Wear your damn mask!

Wear a mask when you go out. Wash it when you get home.

I unfriended a couple of people on Facebook this morning because of their insistence that masks cause brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Each one had posted You Tube videos from crackpots claiming masks are a dangerous conspiracy because they’ll cause us all to become stupid from oxygen deprivation.

So, here’s a little test you can try at home if you have a pulse oximeter: Test your pulse-ox level, then put on a mask for 15 minutes or so. Now test again. What? You got the same result? Wow!

Of course, science deniers won’t own a pulse oximeter because they won’t acknowledge it’s a good idea to have one to test for diminished lung capacity from COVID-19, something that happens before serious lung damage occurs. This is a common complication, but if caught early, the chances of successful treatment are better. But these people don’t “believe” in COVID-19 as a threat because their science-denying leader told them it’s a hoax.

Doctors and other medical personnel have worn masks for long periods of time for years and years. My stepsister is a radiology tech who wears them all day, every day. She has never suffered from oxygen deprivation. Nor have any of my medical professional friends.

Wearing a mask can be difficult, especially for anyone who has PTSD. I had to suppress the urge to panic every time I put one on before this pandemic. So, I made a mask out of two layers of quilting fabric (the best fabric to use, by the way, because it’s tightly woven and light) and put it on for a couple minutes. The next day, I put it on for a minute more, and the same for the day after that. Within a week, I was able to put it on and keep it on for as long as I needed to.

Wearing a mask is not just for you. It protects others from your germs as well as protecting you from theirs.

Yes, the virus is smaller than the weave of the fabric, but it’s carried in droplets that are’t that small and the mask stops them. It is not 100 percent effective, but it is much, much more effective than wearing nothing.

While some quack on You Tube may tell you people are dropping dead from the tyranny of having to wear a mask, scientists are saying it’s a good practice, even if it’s not 100 percent effective.

I say if I have a 70 percent chance of catching COVID-19 when I encounter someone who’s carrying it and a mask lowers my chances to 10 percent, I’m going to go with whatever gives me that advantage. And what gives me that advantage is a mask.

If you’re going out, wear a mask. You don’t have to wear it while you’re alone in the car, but when you’re out and about, put it on. It show’s you’re both intelligent and considerate.

When you get home, wash the mask in hot, soapy water and dry it in the sun of you can.

And please know that if you tag me in one of these posts or post it to my timeline, I will unfriend you. If you do it again, you will be blocked. I’ve had my fill of ignorance.

They’re spreading terror and getting away with it

These armed white men acted like terrorists, bringing their guns into the Michigan State Capitol and harassing police. They should have been charged with a half dozen different crimes, but they weren’t. It seems right-wing nuts can get away with any terrible behavior they care to exhibit.

I have been arrested and hauled off in zip-ties five times in my life, all of them for trying to talk to legislators in Raleigh and Washington about the need for access to health care for every human being.

If you know me, you know why I have entered the NC General Assembly Building and the US Capitol to speak about health care. My son died on April 1, 2008, because he was denied the care he needed because he didn’t have insurance. And he couldn’t get insurance because his birth defect was a pre-existing condition. And doctors were able to deny him the care he needed to survive and not face any penalty for his death.

Legislators refused to speak to me, and I refused to leave until I had spoken to my representative/senator or a legislative leader. I was never threatening. I was not armed. I didn’t cuss at anyone. I never raised my voice until the door was closed in my face, and then I raised my voice to be heard through the door. I sang “Hold On Just a Little While Longer” as they hauled me away.

I was arrested three times in Raleigh for trespass in a public building, while it was open to the public. I was convicted once and had the conviction thrown out because you can’t actually be trespassing in a public building while it’s open to the public. You can be disturbing the peace, but not trespassing. The rules of the General Assembly Building were found to be unconstitutional.

I have been arrested twice in the US Capitol for wanting to speak to representatives and senators about people dying from lack of access to health care. Again, I never threatened anyone. I was armed only with a 5″x 7″ photo of my son — unframed because I didn’t want to appear threatening in any way. The photo fit nicely inside the brochure I was given to take into the Senate chamber with me. The officer called it a poster and claimed posters aren’t allowed in the Senate gallery.

Fast forward to yesterday, when a group of armed men entered the State Capitol in Michigan and were scary enough to drive several legislators to don bullet-proof vests. They screamed at police who were there to keep the peace and wandered around threateningly with semi-automatic weapons because they want their “personal freedoms” back. They want to be able to spread COVID-19. It’s their risk to take, they say, and they don’t care about anyone else’s freedom to survive this pandemic, and their lack of concern for anyone else was made evident in their failure to wear masks or social distance.

And they weren’t arrested.

They weren’t forced to leave.

Their weapons weren’t confiscated the way my son’s photo was.

They were allowed to act like terrorists and get away with it.

Imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t been white men.

Hell, unarmed black men can’t even jog through a white neighborhood unarmed without getting slaughtered, let alone enter a government building with a gun.

I can’t even enter a government building with my knitting and thread snippers.

But these fascist white men can roam around a state capitol armed to the teeth and get away with it, all because they don;t want to act like responsible adults in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

If you ever doubted we live in a racist, fascist state, you can stop doubting now.

We can be scared and still be kind to each other

Testing on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt showed high counts of people with the virus but with no symptoms. We don;t know why, but we do know it’s dangerous to re-open everything in light of this.

I’m having an increasingly hard time being on social media these days, what with people screeching to reopen the state and country in the midst of a pandemic that hasn’t peaked yet, people spreading the lies and half-truths of the current occupant of the Oval Office, the shrill demands that we all vote the way YOU want …

I know we’re all stressed right now, and for damn good reasons. But we can be stressed AND kind to one another.

If you don’t want to vote for Joe Biden, I get that and I will not scream at you because I, too, suffer from the loss of hope that we can fix the political mess and help 141 million poor people climb out of poverty with a living wage, safe and affordable housing, health care, safe food, a sensible plan to address climate disaster …

However, if you come onto my timeline with excuses about why we need to open everything up and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, you will find yourself with no access to my timeline, because you will be unfriended and ultimately blocked.

If you come onto my posts and act like a jerk, you will be unfriended and possibly blocked.

If you have information about Covid-19, please provide a credible source for that information. And the White House is not a credible source.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about this virus, including why some people test positive and show no symptoms. News reports today have stories about testing at a homeless shelter in Boston where 146 out of almost 400 people tested positive and not one showed symptoms (https://www.boston25news.com/news/cdc-reviewing-stunning-universal-testing-results-boston-homeless-shelter/Z253TFBO6RG4HCUAARBO4YWO64/), and testing on the aircraft carrier Roosevelt showed a large number of people testing positive with no symptoms (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-military-sympt/coronavirus-clue-most-cases-aboard-us-aircraft-carrier-are-symptom-free-idUSKCN21Y2GB). If we have so many people spreading the virus while showing no symptoms themselves, think about how bad things could get if we re-open everything and expose vulnerable people.

Yet beaches in Florida are re-opening. Churches in Texas never closed. People are demonstrating in Raleigh, NC, and Lansing, Mich., to have businesses re-open, and these people are violating social distancing rules, spreading the virus.

The thing is, we don’t know all that much about the virus and its spread, and we can’t know more unless we do widespread testing, which those who want to end social isolation insist we don’t need.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people judging the actions of others whom they know nothing about.

If we see someone taking a child into a grocery store, we probably think that parent is pretty terrible, but it might be somebody on the way home from the doctor who needs to pick medication for that child’s ear infection. It might be someone who has nobody to care for that child and who’s afraid to leave the child at home alone for a half hour. And if that parent does leave a child at home while he or she runs to the store and something happens, will you be one of those screaming for “consequences”?

Not everyone has your level of privilege. You might want to remind yourself of that.

A lot of poor people are being forced to work so you can have what you need, and they’re not getting protective equipment or hazardous-duty pay. In fact, they’re still working low-wage, part-time jobs with no benefits AND they’re having to take verbal abuse from customers angry at the lack of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and whatnot.

Meanwhile, those of us who have the luxury of isolating call them heroes and pat ourselves on the back for being so thoughtful.

You know what would be kinder? Paying a living wage and benefits to grocery store workers, restaurant workers and others who have to be at work in the midst of a pandemic.

The news is scary. We don’t have to make it worse by spreading disinformation. We don’t have to make it worse by being unkind to one another. We don’t have to make it worse by screaming at each other for decisions no one wants to have to make.

Yes, this is real, and yes, it’s political

The novel coronavirus is a threat. It is real. It is not being exaggerated to harm the current administration.

The novel coronavirus is a real thing.

COVID-19 can kill you and it’s likely to kill a million or more people in the United States.

These are facts, not some made-up fantasy to defeat the current occupant of the Oval Office.

It is not safe to gather in groups or to travel. If you’re in a high risk group, you need to be at home. If you’re not at home, you need to wash your hands with soap and hot water often and avoid touching your face. Hand sanitizer does not work as well as washing with soap and hot water, so quit hoarding it.

It didn’t have to be this serious here, but the current administration took no steps early on to mitigate the spread. The current administration, in fact, denied the seriousness of this pandemic and turned down testing kits that could have tracked the pandemic’s path and slowed the progress of the virus.

But, no. Instead, the current occupant of the Oval Office pretended nothing was wrong and kept claiming that everything was OK, assuming his followers would believe him.

I have seen denials of the seriousness of this as recently as yesterday, and I have answered each claim that it’s no worse than the flu with the fact that it is 10 to 20 times more lethal.

These claims are often followed by appeals to not make this political.

Well, here’s the thing: when politicians cut funding for public health for 40 years, shit happens.

Funding for public health (national, state and local health departments, research efforts and response personnel) has been cut by every Republican administration — especially this one — since Ronald Reagan because for some reason the science deniers tend to affiliate with the Republican party, and Democrats have lacked the spine to stand up and fight.

Politics could have prevented this, but Americans wanted to believe Reagan’s attacks on government. Remember when he said the most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”? I remember it clearly.

Government — politics — is there to mitigate disasters like this on behalf of the people it serves. Except Republicans have perpetuated the lie that government is bad in every instance. So, our infrastructure crumbled, and public health was part of that infrastructure.

Now we have a government that lies every day about what’s happening, and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who shouldn’t die, will.

If testing had begun in earnest two weeks or a month ago, we would know where we stand. But people who are showing up in the emergency room with symptoms of COVID-19 are being sent back home with no test, unless they have traveled to China.

If you think the virus isn’t in your community because there have been no confirmed cases, that’s because there are no test kits, so it’s not possible to confirm cases. That’s one way to make the total look lower than it actually is, which makes it easier for this administration to lie about the spread of the illness.

The illness is in your community. People are carrying the illness into public places and it’s spreading like wildfire because we insist on listening to the most dishonest administration ever to exist in Washington.

Let me repeat: The illness is in your community already.

If you’re going out into public places because you don’t think you’re at high risk, you’re risking infecting people who are at risk.

When you go into a restaurant, you’re asking wait staff that likely have no real access to health care and no paid sick time to take the risk that you’re not carrying the virus.

The reason that waiter has no access to care, no paid sick leave and a $2.35-an-hour wage is all about politics as well. Again and again, Republicans have refused to pass legislation that would fix any of this, and Democrats have yet to get enough spine to stand up and rebel against it.

This disaster could have been mitigated much more effectively than it has. Look at how South Korea has dealt with this. Testing is available everywhere and people are staying out of public places. In the end, their mortality rate will be a lot lower than ours. We’re going to look more like Italy, or even Iran, where the mass graves can be seen from space.

All of this is happening at a time in my city is struggling with its hospital having been taken over by a for-profit corporation. HCA has laid off large numbers of CNAs and other support staff — especially housekeeping, which is the department that cleans your room — and cut back on nursing staff as well. Nurse-to-patient ratios are dangerously high and getting worse as nurses quit in disgust. The nurses who remain are fighting to establish a union so they can demand improvements in patient safety.

And, yes, this is political, too. We have no laws mandating safe nurse-to-patient ratios. We have no regulations regarding how many cleaning supplies must be on hand to guarantee patient safety. There is no law mandating that patient safety has to come before profits because Richard Nixon signed that away in 1973.

We are in this mess because of the dishonesty and utter lack of leadership of the current administration, and because of decades of politically motivated cuts to public health to funnel ever more money into the pockets of the wealthiest and the military.

So, let’s be clear about this. We have to make changes — serious changes — to our system. We need to send the current crop of do-nothings home in November — well, those of us who survive that long, anyway — and elect people who will start to rebuild our public health systems.

The truth is that each one of us stands a small chance of dying from this, but we likely all know people who will die. The death rate is about 3.4 percent, but the infection rate could be as high as 70 percent. These are the real numbers.

So, yes, this is a real danger and yes, politics could have made it better. Instead, politics has made it far, far worse than it needed to be.

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