//Masks for Dummies pt. XIV

Masks for Dummies pt. XIV

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

It seems like everything is getting worse.

The hospitals are jam-packed with unvaccinated Covid patients so much so that typically treatable emergencies are turning deadly.  Take, for example, 46-year-old Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Daniel Wilkinson. He was rushed to a Texas hospital after feeling sick. Yet, he could not get the simple 30-minute surgery he needed to remove a gallstone because there were no rooms available.  And so he died – of gallstone pancreatitis.

His doctor said, “I’ve never lost a patient from this diagnosis, ever – I’m scared that the next patient that I see is someone I can’t get to where they need to get to go. We are playing musical chairs, with 100 people and 10 chairs….” 

Wilkinson’s dear mother put it into perspective when she said, “My wonderful son Daniel Wilkinson took his last breath today a 1:37 pm… After all he went through in Afghanistan, a little gallstone took him out.”

But it didn’t have to be that way.

At this point in the Covid-19 pandemic, we shouldn’t have hospitals overrun by desperate Covid patients fighting for their lives – we have a life-saving vaccine readily available.  It makes no sense!

Here in Fresno, the Covid situation is dire.  

Fresno County emergency medical services coordinator Dan Lynch says, “If I had to describe the healthcare system in the region, it’s in a state of paralysis. We are in worse condition today … than we were in the highest point of December and January. … In my 26 years in this position, we’ve never had to transfer patients out of our area because of sheer volume – That is the condition that we’re in right now.” 

Last month, we had about 105,000 total Covid infections in Fresno.  At the time this article was written, we had 113,854.  And, since then, 26 additional Fresnans have died.  May they all rest in peace.  Last month, 613,000 Americans died of the coronavirus.  That number is now 639,006 dear souls.  

This pandemic is not over.  In fact, at our current rate of vaccination and mask-wearing, a University of Washington model forecasts an additional 100,000 American deaths by December 1st.  And, worst-case scenario, another 71,000 dead on top of that. But, of course, that is if all vaccinated Americans stop wearing their masks.  On the other hand, a best-case scenario won’t happen unless 95% of the population wears their masks. If our nation could do that, the projection for December 1st is reduced to 50,000 additional deaths rather than 71,000.  The numbers are still bleak, but it shows us something important that we have already known: masks save lives.

And, we’ve been talking about this since the beginning.

It’s incredible how controversial and political wearing a mask has become, though.  Sure, there has always been pushback by crazy coronavirus deniers. Still, even when infections and deaths began to rise steadily, and people could see the imminent danger all around them, many refused to wear a mask. 

You’ve seen in the news how the mere mention of mask mandates is horribly dividing communities all over the country.  It has become a very heated topic, especially when it concerns our kids going back to school.  California got so mad at its governor over his mandates that they mounted a gubernatorial recall.  

On the other end of the spectrum, Florida Governor Ron Desantis banned masks in school in July. Although the courts rejected his order, the Florida Department of Education recently withheld funds from the school districts that kept their mask mandates in place. The department’s action fell in line with the governor’s mission of making Florida maskless. In addition, his reelection campaign is selling T-shirts that say: “Don’t Fauci My Florida.”  

Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran had this to say about the extreme action, “We’re going to fight to protect parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for their children. They know what is best for their children.”

Really?  Since when did parents become health experts who “know what is best” for their kids? 

Instead, we should listen to our medical experts and not deceive ourselves thinking we know more about SARS-CoV-2 than the experts.  Children are susceptible to Covid too, and this new Delta strain is nothing but trouble.  In mid-August, a record-high number of children were hospitalized across the country because of Covid. Over 1,900 children made up about 2.4% of all Covid hospitalizations.

Sally Goza, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wants everyone to know, “This is not last year’s COVID. This one is worse, and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most.” 

We’re living in a time of misinformation and fake news, where the real deadly emergent virus attacks our social trust in our medical experts and leaders.  Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra made this clear when he said, “It’s just another symptom of the ‘infodemic’… In the same way that Covid presents with a constellation of symptoms, this information pandemic that we’re struggling with also presents with a constellation of symptoms – people doubt the layers of protection. They doubt the efficacy of the vaccines, and they seek out alternative and unproven cures. They express skepticism whenever the leaders of the hospitals are telling them that hospitals are at or over capacity.”

“Unfortunately,” Dr. Vohra warns, “until we can convince everyone about the veracity of what we are expressing, we’re going to be losing lives… That’s what’s heartbreaking … By the time we convince the skeptics, it may be too late for themselves or their families.”

Dear readers, let’s lead by example by getting vaccinated and wearing our masks.  Our community and country are depending on us.


I. smiley G. Calderón is a Gen X Chicano and lifelong educator who spent a career in academia in Southern California but is most proud of being a father.