COVID-19: To mask or not to mask...

COVID-19: To mask or not to mask...


Friday, April 10, 2020

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“COVID-19 will show us who we are.” This is a sentiment I've been hearing as the pandemic takes root in more and more countries across the globe. All the things that make us who we are — the good, the bad and the ugly — are heightened in times of turbulent change. Reflexes take over from reason and, in this time, lack of reason becomes deadly.

Conspiracy theories are running wild and for every speculation that is shared and aired on social media, there is an opposing view not far behind. Who don't trust no shadow after dark, or in the light for that matter, are gobbling up every suspicious fact.

I have no intention of sharing any of the foolishness. So don't ask me what they're saying. We are already dealing with one deadly spread for me to go and add more to the mix. I suggest you learn to pick sense out of nonsense.

As the COVID-19 response evolves day by day, we are being challenged to shift our stance, hour by hour. So, even in discerning fact from fiction, we also have to be willing to hear new things.

Take the matter of masks, for example. In the early days of COVID, the use of masks by the general public was not promoted. Stern warnings were given that masks would not be the solution to curbing spread. Four months into the COVID-19 preckeh and international health organisations have backpedalled on their earlier stance.

It now seems to me that the earlier message was underlined by a fear that masks would have been gobbled up by a frantic public, resulting in medical workers being deprived of protective gear, leaving them exposed to danger. It was not an unfounded fear. The shortage of toilet paper and hoarding of sanitisers and cleaning supplies in some countries is proof of how the public can react.

However, as the knowledge about how the virus travels through communities, even by people who are not showing any symptoms, the conversation has shifted. The message has become more nuanced: Use a mask, but leave the medical-grade versions for the health professionals. Wonder why they couldn't have said that from the start and take measures to ensure there were systems in place to control supply?

Our Government has issued an advisory on who should be using masks for protection. They hasten to add that all the other steps of keeping your distance and hygiene practices must also be continued. Take the time to learn how to use a mask safely. Yes, there is more to it than tek off and put on. And, please, keep the place clean and dispose of the masks properly. With the new instructions on personal protection, homemade masks are popping up all around. Concerned citizens have turned on their sewing machines and are helping to fill the gaps in supply.

A recent news report shared the story of a woman who was busy making masks to distribute to the security forces. Other instances of turning hand to mek fashion in order to help ourselves have come to public attention as well. A group of young people with the technical know-how has been 3-D printing face shields and masks for use in the health industry. Another team at The University of the West Indies (UWI) has begun repairing ventilators to increase supply. Yes, indeed, there are people out there who are ready to do good for the good of us all.

Farewell, friend

Jamaican actress Lois Kelly Miller passed away at her home in Gordon Town earlier this week. Lois may be best known for her work in the national pantomime alongside her dear friend Louise Bennett- Coverley in the 1950s and 60s. For a younger generation, they know her from the film Meet Joe Black. She was an immensely talented woman. She had perfect comedic timing, although she was able to convincingly play any type of role.

As a member of the Gordon Town community she took part in many activities in the church and the village. She did her part in helping to establish the Gordon Town All-Age School, now renamed the Louise Bennett-Coverley School.

She outlived two husbands and other family members. She survived a U-boat attack during World War II. She batted a good innings. My sincerest condolence to her family and friends. May she rest in peace. Walk good, my sister.

Easter wishes

As we enter a very different sort of Easter weekend, I pray that we will find the compassion for each other. I pray we take the opportunity to take the time to assess what we can do to make our country better. I pray we maintain the vigilance on how to keep ourselves safe, despite the challenges.

I pray that we find ways to inspire and thank those who are putting their lives on the line. I pray that we find the determination to pick up the pieces when this is all over. Have a blessed, peaceful and safe Easter.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@

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