I come from a long line of worriers, which is apposite as the subject of this blog relates to discussions with my brother about Covid.
You see, he has been a mask wearer.
He also has asthma like me and the combination of worrier, asthma and the time of Covid is a toxic cocktail for the generation of all sorts of anxious thoughts.
This blog is necessary and, I will post it on the Manor Field as well as the Almondemotion site as it relates to both.
Back in March I wrote a blog about facemasks; this was during the lockdown (are we still locked-down? I don’t know; so long as the swimming pool isn’t open, I guess, yes, we are).
The guidance from the Department of Health and all sort of national and international bodies was that wearing facemasks was definitely important in reducing the spread of Covid – whether you had it or not (the not, of course relating to everyone who doesn’t have it and might actually be an asymptomatic carrier).
The word at that time was that wearing a mask was little use at preventing you, that is the mask-wearer from becoming infected; and, with my blog, I took a stance that, it could actually increase risk by distracting people from what was important – handwashing and staying away from other people – social distancing.
I think this is still true, and certainly, handwashing has not been in the headlines as much recently and, well, social distancing became a bit of a farce once pubs were opened the other week, as, isn’t the purpose of a pub, beyond buying beer – which you can get from any shop, to socially bring people together – ‘Socially connect’.
We are therefore left with facemasks which I read yesterday, in Scotland at least, is going to be a requirement; in England, the only places where masks are currently mandated are on buses and in hospitals.
It is very easy to criticise, find fault and laugh at those in authority who have been navigating the pandemic – I am not sure anyone is completely blameless or has got it right from the start; even Jacinda who was held-up as an ideal leader allowed (on her watch) those English tourists to romp across New Zealand.
Back to masks.
I won’t quote figures or percentages – they just create a more misleading patina of certainty.
Let’s use logic – or, common-sense, if you prefer.
The evidence says, and has for a long time, that if you have Covid or any other respiratory illness (we have been giving people at risk of spreading TB in the UK masks for years), you should wear a mask as it will reduce the risk of spread (infecting others).
If you have Covid and you wear a mask, you will not reduce the risk of your infecting someone else to zero, rather you will reduce it by a certain extent, which, seems reasonable;
If you spend time in close proximity to a person who has Covid and you are wearing a mask, you will reduce the risk of that infection passing to you; again the numbers are impossible and different in every situation, yet, there will be some reduction.
If you also wash your hands and maintain a distance of 2 or 3 meters, the risk is falling more;
If you are outside or indoors and your windows are open to allow air to circulate, that is another risk reduction.
Nothing reduces the risk to zero unless you are on a Hebridean island and you don’t have anyone visit; you will quickly run-out of supplies or become bored with your own company.
What am I suggesting?
- Wash your hands
- Keep two or three meters away from people who are not in your household
- If you are in an enclosed space and can’t keep three meters away from people who are not in your household, wear a facemask
- If you are meeting people not in your household and you can’t find somewhere to sit outside (at 3 meters), open the windows, allow a draft – easy now, will be trickier in December.
- If you think you have Covid, get tested – it is now quite easy; just go on the NHS website and book a slot
What will I do differently?
Well, probably not much –
I haven’t been out to the pub – I didn’t do this before lockdown, so, no reason to go now; I do wash my hands, although possibly with less frequency than when this all began (when my hands were cracked and raw).
I have in general been keeping my distance from people; I continue to work from home – remote consulting patients; when I have had to visit, I have gloved, gowned and masked, which I admit feels like overkill, but better that than my infecting a patient.
I have a facemask in the car, I am still not sure when I will use it outside of work, perhaps the next time I visit the supermarket.
My windows are still open; In ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ – Holden Caulfield I think described his roommate as a fresh-air freak – that he may have been, but at least the germs would have struggled.
My son thought he had Covid last week, and I went along with him for a test – we were both negative; it was straightforward and all the staff friendly and supportive (at Robin Hood Airport) – a couple of months ago I took my daughter who also thought she had Covid to the Rotherham Hospital testing site – again, they were efficient, kind and friendly; you see, I told you, I am from a family of worriers.
Will this guidance change?
What will we be doing in December and January?
How will our behaviour alter?
How will Meadowhall cope without becoming Meadow-hell?
Keeping an open mind is likely to be key, that and being patient, with those who are still trying to navigate the unexpected and unpredictable.