“We’re all in this together,” means what exactly? The new PSA should be: “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.”
PSA announcements keep repeating the mantra, “We’re all in this together.” But what does it mean, beyond that any of us could die or go bankrupt and if you’re not stressed you aren’t paying attention?
Let me translate in practical terms: What I exhale, you inhale. The question is just how far what I exhale travels when I speak, laugh or sing and whether I’m indoors or out. Sneezing, however, has been studied extensively.
According to the American Lung Association: “A cough can travel as fast as 50 mph and expel almost 3,000 droplets in just one go. Sneezes win though—they can travel up to 100 mph and create upwards of 100,000 droplets.”
An MIT study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine states: “The largest droplets rapidly settle within 1 to 2 m (3 ½’ to 7’) away from the person. The smaller and evaporating droplets are trapped in the turbulent puff cloud, remain suspended, and, over the course of seconds to a few minutes, can travel the dimensions of a room and land up to 6 to 8 m away (19’ to 26+’).”
So, here’s what “We’re all in this together” really means: “I’m a danger to you and you’re a danger to me,” especially since some of us are asymptomatic and have no idea when we’re spreading the disease. None of us want to have to go through another round of social isolation and job losses like this. We all want to see the economy recover ASAP, no matter our political leanings, and none of us want to end up in the ICU…or dead.
Turns out that we are all in this together and how we get out of this without causing another spike of Covid-19 cases will require continued social distancing. Until we have a vaccine and treatment, it is the only answer. Where physical distancing is not possible, we need a couple of new PSAs.
“My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.” According to a study out of the University Medical Center in Hamburg, “Masks, especially when we’re talking about home-made ones, are not going to be perfect at preventing infection, but they can help reduce transmission. ‘Face masks are the only option in situations where social distancing cannot be practiced.’” And this, from The Atlantic, “Masks can be worn to protect the wearer from getting infected or…to protect others from being infected by the wearer. Protecting the wearer is difficult… But masks can also be worn to prevent transmission to others,… If we lower the likelihood of one person’s infecting another, the impact is exponential, so even a small reduction in those odds results in a huge decrease in deaths… blocking transmission outward at the source is much easier. It can be accomplished with something as simple as a cloth mask.”
My PSA for businesses is also simple: “It’s bad for business to sicken or kill employees and customers.” At least 40 U.S. grocery store employees have died, as of this writing, and there is no way of knowing how many of us got sick from exposure while shopping. Some stores are just impossible to do physical social distancing in, were never designed for it, and can’t be reconfigured to create more space. Period. Think about grocery shopping and trying to get items off shelves while someone is restocking that shelf. I have tried and failed to accomplish this maneuver at Fred Meyer, twice, both times having to get close to the barefaced employees, or not get the items.
Fred Meyer sent out an email saying they are “encouraging our associates to wear personal protective equipment like masks.” Many employees were not wearing masks, nor were many of the outside vendors. In contrast, Costco, Walmart and the Co-op are requiring employees to wear facemasks, as are other stores in town.
And yes, I inquired through the Governor’s Office about masks being required in retail businesses where social distancing was not possible. I was told by a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board Enforcement & Education Division Officer that the State can’t require masks, but the city can. It struck me as an odd division of authority, but then we are all making this up as we go along.
So, I am making a plea to all of us, and especially to businesses. Everyone who has contact with the public, or works in spaces where the public goes, should wear a mask provided by their employer. It’s a nuisance and a pain and masks are hard to find and the elastics hurt my ears, but avoiding a second round of this pain is worth this minimal effort compared to prolonging the pandemic.
As to all you shoppers, strollers, joggers on busy trails, and everyone else, I’ll wear my mask to protect you. Will you please, please wear yours for me?