Mask-less

I ran a small experiment on FB the other day to prove an idea. I asked, “Why did you trust the CDC recommendation to wear a mask but don’t trust them now saying it’s ok not to wear one?1 And it worked in favor of the discussion that the CDC under trump was constantly being meddled with but is now being run based on the science with no interference from the Biden HHS appointee.

The answers were varied but pretty much what I expected. A common thread was many would continue “out of an abundance of caution.” And to be clear, I’m not trying to shame anyone or even be judgmental. My thoughts couldn’t be further from that. You should do what makes you feel safe. It did validate my theory though. Human beings have a hard time updating their moral/ethical standards. They do not adapt well to standards that changes too quickly. It cuts to the core of how we process our reality. When the idea of right and wrong changes too quickly many people develop of sense of disbelief. This disbelief can lead to fear, anger, shock, judgment, and/or even a larger disconnect from the world around them. When you add in a lack of knowledge (willful or otherwise), religion, or other biases it only serves to increase the disconnect.

Just as one example, look how many gay men fought the idea of PrEP.2 PrEP has been around for years now and has consistently and repeatedly proven to be a better preventative measure to the spread of HIV than condoms. However, there are still contingents within the community who know better. The latter is often based more on biases and personal judgment than science, but that isn’t the point today. The triggers are deeper than than. After 3 decades of having the idea that “safe sex is sex with a condom” pounded into our heads, many men (and women) simply can’t process the idea of it suddenly not being applicable anymore. I see it more in older gay men, many of which witnessed the agony and suffering caused by AIDS and it’s devastation on our community. To wake up one day and be told, “condoms are fine but bareback is now perfectly fine IF you use this drug” simply does not compute. In our brains, we “know” what works. We understand the simple idea of placing a barrier between ourselves and others as a form of protection. The idea of removing that physical barrier we can see in favor of a drug treatment barrier3 just “seems wrong” to many.

Another common answer was people “couldn’t trust others to be honest about their vaccination status.” That is an admirable approach; however, why is it your responsibility to protect those who are willfully ignorant or refuse to get vaccinated, especially since we don’t do this for other vaccinations? Why is this one suddenly different? Is it really caution or the disbelief in a suddenly changing moral standard? Hmmm? And looking at the risk, it is no longer an equal equation. We collectively make a social contract to protect each other by each person respectively doing their part. When it was equal you saw me constantly encouraging folks to wear their masks and social distance. I’m all about harm reduction. As a vaccinated person I’m not really keeping anyone else safer now by wearing my mask.4  As an unvaccinated person, you should continue to wear your mask and avoid overly crowded places. However, if you refuse to get vaccinated, it is no longer an equal equation and you are shifting the burden onto others. The social contract is broken.

If you are still worried for yourself due to other health issues that is certainly ok. Again, at no point is this discussion meant to dissuade anyone from doing what they feel is right for themselves.

Vaccinations are readily available almost everywhere in the US now and availability is increasing every day. Vaccinations are free and you can now get a free Uber/Lyft ride to your local vaccination sites. You have no excuse not to get vaccinated. We have so many doses of the vaccines now we are sending them to other countries still in dire need.

The last popular argument was a lack of trust in the CDC over pressure to reopen. I do think the CDC feels some pressure to ‘open up’ society, but not at the expense of a rising death toll. They know some will still become infected and potentially even die. However, our safe guards are about harm reduction. From a medical viewpoint, we will have to COVID in our lives for years to come. The degree of danger from it is lower every day now. We have reached an important threshold, even at just 50% immunity. Our emergency response systems, including hospitals, are unlikely to be overwhelmed by new patients. It is likely we will eventually reach over 60% of the country being vaccinated, 70% if we are lucky. And while still below the “herd immunity” threshold, that just means, as alluded above,  we will end up with yearly booster shots, much like the flu virus. It could be with us indefinitely due to variants or just a few years until we reach a real herd immunity. Eventually, those not vaccinated are likely to contract it. They could also suffer reinfection from variants, but again much like the flu, they are less likely to be hospitalized or die after surviving a first infection.

There are always other health variables for an individual to consider, so you should do what makes you feel safe. For myself, I trust the science and am comfortable with my decision to go mask-less where it is allowed. I think many of us aren’t really worried as much as we are conflicted on an evolving standard.

  1. If you came here from the FB post, thanks for your response. []
  2. Pre-Exposure Prophylactic []
  3. that many often do not understand completely []
  4. Yes, there are exceptions but those are in the small minority. []

Assignment

I got my final orders today. I return to my main job on July 5th. What the hell am I talking about? Well, let me ‘esplain’. I’ve been assigned to records production for my department for the last 5 years. It is a voluntary assignment we bid for and I was fortunate to be selected, but now that assignment is ending. In my assignment we handle subpoenas for criminal/civil litigation, freedom of information requests, human service agency requests, and various other types of requests for records relating to dispatch.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it but my biggest struggle has been the hours. When I originally signed up, the hours were more to my liking. Due to the typical broken internal communication of civil service, I discovered after I was reassigned my hours would be earlier and longer than originally planned. If you read here with any sense of regularity, you know I am NOT a morning person. More astutely, I’m not an early to bed person. To be fair, I could have declined the assignment once I discovered the error; however, I had already made a commitment and I really needed a break from operations. I decided to stick it out. I could have also pushed for different hours from my counterpart in the office. That would have most likely led to friction and an uneven work load. I didn’t want friction or drama and I got lucky in that I get along really well with the other person assigned to records. I’m fond of saying, “we get along like two peas in a pod”.

There have been some great perks to the assignment. The work is tedious but not hard at all. It becomes routine pretty fast. We do have a manager but we are mostly left to ourselves. We are experts in our assignment and no one in our department can really match our knowledge base. Perhaps the biggest perk is the flexibility with my daily schedule. I will definitely miss that. My normal schedule can be very rigid and getting time off can also be very hard due to staffing shortages. In my assignment, I only need to make sure my coworker can cover for me or isn’t taking the same time off. If we finish our work early on a given day, we can take discretionary time and leave early. If we need money we can work overtime on the floor at our choosing. For myself, if I want to go the gym mid day I can. I just need to ensure I still put in the required workday hours before I go home. I can’t workout on the City’s dime obviously. That would be really rude, not to mention unethical. And we go out of our way to ensure our hours are properly accounted for and tracked. But yeah, the flexibility has been nice. I’ve also learned a lot. Knowledge is power and the more you have the better you are at making good decisions. I know so much more about the inner and outer workings of my department and my own work now.

All that aside, I am ready to go back though. Shawn is surprised I would rather go back to handling emergencies vs keeping a nice comfy office gig. And I can see how that might sound, but I didn’t sign up to be a general clerk cranking out paperwork all day. It has been a much needed break, but that is over. He also tends to think I’ll hate going back to my normal job as I routinely bitch about calls I deal with in my current assignment. In my regular job taking phone calls is my job. So while it can be stressful, I still feel productive. On my assignment taking calls is a distraction from my work so it is way more frustrating. It may some conflicting, but in my mind it is clearly defined. I love that he worries for me though. And it isn’t like a I have a choice anyway. My assignment is up, it is someone else’s turn. My replacement has already started.

The one good thing about dispatch is never worrying about what’s on my plate. When I’m in Ops, I do not think about work until I show up. And when I leave, it is forgotten until I return. In records, I find myself often worried about incoming work, how much work is on my desk, etc. Every time I get a news alert for a major crime or incident in the city, I audibly groan knowing my next work day is going to be overly busy. I am definitely looking forward to having that care-free attitude when I’m not at work.

I decided to go back on my old shift, which was 1500-2300 hours (3pm to 11pm). I have seniority so I still get weekends. I can actually pull weekend days off on any shift I choose now. Better still, no more alarm clock and no more feeling rushed every day on a 10-hour shift. I can go to the gym without feeling rushed and I sleep in as needed. It is amazing what that 2 hours in a day can make. I didn’t realize it but the shift combined with the very early hours was damaging my emotional well-being. I rarely want to travel or do things on weekends. Shawn gets credit for basically dragging me places he wants to visit. I just never feel motivated to do much at all beyond local events. And being in SF can leave you a bit spoiled as we have so many events here every year. The pandemic only made it worse as I got really complacent with my video games. I think the only reason I still have an ass I can measure is I had cut out most carbs right before the pandemic hit.

As I return to a schedule I really want, I am hope to get some of that eagerness and excitement back outside of work. Ironic, I know but I’m excited. If it ever affects how Shawn and I spend time together, I would of course reevaluate it, but for now I’m looking forward to it.

Optimisitic

First, thank you to the folks who reached out to me after my last post. I wasn’t down or depressed. I find talking about it quite therapeutic. It was on my mind so I put pen to paper, so to speak. But, yes I’m doing well.

I’ve found myself feeling optimistic again lately. It helps that we are back in the gym again…again. I feel like we’ve crossed a major hurdle now and we are over the worst of this pandemic. The supply is now on track and a 3rd vaccine just got an EUA.1 It is my prediction we won’t see anymore severe lockdowns, at least here in California. Hopefully, my words bear out to be true.

Speaking of the gym, after the first severe lockdown and they sorted out a tier system, I had the roughest time getting back into a solid gym routine. Ironically, right when I found my stride they got shut down again. We’ve been back at it for a couple weeks now and this time it wasn’t as hard. It was a shorter break but I was surprised I didn’t need the extra weeks to build back endurance. The weight I’m slinging is still much lower, but it feels good to be back.

Fun fact, the government will not mandate the vaccine. Vaccines released under EUA aren’t eligible for mandatory vaccination orders. While I trust the sciences, EUAs are designed to allow for immediate use while study continues. However, that does not mean you won’t see restrictions on day to day activities from private companies. You may end up having to show proof to go back to in-person work, fly, or return as an adult to college, etc.

Locally, we are moving into the Red Tier this week. Red is still restrictive but a lot of businesses, including restaurants, get to re-open at limited capacity.  New cases have been below 100 per day for almost two weeks now and available ICU beds are way up. It seems people in general are more optimistic and looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, as vaccinations rise, we will ease back to normal by year end. I’ve even seen some big events toward the end of the year start planning for in person gatherings.

For myself, I miss hugging. Such a small thing but I miss it. Sure, I miss traveling. I miss the ease of just “doing things”, but it’s the little things I miss the most. I miss the casual intimacy that comes from being close to people you know. I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

As always, hope springs eternal…

  1. Emergency Use Authorization []

“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. []