June 12, 2020

time to help others

Every morning when I arrive at my clinic, someone in a mask greets me, asks me to sanitize my hands, checks to make sure I have no new symptoms, offers me a new face mask, and checks my temperature. She does this to everyone before they get on the elevators. This routine helps keep our building safer for vulnerable patients and staff. It helps me feel safer going to work everyday.

Riding the elevator is the most vulnerable time for me. It’s an enclosed space and the more floors we stop at increases that vulnerability. I know I am safer when everyone is masked, since I ride to the 8th floor. Yesterday a middle age man, holding his mask in his hand, stepped into the elevator and I asked him to put his mask on. He responded with an irritable “thanks, Mom, I was going to”. Not a pleasant start to my day. I think I will start climbing the stairs again.

I am sure that I am not the only one that gets pushback from others about mask wearing. I see people not wearing masks in stores, I see pushback in the media, I see it in on Facebook, and I occasionally see it in my patients. We certainly see it in some politicians.

I get the confusion about wearing masks. Early in March, masks were actively discouraged, partly because of assumptions about coronavirus transmission that were wrong and partly to prevent hoarding of masks for health care workers. Back then data was not clear about how well the masks filtered and concerns about contamination were emphasized. Remember those days? I do, I was skeptical too.

But now the data is more compelling. If we can increase use of masks, we can decrease the R0 and avoid the rise in infections and avoid the second waves. We may be able to avoid another shutdown. Sort of like herd immunity, the more people that wear masks, the better we all are protected. But not all are convinced. I have seen people try to convince others that masks are bad, by reposting an “expert’s opinion” without actually linking to the sources of that opinion or the data behind it. Frustrating and predictable. Offering friends and family reliable sources and how to decide if the source is not reliable maybe helpful. We also have to accept that some will never be convinced. Sadly, you may need to make choices to not be around individuals that put you at risk.

But in Seattle we are doing OK, even with the protests and marches- UW had <1% of positive tests out of 3,000! Masks are making a difference.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, and keep safe six.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.