My mom, rest her tortured soul, didn’t offer much sage advice during her truncated life that has stuck with me at all lo so many decades later. But two, usually delivered with a gravely, scolding tone, do still stay ingrained in my essence:
- Cover your mouth when you cough.
- If you have nothing nice to say about someone, don’t say it.
I admit I’ve been far less exemplary about living up to point number 2 than I have point number 1. And that’s been especially true since COVID entered our lives. And I’ve arguably been particularly hard on reporters for and associates of the management team of the Los Angeles TIMES, who now seemingly can’t go more than a few days without some long and deeply researched piece by Rong-Gong Lin II that drives home like a battering ram the latest available statistics and recommendations as to how we, as responsible citizens, should take heed and once and for all get realistic about exactly what we’re all dealing with.
And in recent days, the TIMES has increased that narrative via the amplification of even stronger voices and urgencies. Last week, an opinion piece Dr. Eric Topol, described as a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and author of the Substack newsletter Ground Truths., admonishingly urged calls to action with the headline The U.S. is facing the biggest COVID wave since Omicron. Why are we still playing make-believe? Topol makes compelling points about recent spikes in wastewaster levels and goes to great lengths to sound further alarms, venting his obvious frustration with the inability of the current political climate to effectively convince enough of what he sees as absolutely necessary measures to “return us to normal”.
In an accompanying story authored by Lin that quotes Topol as an objective expert, we learn that in spite of his multiple vaccinations and diligence he recently moved from the “NoVID” category to simply the overwhelming majority of those who had a bout with it. Perhaps that might have motivated his op-ed to an extent?
And mere days later, Lin authored yet another front page piece that now advances the narrative that even if you have recently tested negative, you’ve probably misdiagnosed yourself. As he wrote last week:
Dr. Elizabeth Hudson, regional chief of infectious diseases at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, said she has noticed it’s sometimes taking longer after the onset of symptoms for rapid tests to return a positive result.
It used to be that someone might test positive for the coronavirus one or two days after the onset of symptoms using a rapid test, Hudson said. Now, positive results might not show up until the fourth day after symptoms start. “
It’s actually pushing back the time that people’s COVID tests are coming up positive. So some people are testing at Day 1 and Day 2 and saying, ‘Oh, it’s negative, I don’t have COVID,’” Hudson said. “If they probably tested themselves a couple of days later, there’s a pretty good chance that it actually would turn out to be COVID.”
Well, Dr. H, I’m still a NoVID, thank G-d, and given my age and objective medical definition of my overall health, I’m a walking contradiction. But I’m also someone who sees with his own two eyes and ears that yes, COVID is indeed not over. Two friends of mine contracted it in the last week, losing valuable time and money from their grudgingly supportive employers. I’ve recently begun spending more time in a location where I see first-hand a marked increase in mask-wearers, and, to their credit, they’re more and more frequently the type which were described in the recent City News Service article about the reinstatement of mask requirements in Los Angeles County licensed health-care facilities: (a) well-fitted, high-quality mask (t0 be worn) in crowded indoor spaces, travel hubs or poorly ventilated spaces.
And it’s now no longer just limited to Los Angeles. In concert with the Times’ doubling down, The New York Daily News simutaneously offered this report from Josephine Stratman:
With COVID, flu and other respiratory illnesses on the rise, the NYC public hospital system is bringing back masking requirements.
The mandate applies to anyone entering New York H+H hospitals, community health centers and nursing homes. It went into effect just after Christmas.
“As we’ve seen an increase in COVID, flu and RSV, this is really to protect our patients, staff and the community,” said Christopher Miller, spokesman for NYC Health + Hospitals.
And just to remind any of you that somehow haven’t fully grasped my particular viewpoint, I’ve got four boosters on top of my original two Moderna shots, ones I waited a painfully long time for as I had to deal with my reality that I was in a very particular age/sex/employment cohort that pushed me to the back of every line that was queuing up back in the winter of 2020-21. Including the most recent one issued this fall when news of JN.1 first broke. So no, I’m not RFK, Junior and frankly, his personal obsession with this issue in the wake of all else a Presidential candidate should be considering has greatly diminished my early belief he might be a viable option. You keep screaming, Bobby, and let’s see how many you do convince to stay with you. It ain’t gonna be me.
But that said, I’ve yet to see an actual, credible third party study with statistically significant results that can conclusively prove that the “tools” of masking and testing are delivering significant results in this battle. Any more effectively than the advice my mom proferred through her smoker’s hack to cover my (expletive) mouth when I cough.
I can’t help but somehow believe that in the case of the TIMES, a publication owned by a billionaire health care magnate, doesn’t have some financial skin in the game in a world where the purchasing of those well-fitting masks and PCR tests benefits companies of him and his friends signficantly.
But if other outlets with no such connections are falling in line, and if people I know are indeed getting sick, then, yes, I’ll shut up and allow that COVID isn’t over. I’ll accede that those who compare masking up to wearing seat belts may have a point.
But here’s the thing. Governments made seat belts legally mandatory. They made them standard equipment on automobiles. If you’re not wearing a seat belt, unless you’re capable and motivated to disable it, you’ll be driving with an annoying and respective chime and flashing light. And you’re not paying for keeping yourself and others safe.
Even the most zealotic supporters of masking and testing grudgingly admit something like that can’t happen in a world this polarized and conspiracy-embracing.
But I do get where they’re coming from. So let me offer this humble suggestion to Dr. Soon-Chiong and the rest of his hyphenates:
For at least your print subscribers to your Sunday TIMES, the way your paper used to shrink-wrap samples of laundry detergent and new cereal flavors to enclose what was once a decently-sized newspaper, why not give away a KN-95 or equivalent and spare those of us where the cost of such an investment isn’t so easy to swallow. No, they’re not extravagant, but they’re also not free.
Governments have made vaccines readily available for free, and during the first waves of Omicron you could get masks and testing kits for free as well via pharmacies and an impossibly inefficient .gov website (I’m still waiting for the testing kits I ordered two winters ago, BTW).
I would offer that if indeed we’re approaching the same level of public concern and urgency that we were at then, said governments or perhaps Dr. Soon-Chiong has more than enough resources to spring for a few more high-quality masks and kits.
I promise you, if you think enough of at least the minority of us who still think buying what’s left of your paper are worth picking up the tab, I’ll bite the bullet and wear one. I do have a doctor’s appointment next week, and they seem to think the 50 or so that were once more than acceptable somehow don’t quite live up to their new standards of efficacy. So I’m in the market anyhow.
I repeat, if you pick up the tab, I’ll bite. Not that you’ll be able to see whether or not I do.
And if you can do that, maybe I’ll be more capable of heeding my mom’s second urgency more than when the likes of Li and the Hyphenates offer it.
And, Doc, if that’s too much to ask of you to pick up the tab, since I know your subscriptions are down, maybe find a political candidate willing to sponsor it? They keep asking me for donations, and that’s beyond my budget now, too. It’s a big campaign year. Surely someone who shares your agenda might consider it an investment in votes to help you revive that world where cereal wasn’t too big a thing to wrap in plastic?
You do that, and I’ll shut my mouth more than just when I cough.
Until then, perhaps you might want to consider what she said about what to do when you have nothing nice to say about someone else.
Until next time…