December 22, 2020

This is serious, now.


Behind the mask beats a loving heart, willing to save others.

-Helene Munson


It’s right around noon when Waldo and I start our walk on the Marlborough Rail Trail.  It’s overcast with a light breeze and not cold enough to wear a parka.  Brown decaying leaves covering the ground under hibernating trees have become a familiar sight by now and Waldo no longer has voluptuous green bushes to plunge under and into for God-knows-what.  He still has plenty to smell and he is as absorbed, as always, in being out in nature.

Not one quarter mile into our walk and something new appears.  It is a large white sign tied to a rail-fence.  Black and red writing, in capital letters, tells anyone passing by on the trail that the Governor of Massachusetts has ordered that masks are now required.  Up until now, I have been careful to wear a mask, usually a cloth neck gaiter that I can easily and quickly pull up over my mouth and nose, whenever I’m in public indoors, but now I’ll do the same even when walking Waldo outdoors.  I keep the gaiter down around my neck until I see someone approaching, or hear them coming up from behind, then the slip the mask in place well before the recommended six feet of separation is reached.  I keep it there until I’m once again alone for a significant distance.

This I do not only for the protection of myself and others, but also to help decrease the spread of the virus.  I do it as an expression of support for our authorities who are using the meager tools they have available to get this thing under control.  What rational person wouldn’t?  Covid-19 is spread through the air, it is very contagious, it kills (the overall death rate in the world is about 2.3%), there is no natural immunity, and there is no treatment for the virus (although there are some effective supportive measures that can keep some people alive until their bodies can overcome the infection).  It is a potentially catastrophic situation that has only infected about 8 percent of the world’s population (4.2% of the US population).  The infections won’t stop until about 70% of the world’s population is immune.  In the United States alone, if there were no vaccine, that would mean about 230 million people infected and 4.6 million dead.  But there are several vaccines on the horizon and we can reach the 70% immunity by vaccine and avoid 4.3 million deaths in the US, if we can just hold out long enough for the vaccine to become widely available.  This is expected to happen by May of 2021.  Until then, it only makes sense to do whatever we can to limit the spread.  This means following the guidelines provided by the experts who study this stuff and are the most knowledgeable.  Wear your mask, avoid gatherings, etc.

From what I can learn, wearing a mask outdoors doesn’t make much difference.  But it also costs so little – just a little temporary discomfort.  Very little.  The risk to benefit ratio is clearly on the side of the mask.  Apparently, most of the people we pass on the trail agree with me as they are either wearing masks or pull them into place, as I do, when we get close.  There are a few who are not wearing masks, but they give us a wide berth and pass quickly.  All seem to be very friendly and I see none arguing about wearing or not wearing masks.  Judging by what I read and hear from the media, this is not universally true.  At the rate things are going now, some 300,000 Americans will be dead from Covid before Christmas. That’s more than the number of American soldiers who were killed in combat during World War II (291,557).  And Covid has only been killing people for nine months.  America was involved in WW II for three years and nine months.  History will not judge kindly those who oppose following the guidelines.

I have two grandchildren who had the virus and will remember what that was like.  They will also remember how the disease changed all our lives.  Although they aren’t old enough to fully understand the implications of shut downs and job losses, they will remember what it was like to have to stay at home, wear masks in public, and to be denied in-person schooling.  They will remember not being able to shop in the malls and meet with their friends as much as they would like.  They will remember living in a world full of other human beings who could only be touched through digital devices.  But how, I wonder, will they ever explain to their children and grandchildren how it was that so many people fought to avoid the guidelines and allowed the virus to surge to what it is today?  I can’t get my own mind around it.

My family and I, we do what we can and keep on trucking.

At least I can still walk with Waldo, even if it is with a mask.


Despite the pandemic, we are still able to responsibly go for a walk.

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