August 11, 2020 Moonshine Minutes

CoronAmnesia; masks and privilege.



Becca: Welcome to today’s Moonshine Minutes, an episode where we want to let our opinions fly. First, let’s hear from our editorial board, made up of [Alex] Alex Hoeft, news reporter, [Juliana] Juliana Demarest, arts and culture editor, [Mayumi] Mayumi Elegado, publisher and editor-in-chief, [Becca] and Becca Loux, digital content editor.  

Alex: We are feeling uncomfortable. Here’s why.

For two solid months, most in the country adhered to lockdown orders. As the economy neared collapse, experts were behind the scenes, developing necessary resources to deal with the novel coronavirus. They did so and we reopened. The streets came back to life, businesses dusted off counters, and we all breathed a little easier.


A little too easily, in fact. Suddenly people were flooding the roadways and gathering with missed family and friends. But it was often being done while not wearing masks nor keeping physical distance. As COVID-19 has sunk its claws deeper into our lives, many have become numb to the feeling. That mindset needs to stop now.

Juliana: While we sorely needed to jumpstart the economy and we are now better prepared, it doesn’t mean we are scott-free. The numbers of cases may be manageable right now, but look to be quickly spiraling out of control, leading to yet another lockdown before we’ve had the chance to fully recover from the first.

For those who resist being told what to do and say anything less than N95 masks aren’t effective, we ask you to do your research. As knowledge about the virus grows, the efficacy of masks is becoming firmly established. One key point from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation said that “33,000 deaths could be avoided by October 1 if 95% of people wore masks in public.”

Make no mistake: Masks save lives.

Mayumi: Tie that to physical distancing and we have a winning formula. So simple. And it hardly costs anything. Compare that to overwhelmed medical facilities. To businesses being shut down and possibly not reopening. To the irreplaceable cost of the loss of a human life.

The death of anybody shouldn’t be acceptable when it’s preventable. We’ve heard so many “I’ve got such a low chance of having it be fatal/serious” or “I’m healthy, I’m young, I’m fine.” I, I, I. Where’s the we? Did you know Sacramento County reported in early July that nearly half of its active cases are from people under 40? That studies are showing there may be lasting impacts from the infection on young bodies that mimic Kawasaki disease and on the organs of any person who has become infected, even after they recover?

At the base of this eagerness to cast off public health recommendations is a misinterpretation of what freedom really means. This country is based on freedom to a life of opportunity, where we are given the wherewithal to choose our path in life, and supported by laws that erase obstacles that limit us. What has happened is that people believe freedom means freedom from having any limits, as Umair Haque wrote in his eye-opening essay, How Freedom Became Free-dumb in America.

Haque points out that modern Americans have adopted the notion that they are entitled to freedom from “any kind of obligation or responsibility to … anything. Each other. History. The future. Just common decency. Even just basic humanity.” 

Becca: “Don’t tell me what to do” is a just-because attitude that leads to a lack of a social contract, of caring for thy neighbor, of looking together toward a better future. That’s not the way to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the way toward divisiveness (check!), societal ills (check!), and a democracy that shows signs of dissembling (double check!).

Instead of clutching our pearls over being asked to don a simple bandana during a global pandemic, let’s clutch our masks to our faces and head into public only sparingly. Doing any less is a crime against humanity.

[Music interlude]

Becca: Now let’s hear from one of our frontline heroes. A nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner, Katie Capano has over 20 years of healthcare experience. She has worked on the frontline of the COVID-19 epidemic since April, and she’s seen firsthand the true face of this disease. 

Katie Capano: Make no mistake. Wearing a mask is an act of social justice. Black and Latin-X people are three times as likely to get sick and twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than White people. In some states, like California, those numbers are dramatically increased. In fact, Latin-X people in California between the ages of 35 and 49 are 10 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than their White counterparts.

Why am I leading with race and ethnicity data? Because the appeal to common sense and science has failed. The data for mask wearing is overwhelming and plentiful. There is observational data from Japan and Korea, worldwide randomized controlled trials of both SARS-Cov-2 and SARS-Cov (a nearly identical virus), quantum mechanics data about how viral particles move, etc.

Yet somehow, anti-science prevails in small wellness communities like Tahoe. So it’s time to appeal to our humanity. People of color are dying in this country from COVID-19 at alarming rates. I know because I held their hands in Queens in April and May, and I am doing it again in Baltimore now. My patients are a diverse group. They speak Cantonese and Arabic and Spanish and Creole and Tzutujil Maya. They are young and old and middle aged. They are Democrat and Republican. The only thing they’ve all had in common: Every single one of them has been a person of color. Every. Single. One.

We are still reusing our N95s and surgical masks for as long as possible. I wore my first mask in a COVID-19 unit in Queens for 11 days straight. Twelve hours a day for 11 days; 132 hours. Soon after, I finally contracted COVID-19. The first 14 days experiencing the disease, I was completely unable to take care of myself. I couldn’t speak in complete sentences or walk due to severe shortness of breath. The fevers and body aches were unbearable.

Then the brain swelling started.

I finally went back to work last week but my headaches and dizziness continue. My memory is affected. I was managing a hemorrhage today and I couldn’t remember the name of a drug I’ve used 100 times. New research shows the brain damage could be permanent. I pray they are wrong.

Remember, privilege is the belief that something isn’t a problem because it hasn’t been a problem to you, personally. Wearing a mask for 40 to 60 hours per week for the past four months taught me a lot, like the importance of humility and grace when facing the unknown, and acknowledging my privilege and enduring my discomfort to protect others. The importance of timing bathroom breaks and water breaks wisely. Most importantly, it taught me the importance of speaking up.

Tahoe, it’s time to speak up. Too many of our White neighbors aren’t wearing masks. Too many of our Black, Brown, and Indigenous neighbors’ lives are at risk. Speaking up is no longer an option. It is a necessity.

Becca: And we encourage all of you to exercise your right to speak up and not be afraid to remind your fellow Tahoe/Truckee citizens of their duty to each other during this time. Tired of this virus? Great, so are we: The only way to thwart it is to mask up, stay away from others, wash your hands constantly, and stay home entirely if you’re sick. It’s simple, and we’ve heard it upwards of seven million times by now, so let’s just jump on board. As always, stay safe and sane, listeners, and keep seeking those moments of zen


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