I don’t know why I am even having to write this post. File this under ‘common sense 101‘ or ‘how to not be an asshole‘ or even ‘how to be a decent human, for dummies.’ For those of you with halfway evolved frontal lobes, don’t feel like you have to read any further.
Since the middle of March when Covid-19 struck the midwest, I have been either at home or at work. Period. A couple of times I’ve gone to sonic to pick up food for the kids, but otherwise I haven’t ventured out. When I’m at work, I spend all day in a mask. I sit at my desk with a mask on, I see patients with a mask on, I walk the halls with a mask on, I even take the stairs to the 11th floor of the hospital with a mask on. Sure it’s not the most comfortable accessory ever, but it’s necessary (as in supported by evidence) and it’s more than tolerable. It also hides my perpetual coffee breath and covers anything stuck in my teeth or protruding from my nose.
So you can imagine my utter shock when I ran a couple of errands this week and observed a significant number of people out and about without masks on. Danny confirmed that when he goes grocery shopping, fewer than half of the people shopping are wearing masks. So…this has caused much contemplation on my part as to how this could be possible. My perseveration has lead me to draw some conclusions about the non-mask-wearing population and caused me to assume that they fall into three categories:
#1. The ignorant. If you are not wearing a mask, you must be living under a rock, without access to television, the internet or social media. This is the only reasonable explanation for not wearing a mask. It is unlikely that anyone who falls into this category is reading my obscure little blog. But…if you just emerged from the dark ages and stumbled into some wifi, congratulations! Here’s what you need to know:
– WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC! NEARLY 100,000 Americans have died already.
– The nasty little virus that is causing this $hi# show is called SARS-CoV-2. The disease state that it causes is referred to as Covid-19.
– You could be an asymptomatic carrier of SARS-CoV-2, which means that you could feel perfectly fine, but still transmit the virus to other people.
– Avoiding other people, washing your hands and wearing a mask are the best ways to reduce your chance of spreading the virus (and becoming infected yourself).
-Wearing masks has become super controversial (I know…weird, right?), but there is strong evidence to support that doing so protects others from the virus. You can read more here, you know…now that you’re all internet savvy.
#2. The not so smart. If you are not wearing a mask and you do not fall into category #1, you might not be very smart. You may lack the minimum intelligence to understand the logic and reason put forth that clearly explains why mask-wearing is essential…and for this I am sorry. As the wisdom of the ages would suggest, you can’t fix stupid. But here…I’ll try…call me an optimist. Research has demonstrated, very clearly, that wearing masks decreases the spread of the virus. The last time I checked, this is what we were all hoping for. Please let me know if something has changed. It’s not hard. Wear a mask—>decrease the spread of disease—>decrease the number of sick people—>decrease the number of dead people. If you don’t get this…you’re dumb. Find a smarter person to help supervise you.
3#. The assholes. If you are not wearing a mask and you don’t fall into category #1 or #2, the only other explanation is that you are an asshole…or maybe a narcissist…probably both. You are aware that we are in a pandemic and that nearly 100,000 Americans have already died. You are aware that nearly one third of the population may be asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2. You understand that you may very well be an asymptomatic carrier, and that an effective way for you to prevent spreading it to someone else is by wearing a mask. You are able to extrapolate that if fewer people are infected, then fewer people will die…and the converse, if more people are infected, then more people will die. You have listened to and understand the data (because you’re not dumb), but you continue to show up in stores and restaurants and doctors’ offices and whatever other venue you choose without a mask. And the only possible explanation for why you do this is that you are an asshole.
If there are other explanations for this anti-mask/anti-human/anti-reason behavior, I would love to hear them. But know that if I see you in a store, and I can see both your nose and your mouth, I will be forced to make an assumption about you.
To address some FAQ about masks:
Why was the initial recommendation not to wear masks?
– Excellent question – at the beginning of the pandemic, we didn’t understand the significance of the asymptomatic carrier. There wasn’t strong evidence to support that wearing a mask protected the mask-wearer, so it wasn’t advised. Now we understand that if an asymptomatic carrier wears a mask, they are much less likely to spread it to others. Game changer.
Will I build up CO2 and die from wearing a mask?
– Nope. If surgeons, anesthesiologists, scrub nurses and this girl can wear a mask all day, you can wear one to run into Target for 20 minutes.
Now, I’m back on the Covid team for the next three weeks. Our numbers have been declining, likely due to the social distancing measures that have been implemented. However, these restrictions have been loosened over the past several days and we are expecting to see cases increase as a result of this. So please, if you are venturing out, don’t be ignorant, don’t be stupid, and don’t be an asshole. Wear a freaking mask.
Your friendly palliative care doctor who doesn’t want to watch any more people die of Covid-19.
Quick acknowledgement: The above sentiments are not intended for people who have significant anxiety or underlying medical conditions that would preclude them from wearing a mask. I would, however, encourage those who are unable to wear masks safely to continue with strict social distancing and not go into public places where you would be at risk of acquiring Covid-19.