//Masks for Dummies XXI

Masks for Dummies XXI

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

When you take a good look at the verifiable world Covid data at reputable sources like Johns Hopkins, you can see the pandemic move across the globe in unique and interesting trends. For example, we are not doing too bad right now compared to the rest of the world. What do I mean?

In the past month, about a dozen other countries have experienced worse Covid infection spikes than the United States. Believe it or not, South Korea is doing the worst right now, with about 9.4 million new confirmed cases in just the past month alone. And Germany is runner-up with 5.7 million new cases, followed by Vietnam and then France, with 5.6 million and 2.8 million cases, respectively. We’ve had 879,750 new Covid cases here at home this past month. The hotspots right now across the globe are in Europe and East Asia.

But don’t get too excited for us just yet.

The U.S. still leads the way in deaths. That’s right—all deaths. In total deaths, recent deaths, long-term deaths, and short-term deaths—we’re number one when it comes to Covid deaths. We’ve lost over 23,000 dear souls to the coronavirus this past month alone. Overall, we’ve lost over 982,377 friends, beloved family members, coworkers, and acquaintances in this devastating pandemic. We should pass the grim one million death mark by the end of this month.

To put this in perspective, let’s see how many deaths each of the hotspot countries mentioned above have. We’ll start with South Korea: 17,453 total Covid deaths. And in the past month, 8,357 deaths. This means that South Korea experienced about half of its Covid deaths just last month. And, of course, 8,357 Covid deaths in a single month is a tragedy in every sense of the word—but those numbers are lightweight for us. Germany, the next most active current Covid hotspot, has had a total of 130,052 Covid deaths, with 5,921 deaths this past month. Finally, in Vietnam and France, they have experienced a total of 42,600 and 143,540 Covid deaths, with 1,787 and 3,244 deaths occurring this past month alone, respectively.

The difference is staggering with grim implications. How has the most advanced and powerful country in the world—with the best medical technology at our disposal—suffered so many Covid deaths? Our numbers are astronomically high compared to the rest of the world; it’s almost unbelievable. The following countries with the highest total Covid death tolls, Brazil and India, have 660,410 and 521,358 deaths, respectively. This tiny little SARS-CoV-2 virus has outsmarted and outmaneuvered us in the most disrespectful ways. It has shown us how truly weak and vulnerable we are in the grand scheme of our natural animal kingdom—even with our fancy technology. But unfortunately, none of that could save our 982,377 fallen dear ones.

In this horrible pandemic, we’ve learned that we must first control transmission and community spread to prevent Covid sickness and death. But one of the main problems that we had as a country at the start of the pandemic two years ago was that people were very slow in mobilizing against it. Sure, it’s hard fighting an unseen enemy. But misinformation and fake news about Covid made it even harder. When government officials, aided by the best available medical and scientific advice at the time, recommended shutdowns, sheltering-in-place, quarantining, and mask-wearing, Americans pushed back hard and mocked these orders. And the coronavirus continued to spread voraciously.

Here in Fresno, we’ve had a total of 2,722 Covid deaths, with 12 new deaths leading up to the first week of April. Last time this month, we had 2,597 Covid deaths. That’s a 125 death increase, or about 4 Covid deaths per day this past month. 

Yes, we’re doing a lot better—but we are still in the fight for our lives. At a recent media briefing at the beginning of the month, Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra acknowledged this progress but warned Fresnans to be vigilant and prepared for the future. 

“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—We’ve learned the hard way what surges can do to our health care system, to ourselves and our neighbors.”

As things warm up this April and life gets busier, let’s not forget all we’ve learned, dear reader. As you already know, our number one weapon against Covid transmission is our mask-wearing. But, of course, our number one protection against severe Covid sickness and death is our vaccine. Both are needed to crush SARS-CoV-2.  Just remember: viruses need hosts to survive, and if they can’t make you their host, well, we win.  

So, dear Mask Dummy, let’s keep them out and keep on winning!

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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.