The Mask Evolution/Revolution

I first felt the winds of change when I went to order my favorite Athleta Made to Move Masks. And found out these were so popular that they sold out and there is nothing on the website about them coming back.  You can still buy one on Ebay for about $37. I have a feeling that retailers are quickly pivoting away from masks

We already had a shift in the recommendations for wearing masks outdoors.  It seems like the science is saying that contracting COVID from a casual outdoor encounter (unless you are in a crowd) is not bloody likely.

Earlier this week, Dr. Fauci, in his usual foreshadowing, said it might be time to ‘relax indoor mask mandates’. I think many people interpreted his ‘might be time’ to ‘rip this puppy off my face now’!

Just as he foreshadowed, CDC changed their indoor mask recommendations yesterday:

  • If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

Our governor just adopted this same guidance, meaning there is no longer a statewide mask mandate in Washington state. However, local boards of health still have the authority to mandate masks for their jurisdiction. Businesses can as well (that is going to be a tough enforcement issue).

I am flying to Montana next week for a road trip with one of my best chums.  She told me that her county just rescinded their mandatory mask rule.  Mask wearing is strongly recommended, but there is no mandate.  During the last legislative session in Montana, a law was passed that weakens the authority of local boards of health.  So, if COVID starts to increase and hospitals fill up, a local board of health no longer has the authority to re-issue a mask mandate. 

As the summer travel season gets underway, I will be surprised if I see many masks indoors or out, since a recommendation lacks the teeth of a mandate.

As I’ve said before, there is no way of knowing if the unmasked people you now come across are vaccinated or not. So if you aren’t vaccinated and want to stay safe, you can’t rely on masks anymore. This is yet another reason to get vaccinated ASAP if you have not already done so.

As my girlfriend says, it is the ‘wild west’ out there and not just in Montana!

I will be back on Monday.

Allene

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Masks Outdoors Redux

EVERYONE has heard about the new mask guidelines from CDC and has their own opinion. 

For people who were off the grid last week, the CDC guidelines have been modified so that fully vaccinated people only need to mask up outdoors if they are in ‘crowds’.  And for those not vaccinated, mask wearing is no longer essential for solo/same household outdoor activities or small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family and friends.

I have been considering these new guidelines – which are being pitched a bit to get more people vaccinated – I’m down with that strategy!

Reality is a bit different.  The New York Times did a good article describing the ‘conundrum’.

We were in downtown Seattle on Friday.  The streets weren’t crowded, but almost everyone was wearing a mask.  We were in downtown Tacoma on Saturday and there was a lot of people on some kind of a scavenger hunt (?) and hardly anyone was wearing a mask. 

I also took a hike in Pt Defiance last week and most people weren’t wearing masks on the trail, but some were.  I saw a guy running a good clip wearing what looked to be a N-95 mask.  He clearly met the age eligibility for vaccine early on.  I can’t imagine running with a N-95!

Speaking of vaccinated, I imagine there is a fair amount of overlap between ‘anti-maskers’ and ‘anti-vaxxers’.  So seeing people without masks at outdoor gatherings and outdoor restaurants isn’t that reassuring!  I continue to feel for the servers and hope they are getting vaccinated quickly.

So what I am going to do differently?  The answer is probably not a lot.  I will still wear masks in most outdoor settings unless I am with my FVF (fully vaccinated family/friends).  I haven’t worn a mask when I am exercising because I chose routes that allow me to swerve for oncoming ‘traffic’. And I will carry a mask with me when I am outdoors because I think it is both prudent and polite.  It is prudent for times when crowds appear and polite to put it on when encountering a fellow ‘masker’.

Not only that, but masking:

“Saves me having to put on sunscreen and wear lipstick,”

Sara J. Becker, an associate professor at the Brown University School of Public Health

See you on Wednesday!

Allene

COVID 19 Vaccine – Part 1

I started this week wishing I were 70 so I would be eligible for COVID 19 vaccine.

The earth moved on Monday. 

Our governor lowered the eligible age for vaccine to 65+, consistent with the new federal recommendations. 

My husband, bless him, got right on it!  He managed to figure out how to access vaccine appointments through our provider, the University of Washington.  We used their medical record system to make our appointments and it worked slick.  We are set for shots on Monday. My appointment is at 7:15 AM.

We are still on pins and needles for a couple of reasons. 

The first being the fear of a cancellation because they won’t have the vaccine they need on Monday and will put us in the rescheduling queue.  The second fear is that snow is in the forecast, wouldn’t you know it!  Seattle grinds to a halt with a flake or two.  And we need to get to Harborview, which is near downtown Seattle. 

We have come up with a snow solution.  There is a (somewhat fancy) pet friendly hotel near the hospital. We figure if the forecast comes true, we will treat ourselves to a night.  We will trudge through the snow on Monday AM if needed. 

NOTHING WILL STOP US FROM GETTING VACCINATED!

I will do a report back post-vaccine with the scoop.

Before I leave you for the week, I want to touch on masks again.  I am like a broken record!  We know that there are more contagious variants out there and they are becoming common.  We need to be scrupulous about our mask wearing and physical distancing.  This isn’t time for complacency. 

Europe is now recommending medical grade masks, such as N-95 or surgical masks, for the public.  This is in response to the more contagious variants and because supplies have improved there. They don’t think the homemade cloth masks are going to cut it.

Still, the World Health Organization advises that medical masks be restricted to medical workers, people who have coronavirus symptoms, those coming into contact with them, and those who are over 60 or at high risk. It recommends fabric masks for the general public.

It is still a source of great frustration that we don’t have a robust PPE supply in the U.S.  I was able to order 3 ply medical grade disposal masks from Amazon.  We need to up our game because we are over 60 and high risk.

Here is hoping that the new administration can turn things around.  But as the President said on Thursday, it is going to get worse before it gets better!

Stay safe and I will see you on Monday.

Allene

Mask ‘Sloppiness’!

OK, here is my total pet peeve.  Almost everyone around here wears a mask, but many people wear them ‘sloppily’.

It just isn’t that hard to cover both your nose and your mouth with your mask, not just your mouth. And masks don’t belong around your neck! CDC first recommended face coverings in public almost 9 months ago.  It is frustrating that people still don’t wear them at all or don’t bother to wear them correctly.

Here is a link to a great poster from CDC with the scoop on masks.  It includes these tips:

  • Put the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Don’t put it around your neck or up on your forehead
  • Don’t touch it on your face
  • After you take it off, wash your hands
  • Wash the mask after wearing

I think most people know that there are some far more contagious variants of the coronavirus out there.  And we just learned that more than 50% of the COVID 19 cases are a result of asymptomatic spread.  The only defense we have until vaccine is more widely available is proper mask wearing, along with physical distancing and handwashing.

I am going to call out Kroger’s in this post and not in a good way.  I was at our local Kroger’s store the other day.  I usually go early so I can avoid a crowd.  That morning so many of the staff were lax about their masks by not covering their nose, wearing their masks around their neck, and by wearing single layer bandanas, etc.  If I could have found a manager, I would have raised hell (I was reduced to submitting a terse comment on their website)!  Grocery store workers are essential and at high risk of exposure.  Wouldn’t you think the store would work to ensure a safer environment for their workers and customers by providing appropriate masks for their employees and making sure they are worn properly?  I also think grocery store employees should continue to get enhanced pay but that is another story.

Despite nearly universal mask wearing, in King County over the past 14 days there have been (as of 1/9/21):

  • 6,809 positive tests
  • 290 hospitalizations
  • 61 deaths 

I have to wonder if mask ‘sloppiness’ might be allowing some COVID 19 spread and a contributor to the numbers?

See you on Wednesday and wear the damn mask………correctly!

Allene

P.S. The picture on today’s blog was taken before the Seahawks were trounced by the Rams

2020 in the Rearview Mirror!

Like many of you, I am happy to say goodbye to the last 12 months.   

In December 2019, there were reports of a new virus emerging in Wuhan, China.  I had never even heard of Wuhan before.  In 12 short months that new virus, which causes COVID 19, has killed 1.8+ million people worldwide!

I am relieved that we have vaccines to add to the arsenal and am not surprised by the slow roll out.  It is tough to vaccinate front line health care workers because of their schedules, shifts and overall workload.  You don’t get to close a hospital to vaccinate staff!

I am worried about the new variants emerging and hope I am worrying for no reason.  I think the only thing we can do is practice the 3 W’s: watch your distance, wear a mask and wash your hands.  And get vaccinated as soon as your number is called.

My friend, JP, shared this article with me. It ranks the risks of various activities for COVID 19.  The lowest risk activity is taking a walk outside, medium risk activities include getting your hair done and staying at a hotel, the highest risk are visiting your local bar and hanging out with a sick person.

I don’t want this to be a totally ‘down’ post as we ring in the new year.  There is always room for gratitude and optimism as we step into 2021.  From a public health perspective:

  • Influenza activity is way down – our COVID prevention measures work to prevent the flu too.  And lots of people got vaccinated this year.  Yay!
  • While it is slow going right now, we do have vaccines and they are getting into people most at risk.
  • Barring some craziness on January 6th, we should have a new administration staffed with competent public health leaders to help us all navigate the uncertain path forward.
  • While there is still a lot to learn, we know way more about coronavirus than we did 12 months ago!
  • We still have (a newly vaccinated) Anthony Fauci!

I am also grateful for many things in my life, including my husband, family, friends, ZOOM, my health (fingers crossed), state and local public health workers, and the people who take time out of their day to read my blog!

Happy New Year to all of you.

I am off to take a walk outside, the lowest risk activity for COVID exposure and the one that keeps me sane!

As we roll into 2021, stay safe, stay healthy and keep moving!

I will be back on Monday.

Allene