To Those Who Can, Put on Your Mask and Get Back to Work!

ALPERN AT LARGE--Some of us want to find solutions, and some of us want to exploit this crisis.

Some of us think with our heads, and some of us think with We need to fight to get our economy back, just as much as we need to fight to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus to a manageable level.  

Some of us are getting income, and some of us are not. And some of us are getting income, and really don't give a damn about those not getting income and are more than happy to blame those who want to work when they protest. 

Some of us respect the scientific method, and some of us don't. And some of us don't care about the need to use masks and face shields when appropriate, while others don't care to learn when they're not necessary, or when face shields are an appropriate alternative to masks. 

Some of us think the government can fix and solve everything, while others forget that the choice to stay at home, and shut down the economy, as well as the choice to figure out how to go back to a degree of normalcy, was and will ultimately be done by the citizenry. 

Some of us want to live in a world without risks, and others know that everything has risks, including getting in your car every day to go to work. 

And some of us want to go to work and CANNOT, while others CAN go to work and SHOULD. Kind of like jury duty--it's your civic duty to do it, and when you don't have to call in you should get back to work ASAP.  

To all public and private sector workers: DO YOUR JOB and find a way to do a new job if this pandemic forces a new way of supporting yourself. 

Count me in as someone who wants ANSWERS, who adheres to the Scientific Method, who weighs risks and benefits of all health and public and economic policies ... and as someone who places the blame on only ONE entity: the Chinese Communist Government. 

1) For those who want to blame someone here locally, consider it pointless and without much pragmatic benefit. Save your heartburn and ire for the next election in November, or the next City or State election. But those mayors and governors (and president) who fight for answers will win the hearts of the majority of the voters. 

If you want to focus on the numbers and conspiracy theories, I do entertain the theory that the way the city and state governments SCREWED UP bigtime when they concentrated elderly and infirm COVID-19 into nursing homes in Los Angeles, Louisiana and New York). 

So it's not hard to wonder if the way that the political leadership in those regions is keeping everyone on house arrest and lockdown (while letting felons out of prisons and rewarding both homeless and those here illegally to break the law) is either naive...or just a way to "cover their tracks" in what amounted to a horrible and preventable slew of deaths to our elderly nursing home residents. 

As in "look at me, dammit, I really CARE!" and "don't look at how we could have moved nursing home residents into the empty/vacant motels and hotels and saved a whole bunch of lives".

As in "let's not focus on the fact that half the early deaths were due to nursing home clustering of COVID-19 patients", and that most healthy individuals are NOT dying right and left. 

2) Yet the Scientific Method and scientific observations do hold true (although any physician or scientist who claims he/she knows all the answers is already suspect, because the Scientific Method holds that if you don't really KNOW based on repeated and repeatable scientific testing, then you don't know ANYTHING...just an educated guess).  

So, no one--and not THIS physician--will ever claim that to KNOW the whole story, but three observations cannot be denied: 

a) The huge death toll predicted was based on experts who were wildly, wildly wrong, and who forgot that there were and are a host of factors that make even the smartest scientists dead wrong.

b) Many ARE dying, and many die horrible deaths that are very real. Some of us MUST stay at home and away from others to avoid dying (again, thank you Chinese Communist Party for throwing this upon us without enough protective gear or preparation, and for entirely misleading the world and knowingly letting out a small army of unwitting Chinese New Year tourists to infect the world).

c) We know much more, and we are more prepared, than we did in either March or even April. Our worldview and knowledge of this pandemic--and how to confront it--has dramatically changed with each passing week. 

3) Then there's (again) the need to figure out how to reasonably and realistically get ANSWERS, tentative or preliminary though they might be. 

Does EVERYONE need to wear masks? Well, no. 

Masks absolutely ARE necessary (and the gold standard) for those in close contact with others--and that includes everyone from surgeons (when they do procedures, and not when they're writing notes six feet away) to nail/hair salon operators/workers. 

But face shields are more open, don't force us to breathe and intoxicate ourselves on the CO2 in our exhalations, aren't scratchy, don't slip off our noses (and make them fail in what they're supposed to do), and protect our ears (unlike masks). 

Face shields allow us to show facial expression and are more dignified and humane a way to protect ourselves...that said, if they're not low enough or wide enough, they won't protect the mouth, nose, and ears.  

And they're probably VERY safe. They might not supplant the need for masks, but they're probably darn good substitutes for many, if not most of us, in our supermarkets. 

However, for those working in supermarkets, particularly in the checkout lanes, they'll need masks.

Those up close need to wear a mask. Arguably, nail/hair salon operators need to either wear a low and wide face shield, a mask, or (preferably) both. So, go to work, and take the temperatures and get tested as much as possible to ensure minimal spread of the virus. 

Those walking alone in a park or beach, far away from others, or driving in their cars, need not wear ANYTHING protective. The COVID-19 virus isn't nuclear radiation...and we shouldn't treat it as such. 

In short, and to reiterate, choosing to congregate and wear NO mask or face shield, or the suggestion that we should all stay at home forever until there's a vaccine/cure, is as unscientific as the anti-vaxxer movement who eschew ALL vaccines. And to that latter group, I apologize if I've hurt your collective feelings, but I'm not a fan. 

Both the Anti-Maskers and the Chicken Littles of the world are just dead wrong. No one size fits all.

4) Testing AND vaccines are the answer, and to those who are perpetual naysayers, I don't think you know how advanced and motivated the scientific world is to finding answers...and to how we're in a different world than even five years ago with respect to testing and vaccines.  

Tests abound, and still have problems, but they're getting more accurate and they're getting faster with respect to getting results. 

Don't be surprised if daily or weekly testing of salon workers, medical personnel, or small business owners becomes the norm.  

Don't be surprised if there are several vaccines, preliminary though they might be, and imperfect though they might be, that will be out there BY THIS FALL. Who gets them, and how many are needed (imagine 3-5 available, and those who can get them actually taking multiple vaccines to keep up with the mutations associated with this virus), is up to what we know BY THIS FALL

It bears repeating: some of us are paralyzed with fear, and some of us read the journals, and some of us know we're in a crisis but we're NOT living in 1955, 1975, 1995, or even 2015. Our scientific community is in a veritable "Marshall Plan" of its own making. 

And for those who predict doom and gloom for those regions and states opening...carefully and based on the data and numbers...there is good news. Those areas who are using the data and being careful with enforcement are NOT spiking in new Coronavirus outbreaks. 

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't use data or enforcement. Because needless deaths and suffering is just that...needless. 

And the needless damage to our economy and quality of life is also just that...needless!


(CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was (termed out) also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Outreach Committee, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee and Vice-Chair of its Planning Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)