America, A Mask Is One Thing To Keep You Safe…

Yes, it’s a Sunday evening post, because I started writing this three days ago and the data is all time-sensitive and I already had to update all the graphs several times so darnit this post is going up tonight!

No matter what data source you prefer, there is no doubt that COVID-19 is surging in the United States. Numbers and graphs at the CDC and The New York Times are damning. Florida just today reported the highest number of new cases of any state since the pandemic began: 15,300 cases, as compared to New York’s peak number which was 12,274 back on April 4th. Florida’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU and ventilator usage and deaths are also up, as they also are in other parts of the Southern and Western U.S. So you can’t blame the numbers on increased testing.

The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map shows the U.S. lighting up almost solid red with surge cases, and we also “win” on deaths:

Check out the interactive global COVID-19 map from Johns Hopkins:

Yes, we’ve managed to create a second surge here in the good old US of A. The visuals on these numbers are striking:

From Our World in Data

And our passports are useless, because we’re so contaminated the vast majority of countries of the world won’t let us in:


So much winning, right?

I’m seeing hopeless posts from doctors I know who are in places like San Antonio, Texas:

FYI, this nephrologist is also an amazing writer, using Twitter threads to share clinically-inspired essays.

In spite of the alarming reality of spiking cases, increased hospitalizations and deaths, many believe that the virus is a hoax. Myths about about masks abound as well. So, sadly, instead of learning from the experiences of Seattle, New York City and Boston, the rest of the country is going to have to experience the surge for themselves.

Here in Boston, we just avoided catastrophe. The Boston Globe published an article about how we pulled it off, barely. They detail how some local hospitals ran out of ICU beds or came awfully close, but only for a brief time. We never had to choose who got a ventilator, and who didn’t. Basically, we did everything we could to learn from our colleagues in China, Italy, Seattle, and New York City. Hospitals jumped into action, as well as the Department of Health (after a bit of a slow start recognizing widespread community transmission back in March). But most importantly, once the public health messaging got out there, the public listened. People did stay home, distance from other people, wear a mask if they had to go out, and wash their hands like crazy. This is largely why we managed to mostly contain the virus. Thank you, Massachusetts!

But political forces have gotten ahold of the messaging, and now we have to contend with fake news and mask myths. Doctors are doing what they can to debunk these harmful lies, many posting videos of themselves wearing masks while hooked up to a pulse oximeter doing various exertion things and the oxygen level is totally normal. Every healthcare provider in an operating room wears a mask for hours and hours without a problem, or a complaint, for that matter. Heck, I’ve done plenty of shifts dressed like this for hours:

Me at many points back in March, April, and May, for hours at a time, and I was fine.

So how people can believe some of those mask myths is beyond me. Simple cloth masks can help prevent the spread of virus; I covered the science on this pretty thoroughly back in April. Studies since then suggest that universal mask-wearing may have helped prevent over 200,000 cases of COVID-19 (and that was based on data through May 22). New evidence suggests that the virus may be airborne at times, and while cloth masks aren’t perfect, they really do help, especially if you find yourself indoors with people who are not in your quarantine bubble, like in the grocery store. Masks and a few other basic measures will go far to keep everyone safe.

So heed the advice of my 8-year-old daughter, who wrote this little book titled “What To Do With COVID-19”:

That’s a magazine image of the coronavirus taped to the cover page with black electrical tape. As you do.
My eight-year-old knows that “A mask is one thing to keep you safe”
Yes, she will maintain six feet of social distancing from her older brother.
There are many doctors in our family, this is true! But really, we are all in this together.

3 thoughts on “America, A Mask Is One Thing To Keep You Safe…”

  • Where I live there is a mask mandate but it’s not enforced much. Here there’s a lot of outright covid denial and belief the whole thing is a hoax (yep, red state). And this is near an large metropolitan area that is host to at least 6 colleges or universities (I may have missed a couple). In the grocery store masks are about 90% of customers and 100% of workers. In Walmart it’s about 60% of customers and about 80% of workers (if you don’t count the geniuses who have theirs under their nose). Go to Lowes….trust me, you don’t want to know. My grandchildren in a pretty big town about an hour away decided to forgo sports camp because when they got there NOBODY including the coaches were wearing masks. And this is while case counts are jumping. Your daughter wrote a great book and is clearly a lot smarter than a lot of grownups. Stay safe!

    • Thank you!! Yes it’s a sorry anti-science world we’re living in. So sad that so many people will have to experience this disease for thenselves

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