//Masks for Dummies XXII

Masks for Dummies XXII

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

Dearest reader, about two years ago, we started this Masks for Dummies (MFD) ad hoc column series. We did that because we needed and truly wanted to do our part in the effort to save lives in our community during a deadly pandemic—plain and simple. And, because of you, we made a difference. Thank you.

But it’s not what you think. Our battle wasn’t against this horrible SARS-CoV-2 virus—no—instead, our struggle was with the disinformation and fake news surrounding this pernicious SARS-CoV-2. 

And there’s been too many casualties.

Let’s face it; there are a lot of dumb people out there. And, especially back at the beginning of the pandemic, there were even more. This series is dedicated to them. But unfortunately, we lost a lot of them in this epic coronavirus war—a war waged on the battlefields of social community spaces where modern humans and their fancy technology congregate. But their fancy technology couldn’t save them against their archnemesis, the infinitesimal spiked infectious protein bag of RNA – the coronavirus. 

To date, over 993,717 dear Americans have died because of Covid after 81,358,000 coronavirus infections.

Last month, I had predicted that we’d already hit one million deaths by the end of April. Thank God I was wrong. 

Thankfully, our current Covid infection rate and death toll have declined. According to a recent interview by Dr. Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the United States is “certainly, right now, in this country, out of the pandemic phase.” 

What does this mean?

“Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now. So if you’re saying, are we out of the pandemic phase in this country? We are,” Dr. Fauci explained.

But, what does this not mean?

Well, it does not mean that the pandemic is over. Read that again. We’re still in it.

Just ask the friends and family of the 26 poor souls here in Fresno County since last month who recently lost their battle with Covid. We’re still in it. They know it’s still dangerous. Since last month, we’ve had about 2,268 new Covid infections—a 1% increase, about 77 new infections each day.

Dr. Fauci clarified what he meant: “We’re not over the pandemic. Don’t let anybody get the misinterpretation that the pandemic is over, but what we are in is a different phase of the pandemic—A phase that’s a transition phase, hopefully headed toward more of a control where you can actually get back to some form of normality without total disruption of society, economically, socially, school-wise, etc.,” he said.

Last month, I shared what Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra had to say about our progress: “Right now, it appears that the numbers are under control,” he reassured the county. However, he emphasized, “people should keep in mind that could change. We have to be agile and flexible. We understand how things could get worse because we’ve been there before…”  

Dr. Fauci has shared the same sentiment. He pointed out: “So what we need to do is continue to be vigilant, to follow the CDC guidelines, to do the kinds of things that protect you: get vaccinated, if you’re not vaccinated; get boosted if you’re eligible for a boost. If you do get infected, be aware that there is availability of antivirals.”

Thankfully, we are now at a final stage of the pandemic where sweeping government mandates do not overpower individual choice. There was a time when mandates were crucial to preserving life. But today, we have the virus under better control thanks to our technological advances in vaccines and respirator masks. Dr. Fauci acknowledged: “In general, the risk is low,” but he cautioned: “Each of us, in our own personal way, has to make an assessment of what risk you’re willing to accept about getting infected.”

The virus is still out there. Don’t be mistaken. The difference now is that we have the weapons of protection—vaccines and respirator masks—more readily available and accessible to combat it. But, if we don’t use these weapons, then we remain as vulnerable as ever. So don’t be fooled into thinking you’re naturally invincible to Covid when you’re definitely not. As Drs. Fauci and Vohra have advised that we need to tread carefully around the coronavirus and take every precaution against it.

After almost two grueling years of writing about it, I have to tell you I’m still so excited about masks—respirator masks. Of course, I’m talking about the N95 lifesaving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that we’ve been discussing for over 22 consecutive installments. They save lives! As you already know, N95s (and other similar models) filter out about 95% of all tiny particulate matter when properly worn, making them highly effective in keeping tiny particles like the coronavirus out of your airways. They work.

It’s the design that makes all the difference. And we have Sara Little Turnbull to thank for it. Called “Little Sara” for short and “corporate America’s secret weapon,” this powerful little woman, standing at only 4’11,” was the brilliant designer and innovator behind this lifesaving tool. You may have wondered what the shape of the N95 respirator resembles or what it was designed after. It looks like a round cup. Wonder no more—it was shaped after Little Sara’s prototype for her bra cups. How creative!

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention and innovation. But, not only that—having heart is an essential part of the equation. Little Sara realized that doctors and nurses needed better facial protection at hospitals. She had the heart to do something about it. We’re all indebted to her.

I’m a dummy for a mask like that.

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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.