//Masks for Dummies pt. XIII
Man wearing a face mask

Masks for Dummies pt. XIII

By I. smiley G. Calderón | smileygcalderon@gmail.com

Sadly, as you can see by now, dear reader, the coronavirus is still doing its nasty thing.

It’s hijacking your beautiful, healthy human cells and rapidly replicating inside of them like the worst unruly squatter you could ever imagine. It’s destroying you everywhere it goes with its massive and resilient legion of advanced and highly evolved virions. Today’s coronavirus doesn’t play. Well, it never did. To date, it has killed over 613,000 Americans – friends and family members – people you know and love. Across the globe, it has cut short and stolen the lives of over 4.2 million people of all ages and races, from all walks of life – all in just a little over a year. And, here in Fresno County, California’s central valley county of about one million people, over 105,000 have been infected. That’s more than 10% of our population. And, of these infected, 1,744 of our dear friends and family have prematurely died because of it. As we’ve been saying all along: this is no joke.

Remember when we heard ignorant folks mocking us, trying to convince us that the coronavirus is ‘less dangerous’ or ‘less deadly’ than the flu? Yeah, I’m glad we didn’t listen to those idiots either.

Instead, what we did was take this viral threat seriously. We put aside partisan games and stupid politics, and we focused on the science. And, we quickly learned that, until the development of a vaccine, we all would have to make sure that everyone limited their contact with others. That meant in public spaces, or shelter-in-place, and cover and protect our airways – since that was the primary way the virus spreads, in the unseen air. This is why masks became so important.

And all of this all makes a lot of sense, right? It’s no conspiracy. No one is trying to take your freedoms or rights away with a mask. All we want to do is protect our airways – our nose and mouth. And, if you defend your airways too, we all could squash this virus in no time. Because if the coronavirus can’t spread from person to person, then the pandemic ends. Simple as that.

Now, of course, masks aren’t going to cure you of any sickness. Your mask won’t kill the coronavirus – or any virus or bacteria, for that matter. And since there is no cure for the coronavirus, the only thing we could do is try to isolate (shelter-in-place) and curtail its momentum (wear a mask). We can’t kill it, but we can stop it in its tracks – especially now, with our most effective defense against Covid: the vaccine. There are three different free vaccines available in the U.S., each developed by Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson. Studies show the highest vaccine efficacy rates are with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are RNA vaccines. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, and its efficiency rate is between 50-70%. Yet every vaccine fully protects against severe disease, which is a relief.

Because this new ‘super strain’ virus – called the ‘Delta’ strain – is a lot more transmissible and deadly than ever before. It is now the dominant strain in the U.S. and most of the new Covid cases. This ‘Delta’ variant is 60% more contagious than the earlier variant – ‘Alpha’ – that developed and emerged in the U.K. this past December. (If you haven’t yet realized, viruses replicate and evolve very, very rapidly).

Things are quickly getting out of hand. In fact, the ‘Alpha’ and ‘Delta’ strains are not the only new variant coronaviruses that are currently circulating our globe.

No, there’s a lot more.

For example, the ‘Beta’ strain developed out of South Africa last May and the ‘Gamma’ variant out of Brazil this past January. But, what do you know about the ‘Lambda’ variant out of Peru? (And, if there is a ‘Lambda’ variant, you know there are probably also ‘Eta,’ ‘Iota,’ and ‘Kappa’ variants too. Exactly). But don’t worry, when all 24 Greek letters are all used up, the WHO will be ready with a new coronavirus name game to keep track of all the variants that we are creating.

Wait – we are creating variants – what?

Yes – especially in places with no vaccine or any unified community effort to fight viral spread. For example, here in the U.S., we’re keeping the virus alive and well by allowing it to evolve among us freely. When we are not vaccinated and social distancing or wearing our masks in public – we unknowingly and inadvertently pass it to each other, and it gets faster and stronger. And more variants emerge. And more people get sick. And more people die. And this nightmare never stops.

WHO’s Health Emergency Program executive director Dr. Mike Ryan knows that more deadly coronavirus variants will emerge if we don’t take immediate action. (To be fair, they probably will still appear even if we do – but if we don’t, there will be much more suffering and death). This ‘Delta’ variant is “…faster, it is fitter, [and] it will pick off the more vulnerable more efficiently than previous variants,” Dr. Ryan warns. In addition, studies have shown that the ‘Delta’ variant produces a much greater viral load than any other coronavirus strain thus far – shedding about 1,000 times more viral particles than previous variants. That explains how it spreads so much more rapidly – making it the most dangerous strain to date.

But that’s only a matter of time. And viruses like time, you know.

All they want is a little bit of yours. At least, that’s all the coronavirus wanted from my two dear uncles who died from Covid this past month. Two great men with a whole lot more love and life in them – robbed of their precious time. But it didn’t have to be this way.

I dedicate this MFD installment to my tíos – but not only mine – to every tío and tía of yours, dear reader, who has fallen to this vicious viral enemy. Rest in peace, Que Dios les bendiga.

May we all get vaccinated now.

May we all continue to social distance as appropriate.

May we all continue to wear our masks as appropriate.

Until next time, friends.