No, before you ask. No, I am not reviewing the simple, godlike qualities of Barry Gibbs’ voice. I think that will only waste our time as it will be like preaching to the choir. No, instead we are going to cover a lot of basic information that you should know, but most people seem to either not know, or get wrong. The theme for today was provided by a simple drive through my hometown yesterday that told me one thing. We’re all going to die. Before we begin. This is me trying to help educate people and help others. Nothing in this blog post reflects any sort of official position by Books & Brews, Jason, or anyone else. My goal is simply trying to save lives.
The Current Situation
Currently, many states are loosening restrictions on the stay at home orders we have all come to know and either love or hate. The biggest issue with that, is that this seems to have signaled in everyone’s minds that, “The plague is over, everything is okay.” If that were actually the case, then sure, “good news everyone” and so forth. However, for those that have been following things like statistics and the CDC daily bulletins, we know that this is laughable at best. The week that Indiana was debating on whether or not to loosen restrictions back at the beginning of the month, saw some of the highest new case numbers yet. I am not here to argue policy, place blame, or be political. I am simply trying to state present circumstances that we are facing. Covid-19 is not down and out. It was never, down and out. Hell, it is stronger and meaner than ever. So I want to talk about a couple of things that could save your life, your child’s life, your grandpa’s life or even my life.
“Covid-19 isn’t that bad”
This is the single greatest barrier to overcoming this pandemic. Yes, while Covid has a low percentage kill rate when medical facilities are not overwhelmed, originally CDC put numbers in the 0.3% fatality range. When hospitals become flooded, like in Italy, the death rate for those infected jumped to 14%. And that is with a nation that has a centralized public health system which doesn’t rely on hospitals competing in auctions to buy PPE. By the way. That is totally what is currently going on in this country. So it could be much, much worse here. PPE, for those that aren’t familiar with the term, stands for personal protective equipment. It is basically what nurses and doctors use to try to keep themselves from getting infected with what you bring into the hospital and to keep from passing those things on to other patients. “But I’m a 30 something immortal that never gets sick.” Cool, Covid doesn’t care. Many people who are just like you have been hit with symptoms that mimic a heart attack and cause PERMANENT heart damage. At age 30. And even if you dodge that bullet, you may end up with PERMANENT lung damage. One article put that PERMANENT damage at a loss of 30% lung functionality. If you want to know what that could be like for the rest of your life, allow me to describe that to you. I have some experience as an asthmatic. Imagine, you have belts strapped tight around your chest. Now imagine trying to run or do any activity, with a clothes pin over your nose, and you can only breath through a straw between your lips. Doesn’t sound like too much of a challenge until your lungs can’t expand as much as they usually do because of the belts, so you only get short breaths. Then the limit on how much air you can quickly draw into them takes effect and your lungs start to burn the longer you do this. At some point you start panicking about the fact you can’t breath and this just accelerates everything. Now imagine that feeling all day, every day, for the rest of your life. That is what Covid can do to you, if it doesn’t kill you first. So how can you reduce your chances of contracting this and the chances of killing everyone you care about. Well let’s talk about it.
Gloves, what are they good for?
Many people have turned to gloves as the ultimate way to keep from getting sick. But does it really help? Well that depends. Despite what you might think, your body, to quote a fictional droid from a game I have already reviewed, is a “meatbag“. Surprisingly this describes you rather well. Basically you are meat, and organs, and bones, inside of a conveniently wrapped Ziplock bag that scientists call, your skin. And your skin is really good at keeping things like Covid and other parasites out. Just like that Ziplock keeping that exploded soda in your lunch bag from ruining your sandwich. So how do we get infected if the skin is so good? Well, as you might know there are multiple holes in your meatbag. We typically call these more constructive things like nostrils, eyes, and mouths, but holes is good enough for our example here. Remember your sandwich bag? Well you didn’t zip it all the way, that’s your mouth. And now the soda is leaking into the bag and your internal sandwich is all contaminated. This is how most pathogens enter the body. So, unless you have found a strange new way to wear gloves, gloves will not protect the places that viruses and other pathogens normally enter the body. Having said that, if you have cuts or scratches on your hands, gloves can definitely help. So why wear gloves at all? Well, because they can be helpful in combating cross contamination and do provide an extra layer of protection. We are going to get to cross contamination in a minute, but this is the main reason the average person might want to wear gloves, medical gloves, not those weird wool ones your Grandma Smith gave you. Obviously, medical staff are going to have a lot more reason to wear them.
Masks, why do I have to wear them?
Masks have become a hugely controversial topic as of recent days. Why do we have to wear them, does it infringe on my rights, why are they so uncomfortable? Well, masks are quite possibly the biggest thing you can do to prevent or slow down the spread, other than just staying at home. If you remember back to our Ziplock bag, the biggest holes in your meat bag through which you are most likely to get this virus are your eyes, nose, and mouth. A properly fitting mask that is also worn properly covers two of these. It also covers the two of them that are most likely to cause you to spread the disease. Because we aren’t just trying to protect you. We aren’t selfish gits. It stops you spreading the bug by trapping stuff on the inside of your mask. Which sounds gross, but have some perspective. Little bit of gross, not killing that nice granny from down the street. But, just having a mask is not enough. YOU MUST USE IT PROPERLY, or it is basically worthless.
These are the three most common ways I have seen masks worn, other than no mask at all. Which is alarming. So let’s dissect what each person is doing wrong. Larry, with his yellow mask, is at the store. You will notice that his nose is not covered by the mask. To properly wear a mask, it should create a seal around your mouth and nose. Depending on the mask type, normally you will feel this seal on your jaw bones, cheeks, across your sinuses, and on the bridge of your nose. So Larry is failing already, but why is that bad? Well again his nose is not covered. If someone sneezes near him (and you would be surprised how far the particles from a sneeze can go) while he is walking through the store, he is immediately going to breath that in and become infected. Likewise, if he sneezes, his mask isn’t protecting anyone around him. Mo on the other hand has a mask that is too small. While this is better than Larry (it covers the mouth and nose), it can cause Mo to end up taking off or messing with her mask more often. It is can also cause her to have headaches, sore ears, and trouble breathing through the mask. While Mo is probably the best out of the 3, this highlights the three biggest issues most people have with wearing masks, they say they’re uncomfortable, itchy, and hard to breathe in. And I am sure that you can see that Curly, with his blue mask, might as well not be wearing the mask at all. I do see some people use this as the default for, “I am just going to drop it for a minute” or “it’s hot and I need a breather.” When we talk about cross contamination here in a minute, I will go further into why this is not a great idea.
First though, I want to address getting you a mask. The other excuse I have heard a lot is, “well I just don’t have a mask”. Before we go any further, here are some resources to get you one. CDC’s website on cloth masks, surgical style cloth masks, cloth mask patterns for all ages, n95 masks, or simply Amazon. Now you don’t have an excuse. For each of these, there are benefits and limits to what each one will do, and as I stated above, if you do not use them properly, don’t expect the benefits. Here is a little about each of these mask types.
We will start with surgical masks, the pros. They are cheap, disposable, and if done properly can limit cross contamination the most. On the down side, some of them can be cheaply made. Some break very easily or don’t fit properly, which can limit the protection they afford. There is also the issue that because they are disposable, your access to them might become limited at some point as suppliers are having difficulty meeting demand. But overall they do a fairly good job of protecting you from sneezes and other potential contaminates, and most have a wire in them to help fit them to your face better. It is important to note that the public has been asked to try saving the disposable versions of the surgical masks for the medical staff treating patients in hospitals. There are patterns available to create cloth versions of these though (see link above).
Cloth masks. These have seemed to quickly become the most popular. They are relatively inexpensive, they are easy to make, they are reusable, and they are a great way of showing off your personality. I currently have masks that feature the Maurader’s Map, Star Wars, and the Avengers. They typically fit well and can, CAN, offer great protection. On the down side, cross contamination can be more of an issue with these, and they can potentially offer terrible amounts of protection because unfortunately, since these are mostly home made, protection levels vary wildly. Some homemade masks tested have performed as well as n95 masks, others performed slightly below surgical masks. There are just too many factors that go into the protection value of these, that I cannot state whether or not the one you make will be good. However, here are some guidelines. I will say, if you aren’t going to read that article, that all of the ones I have made so far for my co-workers and medical staff friends have been a combination of a cotton exterior with a heavy flannel material against the face. I typically make mine to strap behind and on top of the head, so as to avoid them ever being loose on the face or bugging my ears. But whatever you do, use multiple layers. If you can see light through the mask, it won’t help you.
N95 Mask. These are the heavy duty tank armors of masks. They filter 95% of particles and give the best seal to your face money can buy. If you buy the right one. Some have a built in filter system that allow the mask to be reused multiple times, and they are robust. Having said all this, unless you have a lot of money AND are immune-compromised, DO NOT BUY ONE, if you can help it. I’m stating this mainly because, remember at the beginning of the article when I was talking about our hospitals having to bid against each other like some sort of disturbed auction of death. Yeah, well most of your nurses and doctors still don’t have these. So if you are wanting to buy 100’s to donate to the men and women who need them most, that is okay. Otherwise, please try to save these limited supplies for those who need them most.
Cross Contamination, the thing that will get you killed
For those of you who have ever had to sit through the yearly blood borne pathogen training at work, no it isn’t just for vampire hunters, you are no stranger to cross contamination. For the rest of the world, please watch Molly explain it. To be honest this is the single largest thing that is going to get us all killed, because no one thinks about it, and I am not going to rehash it below. How many times while reading this article have you rubbed your face, or eyes? Yes, I saw you scratching your nose while eating that Big Mac during the “Covid-19 isn’t that bad section.” Now imagine that each time you did that, you were spreading fecal matter on you, instead of just wiping your forehead. Feel crappy? Yep, I know I did just writing it, but that is the basis for cross contamination. Using your gloves, as we stated above, is great, so long as you switch them out constantly. Handling your groceries, then going to open your Coke bottle with your gloves still on, is the same as not wearing your gloves at all. The germs still went on your soda opening where you then put your mouth. Every time you go to put something in your mouth, or touch your face after handling something foreign, things others might have touched, you should be washing your hands, switching gloves, or using hand sanitizer. Otherwise all that PPE does nothing. You are simply swapping fake skin for your real skin. So, if you can remember back to Curly, who was hanging his mask low, like 90’s rapper pants. First, he isn’t covering his face. Second, whenever he touches the outside of that mask, he is contaminating his hands with whatever was on the outside of that mask. By pulling the mask back up, he will likely put his hands all over his face, contaminating it, and the underside of his mask, the part that touches his face, is contaminated with whatever was on his neck. Just like the nice lady from the video showed. One of the biggest boons to wearing that mask, is that it helps limit how much you can touch these vital areas of the face. It limits your cross contamination. But only if you stop touching it.
Putting it all together
So what precautions can you take in the coming days. First, if you don’t have to go out, don’t. I know this sounds annoying to hear after a few months in quarantine now. But I don’t mean, don’t leave your house. If you have kids, let them play in the yard, go running, have a barbecue. But in all of these things try not to interact with anyone outside your household. So kids go play, but don’t go hang out with all your friends at the park. Go running, but outside and away from large traffic areas, not the gym or crowded park. Have a barbecue and holler at Dave across the street, but Dave can stay right the heck on his lawn with his too green grass. We know you spray paint it you weirdo. If you are doing just these things, you probably don’t need to wear a mask or gloves or go germ panic. But, every time you come in direct contact with or come close to people or objects outside your household, you need to assume they are contaminated. Having this assumption will get you to follow the necessary steps I am about to outline. Going, “Nah this is probably fine” is the same attitude that gave us Chernobyl. So just do it right the first time. If, in the event that rule one MUST be broken, please at least follow the other rules I am about to outline. Number 1. If you must go somewhere, doctor, work, store, Books & Brews, wear a mask. This can help limit the amount you end up touching your face and thus cross contaminating with anything you come into contact with if worn properly. Assume at this point that your car is compromised. Anything that has touched your clothes, has touched the seats of your cars. All those groceries that might be contaminated, have been in your trunk. Face it, your car is a Petri dish. That McDonald’s fry is just the largest example. And while Covid doesn’t seem to last as long on fabrics as hard surfaces, you shouldn’t rely on an assumption that your car is sterile. If you are driving anywhere, even to an ATM, consider wearing a mask. I realize it seems silly to wear one when you are the only one in the car, but it will save you having to put it on when you get to your location (where you could end up with contaminates under your mask) as well as keep you safe in the mean time. Wearing a mask in public helps save not just you but also others who might be more vulnerable than you. So keep it on at all times if possible. Also make sure everyone going with you has a mask. So if you are taking kids to the store, make sure they have a mask that fits them. I gave you patterns for them too. Number 2. Sterilize all the things. If you walk into your home carrying all these lovely contaminated particles and go plop down on the couch, guess what just got contaminated. When you get home, make sure you wipe down all hard surfaces, keys, phone, wallet, credit cards, glasses, etc. with some sort of disinfectant. This includes the outside packaging of your groceries. Obviously don’t wipe down your strawberries with bleach. I know that Clorox wipes are hard to find right now, but you need to get these items cleaned the best you can. Take time to actually get the items cleaned before placing them in a bowl or on the rack. Then take all of your clothes and immediately throw them in the wash. Covid doesn’t just ignore your jeans to go for your face. Make sure if you are lifting the lid on the washer to wipe it down too. If possible, remove your mask last. That way taking off your shirt doesn’t hit your face with all the particles that were on it. If it is a cloth mask, throw it in the wash too. You need to clean all of this stuff. Putting a little bit of ammonia in with your clothes will help with sterilization, but make sure you don’t wash your mask with ammonia. This can cause its own problems. Number 3. You still need to get clean. Go hop in the shower and scrub yourself down. Your skin gets rid of most bacteria and viruses when the dead skin of your epidermis is shed. Using soap and water helps to facilitate this and get you clean. Don’t just stand in there for 5 min with the water running and expect to be clean. And it should go without saying, but I will put it here. Try to have basically no contact with anyone or anything on your way to the shower. Remember you are dirty. Don’t get other things dirty. These steps should be followed every time you leave the house. Not just once a day. There that’s it, that is all I am going to tell you to do.
I do have a big ask though. Please share this as much as you can and try to get as many of your friends to do this stuff. At the risk of getting fired from blogging, I am not doing this to get views for me or B&B. I honestly don’t care. There will be other posts for that. I want to try to help and save as many people as WE can. If you are a doctor (the medical kind not the emeritis Shakespearean nerd kind), nurse, virologist, have a medical degree and you see anything I messed up or if you have further instructions, please throw it in the comments below. I want the information going out to be good. This info is coming from my own research via the CDC and other reliable sources, and my past experience teaching college and high school biology. I am not an expert. But if you are an ACTUAL EXPERT please feel free to ask me to correct anything. I will continue to update this as many times as necessary to get the right message out. Stay safe out there everyone. I love you and value you, even if I haven’t met you. And we are only going to overcome this together.
Note: If this ends up going political in the comments, I will shut the comments section off for this post.