccine2 to enslave us or give us the “mark of the beast.” The Qanon crowd, the racist/nazi groups, the religious fanatics, or the just plain crazy are all out to sell a narrative based on fear. This is the ONLY way they can recruit new members. Logic and reason can’t be used and are universally shunned. And let us not forget the campaigns to paint movements like Antifa or BLM as the same level of dangerous or crazy as the nazis and racists. Sure Jan.

Then we get to all the entitled Karens/Chads of the world. “It interferes with my breathing”, “I have a medical condition,” or “you can’t force me because it isn’t ‘da law'”. Wrong on all counts. There are countless demonstrations of real world use of mask having no impact on your breathing. And the random conspiracies are easily disproved with basic logic. What many people confuse is it does cause you to breath slightly harder, but you are still getting the same amount of air. Because you are unaccustomed to wearing a mask, you notice the extra effort. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you are a very sick person and have no business being outdoors, period. But let us pretend for a moment you did. The ADA (or HIPAA for the exceptionally ignorant) does not protect you or allow you to disregard health orders when you go out in public. Why? Because your accommodation would put other people at risk. ADA does not allow for that. And as a result of all the ignorance has had to officially go on the record stating as such. The fake cards saying you are exempt or immune are just that, fake.

And then we get to the ‘constitutional scholars‘ who claim because it isn’t the law, they don’t have to obey. Oh, but you do! Thru a century of court cases and law review, the line between public rights and individual rights is clearly drawn. Your ‘individual freedoms‘ do not trump (pun intended) the rights of the public. Businesses can limit your access or refuse to do business with you for failing to comply with legally issued orders to wear a mask.3 Wearing a shirt or shoes indoors isn’t a law, but is universally accepted businesses are allowed to enforce this measure. (Forgetting the very racist roots of said restrictions.) When you are required to produce 2 forms of ID at the DMV it is not a law. When you queue up in line to wait your turn, it is not a law. Just try to cut in line anywhere and see what happens. There is no law that you have to work. However, if you want to have money for necessities or luxuries you get your ass up and go to work. So you see, not everything we do requires a law.

Frankly, being a decent human being shouldn’t require a law. If yo mamma raised you right, you would give two-shits about other people. Caring about the welfare of others shouldn’t need to be legislated.

I won’t even cover the new round of entitled idiots trying to use religion as an excuse. The newest excuse? Wearing a mask interferes with our ability to pray?

smdh

  1. minus the few crackpots []
  2. Even though his orgs work to help eliminate dangerous yet preventable diseases thru vaccinations has saved countless lives. []
  3. These same folks were all about screaming business rights when people could refuse to do business with gays, but now suddenly business rights do not matter. Funny how that works. []

Shut Down

I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of our country getting the pandemic under control. I predict we will continue to live with hodgepodge restrictions and shut downs thru the election in November. Only after 45 loses will we see a national strategy with a lockdown that will be consistent and effective. The mismatch state by state approach has obviously failed. There is no enforcement of any real value so people are free to disregard the directives.1 Shaming and viral exposure can only do so much.

The economy will continue to tank and businesses will shutter on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. Economists are already sounding the alarm. We blew it. Our selfish entitled attitudes created this mess. The ignorant minority continues to overshadow all the efforts of the responsible majority. We’ve allowed them thru mismanagement to take over the face of the pandemic. Maybe now that the Mango maniac has finally started wearing a mask, his cult followers will follow suit. We can only hope at this point.

All other countries with active restrictions and enforcement are seeing lower and lower cases. Many have already opened almost completely up, albeit with some mask requirements and restrictions on large events. They listened to their experts and acted accordingly.

I know I sound like Debbie Downer, but I’m trying to take a realistic approach based on what I see every day. The virus is spreading at a rampant rate again. Even California2 is seeing a big jump in cases and hospitalizations. And while the death total isn’t necessarily skyrocketing, people seem to forget, even those who don’t end up hospitalized can suffer for months after clearing the illness.

As of the news today, 1 in 5 Californians are unemployed. Many moratoriums on evictions (residential and commercial) are set to expire in the coming month. I expect California’s will mostly likely be extended, but the problem is still their looming over their heads. And it seems another round of stimulus checks might be coming, but they are drops in a bucket at this point.

I’m grateful for the fortunate circumstances I find myself in thru this; however, I worry for so many who are struggling between doing the right thing and being able to work and put food on their tables and a roof other their heads. The hubby is going stir-crazy being unemployed and home all the time; however, he is trying to hang in there. We get out on walks together on weekends to help break up the monotony.

If you’re struggling while you wait for “normal” to return, I’d put that aside. Normal is gone for 2020. Hunker down and adjust to our new reality for the next few months. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d be shocked if we have any meaningful developments before September. Hopefully, by year end the several possible vaccines will hold out to be effective enough to mass produce. A best case scenario is seeing a sense of normalcy returning before March 2021.

  1. And I’m not talking about people desperate to work or businesses fighting to exist. []
  2. granted mostly in Southern California []

Privilege

I had an incident this weekend that really nailed the idea of “privilege” in my mind. I’m at the local bagel shop in the ‘hood. I’m standing just inside the entrance to maintain social distance to the person inside.1 A woman comes behind and parks herself less than a foot from me. I promptly turn and glare at her. Seeing that didn’t work, I moved forward. Luckily the person in front of me had moved to the side as he had finished placing his order.

At this point I’m kind of over it. I’m reading the news on my phone. I glance up ever so often to see if my food is ready and to ensure I do not need to move again to maintain my distance. The previously mentioned woman is now glaring at me and I can tell she is mumbling under her breath. I’m thinking to myself, “get over it lady, maintain your distance and no one will glare at you.” Her order came up first, even though she ordered after me, as she only ordered something quick. As she’s leaving, I look up to see her glaring at me again and mumbling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until she was out the door that I put her words to meaning. She had said to me, “black lives matter too MF’er!

Of course, I’m immediately upset. I mean the nerve! How dare she make it about race. I don’t give two-shits what color you are, maintain yo’ distance! Then it dawns on me. She mistook my glare and stepping away from her to mean I was avoiding her because of her skin color. I was floored! How could I have done this? But, as I go over the scenario in my mind, I honestly wouldn’t have done anything different. I’d glare at your dumb-ass for not maintaining distance regardless.

At this point, my anger dissipates and I feel only compassion and sadness. How terrible the world she walks in must be that this was her first assumption? I frequently say, “I walk in an extraordinarily different world than people of color.” This was a prime example of that. My heart sank knowing how much anger, hurt, and resentment she must be felling. And while I can take some comfort in knowing my own actions were honorable, it still left me profoundly sad.

I benefit and often take many things for granted simply because I am white. It really struck me how privileged I am. People often mistake being called “privileged” for being wealthy or having life easy. That is not the meaning here. Lawd knows, my life before the age of 25 was an utter shit-show. I wen thru more drama and tragedy in those years than most people go thru in a life time. In spite of all that, I can see and understand I still benefit daily from being white.

My only regret is not being able to clarify why I was glaring at her.2 If I could, I’d give her a hug as well. It was too late and I wasn’t about to try and chase her down after the fact. I can only take solace in the knowledge my actions were not racially motivated.

I strive to be better and to help others be better. I encourage you to do the same. A lot of people are hurting right now. Should you encounter a similar scenario as a white person, I implore you to see the bigger picture and recognize, it isn’t necessarily you the person is acting out against.

Hope springs eternal….

  1. It is a small space. []
  2. The humor in that is not lost on me. []

Remembering

It was January 1991. The first year I witnessed the death of someone I personally knew from AIDS. It scared the holy sh*t out of me. I remember hearing an older couple I was friends with commenting on this article from the NYT. The report of 100,000 deaths from AIDS was buried deep in the paper. There was no national outrage, there weren’t any names posted on the front page. We were on our own.

Fast forward to this week’s front page article with a thousand names of the 100,000 dead from the pandemic.

The LGBTI community remembers. We know what it’s like when the government ignores a disease. We remember what it was like to see so many our people die from AIDS, many of which died alone.

Don’t be cavalier or indifferent to this crisis. Don’t be a name on the front page or one buried on page 18.

Spread

Unless you live under a rock in the LGBTI community, you know that STI’s are often of concern, especially for gay men. Health departments track these little buggers every year.1 Every so often there is a bigger outbreak than usual. When this happens it almost always seems to start in the two coastal regions, especially in the denser or larger cities. As it spreads, it tends to move inward hitting bigger cities first, and then filtering down to rural areas. There are always statistically larger and persistent spikes in poorer and/or overly religious states as it filters inward. It continues to filter inwards until a loosely coast to coast coverage exists.

This is a general reference and not at statistical analysis. I’ve always paid attention to these sort of “trends”, as I think it gives critical insight into developing tools to combat disease transmission. I mention it today because I feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is following an eerily similar pattern, especially in the afore mentioned poor and/or overly religious states. One can see a real correlation between the spread and those who, thru bias and/or willful ignorance, downplay the dangers of the virus.

I’ve been wondering if health departments have been using the same models to predict the spread of COVID-19. It would certainly make sense if they did. I haven’t seen any specific mentions in media or print, but that could easily be because of the distasteful association people often make with STI’s.2 There are important distinctions between STI’s and COVID-19, but the transmission vectors are very similar just on a much larger scale.

I guess I don’t really have a point to my ramble today. I am just pondering random ideas relating to the pandemic. I’ve been trying to focus more on the science side to avoid being continually furious at ‘the stupid’. I won’t even go into the “re-openings” happening in states with ever increasing numbers of new cases. I’ve realized it is pointless and just leaves me depressed. What I will see say on the subject is we are already seeing spikes in many of the states that relaxed the rules too early or didn’t really restrict public exposure.

California is moving into phase 2 of the 4 phase plan originally outlined by the Governor. The numbers have jumped in SF in the last week, but that has more to do with broader testing and specific groups within the community. We were fortunate to go just under 4 days with no new reported deaths in San Francisco. Testing is now readily available to all citizens in SF as well. I personally feel it should be forced onto people returning to the work-force vs voluntary.

That is it I guess for the moment. I’m sort of rambling here, just airing out some thoughts.

  1. Ironically, health departments in larger cities have improved their modeling tools to specifically track and combat the spread of STI’s. []
  2. It is because of this association that many areas of the country sometimes see continually higher than average numbers of STI cases. []

Tested Negative

Unfortunately, I tested negative for the SARS-COV-2 antibodies, otherwise known as COVID-19. And I say unfortunately because I had hoped for a positive test.1 It would have alleviated some fear of exposing the hubby and the roommate. The hubby got laid off so he is at home every day. The roommate still works but he is practically alone in his office so I’m pretty much the exposure risk. I still work 4-days a week. I am somewhat isolated in my current assignment but I work in a small office with 3 people. Even with masks on, any single exposure would mean an exposure for all of us.

I took a blood test, not the unreliable nasal swab. The test is rated 99.9% effective with a 100% sensitivity. That basically means the chances of false negatives are very remote. I was fortunate to get it done thru LabCorp, which is the lab provider for my insurance. I didn’t even have a co-pay. I got a doctor’s order, dropped by the lab, *stab*, *bandage*, and off I went. I had results in about a day and a half.

There is no scientific consensus yet on the idea of immunity once you do have antibodies. And the common flu is so varied that antibodies to one strain are useless against another strain. However, the common flu has been around much much longer and had lots of time to mutate wildly. Being so new in humans, even with the mutations we know of, I would have felt a lot better knowing I was at least a little bit immune.

It has taken a told on my mental well-being constantly worrying about bringing it home. *knock on wood* My work has only had 1 confirmed case since the beginning. We are all very grateful for that. And before I leave work every day, I go in the bathroom and bathe myself in disinfectant wipes. I carry an additional one in my pocket so I can avoid touching surfaces like door handles. I am horribly absent-minded so I’ve tried to create habits for myself to avoid slipping up. Most people don’t realize how easily they can touch or share contaminated space and end up becoming a transmitter. Anyway, I worry less for myself and more for them.

We are relatively healthy so we would probably be ok, but I’d rather not play games with anyone’s health, including my own. So yeah, knowing all the realities, it still would have put me a little more at ease. I would not have relaxed my vigilance at protecting myself or others, but I would have worried less. I can only control my own actions and have all but given up on trying to encourage others to do better. On the daily, I see people flaunting the shelter-in-place restrictions. Frankly, I’ve stopped caring as it is less stressful and I have enough to worry about.

  1. Not something you routinely hear anyone say. lol []

True Colors

It has been disheartening to see people’s true colors during this pandemic. With the death of another friend recently, it has hit me much harder than expected seeing people I know, in varying degrees, routinely violating shelter in place (SIP) orders.

And don’t get it twisted, I’m not referring to the idiots protesting and opening churches, etc. Our media may focus on them for the sensationalism, but they are a tiny part of the whole. No, I’m mostly referring to people I feel a stronger connection to personally. I think the overall impact from seeing it in person and on social media has dented my belief in humanity. And you would think in my line of work I’d already be pretty jaded, but you would be wrong. I pride myself on knowing even the bulk of my work does not represent the majority of people. I work hard not to let it overwhelm my optimism.

And I don’t necessarily think of these people as bad. Most people aren’t “good” or “bad”. I’m fond of saying, “good people are capable of bad things and bad people are capable of good things.” But that doesn’t mean I necessarily want you in my life or affecting my personal bubble. And therein lies my bitch today. Having lost folks I know to the pandemic and almost lost others, on top of my work, this is a tangible and real threat to me. The outright indifference to the harm or even death they could cause is painful to witness. I’m certainly not perfect and this isn’t about painting myself as some holier-than-thou.

I’m keen on referring to our indifference as a society leading to our demise. I see people, who I think know better, being indifferent to the damage and harm they could cause. If I’m being open, it has cut me to my core in a way I didn’t expect. My own efforts to teach and spread awareness routinely fall on deaf ears and I’ve given up on that now. This ordeal has brought back some very old feelings of helplessness that plagued me for so long as a young man. I can’t tell you at this moment if that feeling or my own sense of right & wrong is the trigger. Either way, I can feel the bitter anger breaking mental connections I feel for various people.

Maybe I’m being petty right now, but I have already started purging these people from my own sphere of consciousness. Social media is easy, as you just make a few mouse clicks and their gone. In real life will be a different story. And it isn’t like I plan to be rude or attack these folks. I may not be perfect but I am better than that. They just won’t be someone I engage with anymore.

Even as I type this, I realize this is a first world problem. I am very fortunate and accept that with gratitude. Even with Shawn getting laid off, we are still in a good place. I’m also not referring to anyone forced to choose between staying home or putting food on their table by going to work. So many people out there are losing everything right now. These folks have nothing but my support and sympathy, but that makes the indifference I see in others that much worse in my eyes.

If you are reading this, I hope you are taking this threat seriously. I hope if you have little to fear, you still realize the impact you could have on others by inadvertently spreading it. And I hope you have the intestinal fortitude to realize you can be inconvenienced for a month or two for the safety of everyone around you. Your freedom shouldn’t come at the cost of someone else’s.

Total Authority

I deliberately waited a few days to see if anyone on the right-leaning side of politics would freak out over Trumps declaration this week. In a tantrum over states doing more than he is to protect their citizens, he declared, “I have total authority over when the states will reopen their economies….” I’m paraphrasing a bit but the gist is the same. As the famous commercial poking fun at Facebook goes, “that’s not how this works, that’s now how any of this works….

At every turn, the right-leaning folks were tearing down President Obama over his executive orders.1 They acted like he attempted to be a King instead of a duly elected president. It was a routine talking point throughout his entire 8-year presidency. The outrage and talking points were never ending. The propaganda engine ran 24/7 selling the narrative President Obama was trying to be a king. He was “abusing his authority” and “after your guns“.2 Naturally, the republican base ate it up.

Fast forward to now and no one has said anything about Trump’s alarming statement. Of course, state media Faux news is congratulating him and touting is actions as ‘strong leader’. Forgetting for a moment Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a consistent lack of understanding of even basic civics, he all but declared himself King. The right is falling all over themselves to support him. Actually, I take that back. Let us NOT forget Trump’s lack of understanding of basic civics. Rather than accepting he doesn’t understand everything, he fires anyone who dares to stand for honesty or integrity over his narrative. He lies so often he contradicts himself almost daily now. You only have to pay attention to see it. Worse, he has crippled our democracy by allowing functional depts that handle our safety and infrastructure to go unmanned. He is creating a bottle neck where anything that doesn’t go thru him doesn’t get done. He is making himself a de facto king and no one on the right cares. In fact, they are celebrating it.

I don’t need to say a big chunk of my extended family is conservative. Not a peep out of any of them. Granted, the pandemic is a bit of a distraction right now so it could be argued they are distracted. However, I’ve yet to see a single one mention how terrible Trump has been on handling this crisis. We’ve now lost a family member who was exposed in a hospital for an unrelated illness and still not a peep. Granted, a big chunk of them also don’t vote so I guess there is a silver lining there.

I’m just so ashamed of my fellow man and the apathy demonstrated by so many in regards to our declining way of life. The system is crumbling and when it crashes it will be too late to ask questions.

Hope springs eternal…

  1. Even though he issued far fewer than his previous republican predecessors []
  2. And yet, we ended up with less regulation on guns as a law banning assault rifles, passed by a republican president and a republican controlled congress with the full support of the NRA, was not renewed. []

Mask 4 Mask

First, I hope you are all safe and sound. If you are reading this I assume you are at least in a position to be ok. Keep up with the social distancing and if you are going to cover your face, please pay attention.

I’ve been a vocal proponent of people NOT wearing masks from the beginning of the outbreak. The primary reason is they offer little protection to the wearer and most people contaminate or negate any protections given by wearing a mask. More importantly, masks are in such short supply the people who need them most cannot get them. If all the healers are sick and you get sick, who will treat you? I work in public safety and I cannot stress this enough! And, unless you are already required to wear an N95 mask, you most likely will not benefit from wearing one.

Experts and the CDC were against recommending masks for many of the reasons I’m about to go into below. However, because of updated info they have now changed that recommendation. There is one reason for this change. A large percentage of people can have little to no symptoms. These folks can be mass spreaders of the virus without even realizing it.1

  • If you are going to wear a mask or face covering, you are doing so to protect others from you. You are not protecting yourself. It might make you feel better but you shouldn’t let your guard down. Droplets contaminated with the virus can pass right thru a face mask with relative ease. Plus, the longer you wear it, the more moisture builds up, which can inadvertently trap particles right in front of your mouth.
  • The goal is to prevent less particles from spewing into the air potentially infecting others. Combined with social distancing of 6 feet, a mask can be more effective than not wearing one, as long as you remember bullet point one above. The recommendation of 6 feet is based on the relative distance breath particles are expelled when a person coughs. People wearing masks often feel a sense of safety and are less likely to engage in proper social distancing. Please do not fall for this.
  • Do not rush out and try to buy masks if you don’t already have one. You can use a bandanna, scarf, or other dense piece of fabric. You can google “bandanna face mask” for several super quick and easy tips for converting a bandanna to a face mask. These are no more or less effective than the regular masks you see. Most people incorrectly assume clinical staff wear masks for self-protection. No. They wear them to prevent exposing the sick or injured to more potential illnesses.
  • Once on, do not adjust, touch, or otherwise move the mask unless you have just sanitized your hands. That means you don’t pull it down to talk. I see so many people doing this I just want to put head to desk over it.
  • If using fabric or a mask that can be washed, wash it often. The longer you go without changing or sanitizing it the higher the risk to yourself. As mentioned, moisture and particles build up on the mask the longer you wear it.

Please, for the love of crackers, do not rush out and wear N95 masks unless you are trained to properly wear one.2 Every single person I’ve personally seen wearing an N95 in public has contaminated it at least once while observing them. N95 masks (or those rated higher) are the only masks that offer YOU any sense of protection. But just like regular masks, they are only as good as the safeguards you observe.

  • RULE #1 N95 masks should only be touched by clean sanitized hands at all times. There are NO exceptions to this rule! Make sure your face is clean as well.
  • No beard or goatee. A small mustache can be worn but it is not recommended. The mask needs to make a seal on your face and cannot do so with hair on your face. Oh yeah, now I have your attention! lolol
  • If you have never worn an N95 mask please google the instructions on how to properly wear before attempting to do so. Once the mask is on, do not touch it for any reason unless you have thoroughly sanitized your hands. The moment you touch the mask to adjust it, move it, pull it up so you can speak, you have negated any protection it offers you. You might as well take it off. Please also review how to properly sanitize the mask if you plan to reuse it.

You should never wear a mask more than one day unless you have sanitized it. Reusable masks are an extremely high risk vector for exposure. Wash yo damn hands! And if you cover your face I hope my recommendations help. Yes, I know folks want to wear them so they don’t touch their face. Trust me, I know! I constantly touch my face. I’m with you. However, having a false sense of safety doesn’t actually protect you or others.

I leave you with well wishes and safety for you and yours.

  1. The parallels from the latter to HIV transmission is not lost on me here. []
  2. Or if you wear a mask for other health reasons on a regular basis []