With the advent of the President of the US, First Lady, along with multiple aides, workers, and politicians diagnosed with Covid in the last few days – hopefully, mask-wearing will no longer be viewed through the lens of political allegiance. Each day that goes by sees more and more people who were unknowingly exposed testing positive for Covid.
Mask-wearing is the ONE thing we can all do to protect others from the spread of the virus. Other people’s mask-wearing protects us. Our own mask-wearing protects everyone else. Everyone is responsible to prevent the spread of their own germs.
If we can’t keep the President of the United States safe, and he is distanced from everyone outside of his inner circle – no one is safe without barriers like masks.
Clearly, the virus infected one person, who infected another, who infected another, and so forth. And for the record, the virus is aerosolized and can be caught through airborne transmission, meaning 6 feet distance really isn’t adequate. Virus particles stay in the air and float for some time especially in areas with multiple people and poor ventilation. Viruses don’t understand 6 feet and droplets have been measured as far as 26 feet. Article here with links to studies.
We are still learning about this virus, so what we thought were adequate precautions a few months ago really aren’t.
The best strategy for protection is a combination of:
- face coverings, including outside when in close proximity
- hand washing
- as much distance as possible – more than 6 feet
- exposure for as little time as possible
In other words, limit exposure in any way you can.
Just today, this new article in The Atlantic summarizes what we’ve learned and what we know today, including the following quote:
In study after study, we see that super-spreading clusters of COVID-19 almost overwhelmingly occur in poorly ventilated indoor environments where many people congregate over time — weddings, churches, choirs, gyms, funerals, restaurants, and such — especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks.
This virus is highly contagious, lethal, and often leaves those who do recover with severe disabilities. This group of people even has a name – the Longhaulers. It’s possible that Covid isn’t something that we entirely recover from, but live with for the rest of our lives with unknown consequences.
Stay home. When you absolutely must go out, wear a mask, and maintain as much distance as possible.
Some people are emboldened when they go out and nothing happens, so they repeat the behavior again and again. Eventually, the sheer probability catches up with them. It would be one thing if only the person who refused to act responsibly became ill – but that’s not what happens. By the time they have symptoms, IF they ever have symptoms, they have infected legions of others.
Just look at the circle of people surrounding the President’s super-spreader rose-garden event. We don’t know who had Covid “first’, and we’ll never know the full extent of who infected whom downstream.
Here’s the bottom line, if the most insulated, protected man in America can get Covid – so can you. If you don’t take precautions and protect yourself from those who don’t – it’s only a matter of time until you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time with or after someone who didn’t wear a mask and left Covid behind.
Once the virus begins its rampage through your body, or your family, there is no redo.
This image from the Northshore School District shows how interconnected we all are, whether we realize it or not.
Covid Strikes Close to Home
As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, I’ve lost family members to Covid. By now, I can’t imagine that anyone in the US doesn’t know someone who has contracted Covid, and probably at least one person who has died. It’s inching its way closer and closer.
On August 25th, my cousin, Bob died. In his early 50s, Bob worked from and stayed home, ordered grocery delivery even, and had no co-morbidities. Yet, he’s gone.
Currently, my husband’s aunt in her 70s is infected, along with half of the people at her assisted living facility. She is not critically ill – yet – but others are and all of them are contagious. More than half of the staff is infected too and everyone is quarantined. They infected their family members before they knew. Their children attend school and take it to school, infecting others who take it home to their families. And so it flows, this monster creeping through the communities in heartland America. Community spread.
It. Doesn’t. Have. To. Be. This. Way.
I can’t even begin to describe the hellish roller coaster we all lived through while Bob was in ICU, night and day, for a month, 31 very long days, 744 agonizing hours, each of which we hoped and prayed for Bob’s recovery.
Our spirits elevated as one symptom would improve, then plunged again as new, life-threatening ones developed. In the end, blood clots and bacterial pneumonia took him. That’s what’s on his death certificate. Covid was only listed as a contributing factor – but he wouldn’t have had pneumonia, pulmonary embolisms or cardiac embolisms were it not for being infected with Covid.
Some might say that he “didn’t’ die of Covid” which is technically true if you look at the first three causes of death on his death certificate. But that statement isn’t accurate. Covid caused all three conditions, and his death, pure and simple.
But what really stole his life was the fact that this virus is running rampant. Bob’s death occurred when we had experienced 179,000 deaths in the US. Just 6 weeks later, we now have another 31,000 deaths for a total of more than 210,000 and 7.5 million US citizens infected. At this rate, with no increase. we’ll see 300,000 deaths around year-end. Happy New Year.
My heart goes out to every single one of those people and their families.
How Did This Happen?
Someone didn’t wear a mask, was probably asymptomatic and never knew they had the virus, at least not before they spread it – to someone else who did the same, to someone else, to someone else…until it got to Bob at a family gathering where one person didn’t wear a mask.
All it takes is one person. YOU are that one person, for bad or for good.
Here’s how this works. For full effect, just substitute your name or your loved one’s name, maybe your parent, for “Bob.”
The first red person was asymptomatic and still thinks all is well and that nothing bad happened, because they have absolutely no idea that their germs infected three other people and ultimately killed Bob, several people away, someone they might not even know.
If just one person in the contact chain between that first red person and before Bob had broken the chain of contagion by wearing a mask, had distanced and been responsible, the virus would not have been able to make its stealthy way to Bob.
JUST ONE PERSON wearing a mask would have made a life-and-death difference.
That second red person, above, wearing a mask, is literally a life-saver. They unknowingly saved Bob’s life – along with who-knows-how-many other people too.
The second red person contracted the virus from the first red person who did not wear a mask, but the second red person who wore a mask didn’t infect the first green person, who wore a mask, who didn’t infect Bob. That’s just it, everyone assumes, if they aren’t sick, that they are green – but they might not be – and someone clearly wasn’t.
In this scenario, Bob is alive today, not a box of ashes. So is the first green person who has no idea how close they came. The red mask-wearing person may or may not have gotten sick, may or may not have died, but either way, they didn’t spread Covid to others – breaking the chain of misery and death.
God bless the mask-wearers.
However, we are not condemned to suffer those 300,000 deaths by the end of the year. We can help ourselves – but it requires everyone to play by the same rules, including wearing masks. Regardless of what others do, YOU can wear a mask and YOU can make a difference. Please do.
I found some cool DNA masks and have some tips for people who are experiencing challenges wearing masks.
Two Cool DNA Masks
It looks like masks are going to be with us for a while – at least throughout the winter.
If we need to wear a mask, it might as well be cool. Cool masks inject an element of fun!
In my case, I want to wear DNA masks. Recently, other than the DNA masks I’ve made for myself, I found two created by members of our community.
Ordering these helps one of our genealogy vendors and a nonprofit stay afloat in these challenging times.
Tested DNA Mask
This mask from Jeannette at BlingGenealogy, normally a vendor at RootsTech, FGS, and other genealogy conferences, is quite substantial. In fact, with two layers plus an interfacing layer in between, it’s the most substantial mask I’ve seen other than N95 masks.
Yes, I have one. I particularly like the tieable elastic ear bands. You can adjust them easily and they aren’t actual elastic which can be irritating, but soft stretchable ties. I’ve adjusted mine to pull the mask snug but not uncomfortably so. They don’t bother my ears or my glasses earpiece.
There’s more to this story than a cool DNA mask.
Jeannette mentioned that this mask was tested at Northeastern University, testing better than 2 of the 3 medical-grade surgical masks they tested.
I asked how she managed to get this done, and here’s what she said:
Getting Northeastern University in Boston to test them was interesting. I was sewing like a crazy woman and my husband told me about the article he read that Northwestern was testing masks. I think it was one of the first.
I emailed the engineers that were on the project and told them how I constructed the masks them. They didn’t have any masks that were tested using the interfacing filter I use. In fact, the only reason I had that type interfacing was that I use it in my prairie bonnets, so I had huge bolts of it. None was available anywhere for a few months.
They said to send 3 for testing. I was nervous because I had made a lot of them by then. I felt I would need to make a better one to send to everyone if it didn’t test well. I just couldn’t live with myself if it didn’t test well. I had nurses buying them to wear after hours and wear over their N95 masks to extend their use. But wow, my mask tested better than 2 of the 3 commercial medical grade surgical masks they had tested. So relieved! Then I started working on genealogy themed masks.
You can see her genealogy masks, here. I need a Mayflower mask too, especially this year with 5 Mayflower ancestors.
Jeannette has other VERY COOL items too. Take a look. I own several which you may recognize from earlier articles.
Jeannette will give you $5 off of anything with the coupon code of DNAeXplained.
Another DNA mask or neck gaiter is available through the non-profit, mitoYDNA.
For those who don’t know, mitoYDNA.org is a free, volunteer, upload site for both Y and mtDNA that was created when both YSearch and MitoSearch bit the dust due to GDPR. You can read about them, here, and be sure to watch the videos, here, if you are interested.
I keep meaning to write about mitoYDNA in detail, and I will eventually, but for now, suffice it to say that you can view your matches actual results, meaning mtDNA mutations and Y STR values AND integrate with WikiTree.
I like to support nonprofits when I can, and I love the double helix mask, although I don’t own one of these – yet.
Mask Tips and Tricks
I prefer wearing the cloth masks I’ve made because they are an opportunity to reflect something important to me – DNA, genealogy, quilts, cats, etc. I do, however, always keep a few spare paper masks in the car and tucked elsewhere. Sometimes I give them to other people. It’s so easy to forget and walk out of the house without one!
My biggest mask challenge is that my glasses fog up. The problem is becoming more pronounced as the weather cools, and I expect it’s going to get even more difficult during the winter.
Here are three tips and tricks that may help you.
I made a lot, and I mean a wardrobe of face masks that I wear every time I go anyplace. What I need to do, now, is to add some kind of metal stabilization to my existing masks in order to make the top of the mask conform to my face.
Conforming the mask to my face allows it to fit snugly up under my glasses and helps immensely with the fogging issue. Not only that, but the less air that escapes, the less of my germs escape too.
The fewer gaps, the less I’m breathing in other people’s germs. It’s a win-win.
I found 3 ways to retrofit my existing masks easily.
Option 1 – Aluminum Roasting Pan Nose Bridge Hack
I find this first option to be the one that works best for me, sometimes with the addition of Kleenex – option 3.
Buy relatively substantial aluminum roasting pans or salvage aluminum lids, like the one above, from takeout pans. With scissors, cut 7 inch-long (or the length you desire) by one inch wide pieces.
Fold the one-inch width in half to half an inch wide. I used a ruler to make a crisp fold line.
I also trimmed off the sharp edge of the aluminum corner by rounding so it won’t poke me or damage the fabric.
Here’s a YouTube video providing instructions. Although her metal strip is only 4 inches long, the process is the same.
Sew a small pocket on the back of your existing mask along the center top, leaving one end open. I used a 2.5 by 8-inch strip of fabric. I folded the fabric in thirds lengthwise and sewed it to the back of the mask, turning under the raw ends one-quarter inch. I sewed one end down but left the other open to allow room to insert the aluminum stabilizer, as illustrated below.
Just slip the 7-inch (or however long) by one-half inch piece of aluminum into the little pocket and shape to your nose when you wear the mask.
The reason you leave one end of the little pocket open is so that you can remove the aluminum piece to wash the mask, although if you hand wash, you don’t need to remove.
Look how beautifully this conforms to my face and holds its shape, including my cheekbones which prevent my glasses fogging.
Some people make iron-in metal nose-pieces, but I like the idea that I can retrofit the masks I already have, and that I can remove and replace the metal piece to wash the mask with no problem.
Please note that I’ve found that items like twist-ties and pipe cleaners don’t have enough rigidity to maintain their shape on my face and often aren’t long enough to eliminate fogging.
Option 2 – Salvaging the Nose Support from Throw-Away Masks
The blue throw-away paper masks, available here, have a reasonable rigid nose support that’s about 4-5 inches long.
I cut the paper mask when I’m going to throw it away anyway and just remove the nose piece, inserting it in a pocket of my fabric masks. My friend uses bias tape for the pocket.
I like the aluminum nosepieces better, but you may have ready access to these, they are free and hold their shape reasonably well. I’ve also tried twist ties and pipe-cleaners, and they just don’t have enough rigidity.
Option 3 – Kleenex Tissues Hack
If you STILL have issues with your glasses fogging up, and I sometimes do, Kleenex may be your saving grace. If you need something quickly, you can always grab a tissue.
If your glasses are still fogging, it’s because your hot breath is escaping between the mask and the inside of your glasses lens, creating condensation. This probably occurs beyond where the metal nose bridge reaches if it’s less than the width of your mask.
The tissue gently fills in those gaps between the mask and your face, with the elastic ear-piece pulling the mask just tight enough across the Kleenex to prevent your own breath from escaping behind your glasses.
You’ll want soft tissues, not the more rigid, cheaper ones. Just fold the tissue into a thin line the length of the Kleenex and insert the folded Kleenex inside your mask at the top, between your face and the mask.
Please, Wear a Mask
Masks are our best weapon during this pandemic, second only to staying inside and away from other people,
Masks aren’t political statements. If they ever were, they surely aren’t now that the President and many others in his orbit have been diagnosed with this disease. Hopefully, everyone that was a mask-doubter has experienced a reality reset and realizes that masks, if everyone wears them, prevent or at least reduce Covid infections.
Masks say you care about saving lives and are willing to do this one simple thing to protect other people. Other people protect you with their masks. Beyond kind, it’s essential.
Whatever mask you choose, however you decide to do it – be a hero – wear a mask.
Please feel free to share this article and helpful hints with anyone and everyone.
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