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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Last weekend I picked up a copy of the Portland Tribune with the headline “COVID Silver Linings.” It made me think: Have you found any silver linings? Have I? Here are a few of Portland’s:

  1. Outdoor dining. With permits easier to get, more restaurants are employing construction firms to build solid decks with ramps and shelter from the rain so that “Portland Barcelona” can be enjoyed most of the year.
  2. No flu season. Taking measures to prevent respiratory disease worked across the board.
  3. Access to lawmakers with interactive links across the state.
  4. Outdoor and video access to music and entertainment.
  5. Shopping access–not only on line, but in the local home stores, grocery stores, and restaurants which have combined ordering on-line and pick-up on-site or delivery to your home.

Some pandemic changes, such as telecommuting, telemedicine, and on-line education, may be scaled back as communities open up this summer, but will certainly continue to be more available than they were before. Shopping, learning, and attending religious services from home may not be for everyone, but they have made life easier for some, not just for the aging, but for caregivers and people with small children as well. They will evolve to fit the demand, but they are here to stay.

Old-fashioned Road Trip

Personally I’ve found that I like staying home more than I thought I would. I still like to travel and I’ve rediscovered the fun of the old-fashioned road trip, but in between trips I cherish my home time. Last year I hesitated to announce that I was planning a road trip to Yosemite. This year I’ve been out of state four times and flown on planes twice in the last six weeks because of visits and events which took place in May and June. Ideally I’d like some home time in between, but since each state is so different, let’s consider it research.

For example:

  1. Florida (Pensacola): Employees wore masks in restaurants and hotels. Most customers did not. Signs emphasize distance and hand washing.
  2. Nevada (Carson City): Hardly anyone wore masks, signs state that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks, and signs emphasize distance and hand washing. Hand sanitizers are available as you enter the casino.
  3. Oregon (Portland): Resembles California before June 15. That is, all employees and customers wore masks in indoor public places, except when seated and eating, and signs on the entrance emphasized masks and distancing.
  4. California: Mask laws were lifted statewide on June 15. Some signs state that vaccinated people need not wear masks, others that unvaccinated people need to wear masks, some just kept the same sign as before, others have simply taken down their old signs and not put up new ones.
  5. Airplanes and airports (U.S): Masks still required the entire time.

Does all this inconsistency make sense? Actually, I think it does. Remember the “swiss cheese” analogy that some epidemiologists used last year to show that each safety measure is an imperfect layer of protection, but adding several layers together, such as the original three, masks, distancing, and handwashing, gives more protection than any one measure? Now that coronavirus is understood to be airborne, good ventilation or being outside are another layer. On the other hand, plexiglass barriers, which block airflow, and sanitizing surfaces, are now often dismissed as “hygiene theater.”

Vaccines simply add a new layer to the swiss cheese metaphor. Since vaccines were distributed by the individual states, it makes sense that states have moved separately on changing their recommendations in regard to masks and other guidelines. As for masking in airports and airplanes, which are federal regulations, those are areas where you are indoors and you can’t avoid crowding. So masks help replace those lost layers. I don’t like the mask rule and I hope they change it as community spread decreases, but for now it seems to make sense.

Let’s close with an example of a Swiss cheese illustration which includes vaccines from Ian M. MacKay’s Virology Down Under. If you choose to read the article, he discusses different stages and theories in the development of this model. Not only are they fun to read, but they help us to remember that this is simply a model that helps us to visualize risk reduction. Defining the layers and the holes is an evolving process and often a matter of opinion.

From Virology Down Under (see link below)

Today’s Notable Headlines

“COVID Silver Linings in Portland and across the state,” Portland Tribune, Wed. June 16, 2021. https://pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/512031-409122-covid-silver-linings-in-portland-and-across-the-state

“The future of telemedicine: Medical community believes it is here to stay,” WCHS ABC West Virginia, Friday, June 15, 2021. https://wchstv.com/news/local/the-future-of-telemedicine-medical-community-believes-it-is-here-to-stay

“End the hygiene theater, CDC says,” Yahoo News, April 5, 2021. https://news.yahoo.com/end-the-hygiene-theater-cdc-says-173440864.html

“Hygiene Theater Is Still a Huge Waste of Time,” The Atlantic, Feb. 8, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/02/hygiene-theater-still-waste/617939/

“The Swiss cheese infographic that went viral,” Virology Down Under, Dec. 26, 2020. https://virologydownunder.com/the-swiss-cheese-infographic-that-went-viral/

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.

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