When I lived in Washington State in the United States, I would sometimes walk in the forests. If I suspected there may be bears in the area, I would make plenty of noise while walking on the trail to let bears know I was there. I was wary of the danger of bears, but I was not afraid. If I heard squealing that could be from a baby bear, I would immediately walk the opposite direction. Wary – but not afraid.
Last week, my wife and I went for a walk along a freshwater pond in the Huntington Beach State Park, south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mud and mosquitoes. A fellow we met who ran a Segway scooter concession warned us about copperhead snakes – and he showed me his bite from the day before. I then found a very long stick on the ground. We continued our walk with me taking the lead, swishing the tip of the stick on the trail in front of me. We were wary – but not afraid.
COVID-19. I’m told not to be afraid by some of our leaders, but not by our scientists. I’m not afraid, but I’m wary. However, with the increased number of cases in the United States and some high peaks in the rate of infections, I am thinking I may need to increase my wariness. I’m been increasing my frequency of going shopping for a few items rather than waiting each week for the groceries to be brought out to me as I wait in the car for curbside service. I’ve been going to restaurants for take-out – and lately, I’ve been going to restaurants to be seated inside. I’m not afraid, and perhaps I’m no longer wary.
In North Carolina where I live, there were 2,684 new cases today (Friday), and yesterday there were a little over 2,500 new cases. The state has recorded over 1,000 people in hospitals each day for the last ten days. One must ask oneself, “Am I just fooling myself that I’m not going to get the coronavirus?” A person who gets behind the wheel of a car and texts on their phone is not only engaging in an illegal act, but they do so thinking they can handle this and there is no danger to them or anyone else. They are not wary; they are in denial.
I was watching a series about World War 2 on television a few weeks ago. A veteran from the war who had been an officer in that war in Europe said that he found himself with his men waking up to silence after some intense fighting. Several soldiers – young men – speculated that the Germans had left in the night. The officer told everyone to stay down. The officer was wary. But one nineteen-year-old just insisted that the Germans were gone! He stood up and said, “See? The Germans are gone!” And he was shot in the head. The officer was wary, but the young man was in denial and failed to follow orders that were in place to protect him.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. We the people of the United States – and citizens of countries around the world – have been given guidance as to how to protect ourselves and protect others. Perhaps it’s “virus fatigue” as I heard some call it, but people are losing their wariness and their denial is increasing. Those who haven’t gotten sick so far – or who have tested positive without symptoms – are beginning to think they are okay, and the figurative Nazi soldiers of the virus are gone.
The guidance is so incredibly simple. Please read the following and see the guidance as though for the first time, including some explanations I have:
- Wear a mask when you’re around people not in your immediate household. So simple.
- It has nothing to do with RIGHTS!! The mask isn’t to protect you; it’s to protect others. You can’t do that simple act for others? Some of the literature and postings I’ve read have indicated that the masks protect the wearer, but unless it’s an N95 medical-grade mask, masks are to protect others.
- “Rights” come at a price. In order for you to exercise your rights to not wear a mask, I have to forego my rights to be able to go where there may be people, such as in a store or a church, in order to protect myself from the potential spreading the COVID-19 through those who choose not to wear a mask. Hypothetically, if you go into a church of 20 people without a mask and you are unknowingly infectious, there is statistically one person who will become ill if the infection rate is a low 5%. Do you care to point out that one person you choose to become ill with this virus because you choose not to wear a mask?
- The masks themselves have become open to debate. Not all “masks” protect the same way. Even though some authorities have broadened the definition of masks, they are likely doing so to get people to wear SOMETHING! The early tests showed gaiters, popular with runners, were worse than nothing as they micro-sprayed the droplets. Gaiters are often one-layered man-made fabric favored by runners, because they do not inhibit air intake as much as regular masks. However, since then multi-layered gaiters have become acceptable and single-layered gaiters are not. Also, bandanas do little to prevent the spread of your droplets. Reference the Duke University study on the effectiveness of masks in a manner that is less technical: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/face-masks-ranked.html
I was in a grocery store a few weeks ago. A kind young clerk checked out my groceries. I looked at his mask with a valve in it. I asked him, “I see your mask has a valve in it. Doesn’t that mask allow the free outgoing of your breath and doesn’t protect me at all?” He giggled and said, “Yeah.” Masks with valves that allow air to go out from your mouth and nose unfiltered but that protect the wearer from incoming air. That’s just wrong.
- I wear my mask when I’m pulling up to a drive-through to pick up food or anytime I am going to be around anyone.
- Stay six feet away from other people – at least. They keep finding new factors with this virus, though. Under certain conditions, six feet is likely not enough. I won’t go into this further as it could make me go from “wary” to “afraid,” and I think we have enough on our hands at this time.
Yesterday, my wife and I went to a German restaurant that we hadn’t been to since before the virus changed our lives. As we were getting out of our car, there were two older women who were heading to the same restaurant. They reported how wonderful it was as they marched up to the outdoor sign that told them to stop there and someone would come out and get them. Neither of them had masks. I brought it up, and I knew if I mentioned it a second time, I was going to have a fight on my hands. Let it go, John. They were ushered in by the proprietor. My wife and I went up to the sign and noticed two outdoor tables. I asked the proprietor if we could eat out there, and we did. At the end of our meal, the proprietor made sure everything was fine, then she was going to bring the check. The two afore-mentioned ladies came out, and the one I had talked to earlier came over to our table still without a mask to tell me how wonderful the food was. She stood about three feet from me (I think it may have been two feet) and standing over me, and I told her “Thank you, but could you step back while you’re talking to me?” They left.
- Wash your hands for twenty seconds when you think your hands may have been exposed. I’ve heard that twenty seconds is the equivalent of singing “Happy Birthday” twice. Or if you are of a religious background and you need the practice, I have figured out that you can recite “The Lord’s Prayer” once for your twenty seconds. Oh, and of course, don’t touch your face with your hands, particularly around your eyes and nose. I used to watch my various pastors preach. When they scratched, rubbed or pulled on their nose, I would observe which hand the pastor used. Right hand? I’m not shaking it, brother.
This is long, but it certainly summarized my thoughts these last few days as I watch the increase of cases in North Carolina, the United States and all over the world. I am thinking I need to go back to being wary – but not afraid – as I practice safe human and business interactions. It’s called “Vigilance.” And if you live in North Carolina and you want to see the Governor’s latest directives, it is found here:
Be wary, but not afraid. Have a great weekend – and of course, stay safe. – John –