//Masks for Dummies pt. XIX

Masks for Dummies pt. XIX

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

Dear reader, some people think the pandemic is essentially over with the worst already behind us. And then there are those who know the truth, those who work at the hospitals and morgues, those who have lost loved ones just last week – just yesterday – who understand that the destruction that Covid brings is still fresh and raw, with new coronavirus victims every day.  

Our current total national Covid mortality is 1.2%. Last month, it was 1.5%. This slight decrease is good news, but this doesn’t mean that SARS-CoV-2 isn’t dangerous or highly infectious. In fact, in the past month, we’ve had almost 19 million new reported Covid infections in the U.S. In Fresno, we’ve had about 53,371 new positive cases (we now have a total of 202,691 cases in our county). So, the contagiousness of the coronavirus hasn’t decreased at all. More and more people are getting sick. Instead, Covid’s severity seems less with the Omicron strain than with previous variants. 

In Fresno County, our total mortality statistic is also at 1.2% – right in line with our national trend.  

Our national and county total mortalities have decreased in the past month after experiencing decreases in mortality both across our nation and here in Fresno, with rates as low as 0.30% and 0.17%, respectively. 

This means that fewer people who tested positive for Covid died. If our mortality rates continue on this trajectory, we’ll have an even lower total mortality rate for next month – which is great. 

But it doesn’t mean that people aren’t getting sick.

Fewer people dying from Covid at this time can be reassuring – but why would fewer people be dying? (Let’s make sure we’re reassured for the right reasons) The first and foremost reason is vaccines. Without a doubt, the coronavirus vaccines are why we are seeing less disease severity and deaths at this time. So, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet – why are you waiting? Or, if you haven’t yet followed through with your booster vaccination – now is the time to go to your local pharmacy and request your free vaccination. You don’t want to be that one guy who everyone will reluctantly read about on their Facebook timeline, talking about “Gone too soon” and “Covid sucks” – when there is a free vaccination that could save you from Covid’s claws. 

You don’t want to gamble. Our nation has seen over 890K deaths because of Covid. The world has lost over 5.6 million.  

Another reason why Covid may be less severe is the precise mutations of the Omicron variant. We’ve talked about it before, and it’s not a mystery: organisms evolve over time and naturally adapt for better survivability and proliferation. The same thing goes for microscopic viruses. 

Their protein and RNA machinery rapidly evolve as they replicate and spread at incredible, nonhuman speeds. Since its emergence, the coronavirus has evolved to be a much more efficient and transmissible bug – a lot more contagious than all of its previous strains – and seemingly less severe. This is the Omicron variant. It’s why we’ve seen a considerable increase in positive infections.

I know that I said we could be seeing less deaths, but don’t forget about the 19 million new positive cases across the nation or the 53k new positive cases here in Fresno that happened in the past month too. That’s over 633,000 new positive cases every day for our country and over 1700 new infections every day here in Fresno. This crazy infection rate comes with a cost. We know that deaths lag infections (that is, people who’ve died from Covid didn’t die immediately when they got infected). It takes some time for the coronavirus to wreak its havoc in our bodies and eventually kill us. So, we may be seeing the mortality rate rise again next month because some of those who have just gotten sick with Covid may die in the next few weeks, sadly.

So, the truth is, we don’t know if the Omicron variant will take a turn for the worse and end up being the worst strain of them all. Omicron has already surpassed the previous dominant strain, Delta, in the total number of Covid deaths it has caused. Omicron has caused an average of 2,200 deaths per day, whereas Delta’s highest peak average was at 2,078. This is still less than the carnage caused by the earlier Alpha variant when 3,300 Americans died every day, but it’s not over. This pandemic is still raging.

And, it makes sense that there will be more Omicron deaths. We already know that Omicron is the most contagious of all the strains – everyone seems to be getting infected. Yet, those who are not fully vaccinated (including the third ‘booster’ dose) and have underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable. These are the people who Omicron is killing.

Throughout this Masks For Dummies (MFD) series, I’ve been saying that for every 100 Covid infections, about two people will die because of it in the U.S. – a 2% mortality. That’s what the data has shown us. 

And, in reality, that statistic still hasn’t changed. As mentioned at the beginning of this current MFD XIX installment, in the past thirty days or so, our national and county Covid mortality total was 1.2% – due to a simultaneous massive rise in infections with fewer or lagging deaths. 

But, Covid can’t kill 1.2 people. 

If it kills 1.2 people, it’s the same as killing 2 (people can’t just be divided up like fractions). So, even though Omicron appears to be milder, probably due to mass vaccination, it may actually be the worst. Who knows? What’s for sure, though, is that it won’t be the last. 

The coronavirus is still evolving, and other Variants of Concern (VOC) are still emerging.

When will all of this end – how can it end?

Well, the Covid vaccines are protecting us from severe disease and death – a modern technological triumph for humanity against such a formidable microscopic enemy, to be sure. But they don’t stop infection. The vaccines will still allow the coronavirus to continue to exist. This means that it will continue to infect, evolve, replicate, and propagate, potentially plaguing us indefinitely. That’s not sustainable. But what is?


They are critically effective in keeping virion particles from leaving the mouth or nose of an infected person and in keeping virions from entering the mouth or nose of an uninfected person. The most effective masks to use are the N95 or KN95 respirator types, as we’ve already discussed back in 2020. They were almost impossible to purchase and find at one time, and they weren’t too cheap, either. These kinds of masks are absolute lifesavers. But, not only that – they are also virus killers. We’ll go into more detail about these kinds of masks next time but just know for now that, since these N95 masks keep viruses from entering your major mucous membranes, viruses are left incapable of reproduction and will die off on the mask’s surface or in the bare environment – so long as it doesn’t get inside of us. That’s how we’re going to win this coronavirus war. 


Which is why I was so excited to learn about President Biden’s excellent action plan of giving Americans free N95s! Did you know that you can now go to any major participating pharmacy or health center and pick up three free respirator masks? This type of action is precisely what our country has needed for so long. I am incredibly thankful for this administration’s proactive science-based approach to fighting and defeating the coronavirus. You should be too. This mask giveaway, administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Health Center Covid-19 N95 Mask Program, and funded by the feds, is a real game-changer. Not only will it directly save lives by its use, but just the very existence of such a program demonstrates to the country that our leadership recognizes and stands behind the vital science of mask effectiveness. Finally.  

I see the light at the end of this dark tunnel…

Can’t you, dear reader?

I dedicate this MFD XIX installment to my grandmother, Esther Garza Gonzales, who just recently died of Covid. She will be dearly missed.