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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: social distancing

What We Will (Surprisingly) Miss About Masks

When told to wear face masks two COVID-plagued winters ago, we thought: "Can't wait until this is over and we no longer have to wear a piece of cloth over our mouth and nose. It's ugly. It interferes with breathing. It muffles voices and makes some conversations hard to follow."

But wear face masks we did. And responsible people still do — without voicing complaint — in establishments that require them and in other social gatherings where they are recommended. Members of my pod, even if they've been fully vaccinated, stick to the program if only to avoid making trouble for workers and others tasked with enforcing the rules.

But now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lightening up on the number of situations in which the public should wear face masks, our conversations have moved on. The CDC most recently advised that fully vaccinated people no longer need masks outdoors unless they are in a crowd. We are imagining a time when they might not be necessary at all. And this has led us to muse about the things we will actually miss when we no longer feel obliged to wear them.

For starters, we will miss how they helped us avoid other diseases spread by human contact. I haven't caught a single cold or suffered a stomach virus since the COVID prevention rules went into effect in March 2020.

Evidence mounts that masks — plus hand-washing, plus social distancing — have slashed the flu death toll. In the 2019-2020 flu season, the U.S. saw 24,000 to 62,000 deaths from influenza. By contrast, the number of flu deaths this time was 500 as of April 1, and the season will be over at the end of the month. Thus, there may be a case for continuing to wear face masks in densely packed crowds, say, in airports or on public transportation.

On the lighter side, pod members spoke about how having their mouths covered freed them from intense worry about their breath or food stuck in their teeth. Another advantage of masks is that in cold climates, they keep the bottom half of the face warm. And on the street, they bestowed a pleasant veil of privacy and even mystery that many will miss.

Then there was lipstick. What was the point of lipstick if no one would see it behind a mask? We who wore it will probably wear it again.

In the pre-COVID days, some attention was paid to an economic indicator dubbed the "lipstick index." After the downturn following 9/11, Leonard Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder makeup company, made this prediction: As financially strapped consumers avoided big purchases, such as cars, they would instead reach for small luxuries such as lipstick. In other words, when the economy goes down, lipstick sales go up.

Of course, masks made the lipstick index irrelevant, not that it was taken very seriously before. Lipstick sales plunged despite the early COVID-sick economy. Interestingly, sales of skin care and body care products, particularly body creams, remained strong.

Starting in March, makeup sales saw something of an uptick but still haven't recovered from the falloff early in the pandemic, according to market research company NPD. And though online sales remain strong, brick-and-mortar stores are now doing a better business in skin care and hair products, a reflection of more people leaving home to shop. As more faces come out in public, cosmetic counters may get very busy.

What a strange time this has been. It's been strange for so long that going back to what was normal may itself feel strange. And as we think about it, some of it will be missed.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

WATCH: Dr. Fauci Says Vaccines Will Work But Warns To Keep Distancing, Masks

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

As the nation continues to face the novel coronavirus pandemic, we have lost 250,000 Americans. Among survivors, some live with long-term effects of the virus that we're only beginning to understand. While no one is immune to the virus, we know that some subsets of the population—including people with compromised immune systems and older folks—are particularly vulnerable. We've seen instances of the virus spreading quickly among group settings from schools, to churches, to an enormous motorcycle rally (no, it wasn't canceled). And yet some people still believe that instead of wearing masks or trying to mitigate the spread of the virus, we should just wait until the nation achieves herd immunity.

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#EndorseThis: Trump 'Not At All Concerned' Over Virus Infecting Voters At His Nevada Rally

Donald Trump defended his decision to defy coronavirus mitigation orders in order to hold a packed indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada, on Sunday night, saying that he was far away from the thousands of maskless attendees who were defying social distancing orders.

"I'm on a stage, and it's very far away," Trump said in an interview with a reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "And so I'm not at all concerned."

Trump expressed no concern in the interview for the thousands of his supporters who defied all social distancing orders to pack into the indoor rally, most of them not wearing masks, putting themselves at risk of contracting the deadly virus, which has to date killed 193,950 people in the United States.


Far-Right Trumpsters In Ohio Seek To Impeach GOP Gov. DeWine Over Virus Response

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is among the Republican governors who has been applauded by medical experts for his response to the coronavirus pandemic and implementing social distancing measures in his state. But some Republicans in Ohio's state legislature believe that DeWine committed an unforgivable sin by trying to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in his state and are calling for his impeachment.

Leading the anti-DeWine effort in the Ohio House of Representatives is Rep. John Becker, who has drawn up ten articles of impeachment against DeWine and created a website called "Impeach Mike DeWine" — which offers updates on efforts to impeach the conservative Republican governor. The articles, announced on August 24, slam DeWine for, among other things, issuing a stay-at-home order earlier this year and encouraging Ohio residents to wear protective face masks.

In one of his articles of impeachment, Becker even makes the claim that face masks promote the spread of COVID-19; that article states, "WHEREAS, Healthcare professionals have stated that, for the general population, wearing face coverings, people are more likely to infect themselves with COVID-19 because they will touch their face more often to adjust the covering, and that face coverings retain moisture, bacteria, and other viruses, in addition to re-breathing carbon dioxide, making them potentially dangerous for the general public to wear."

That article also reads, "WHEREAS, Richard Michael DeWine's face covering mandate promotes fear, turns neighbors against neighbors, and contracts the economy by making people fearful to leave their homes, to the detriment of every Ohioan."

The Republican co-sponsors for Becker's ten articles of impeachment, according to the Impeach Mike DeWine website, include Rep. Candice Keller, Rep. Paul Zeltwanger and Rep. A. Nino Vitale. The website lists all of the Ohio representatives who have co-sponsored the articles, and as of August 25, the vast majority of Ohio House of Representatives members had not signed on as co-sponsors.

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, a Republican, has come out against impeaching DeWine. Cupp, in an official statement, declared, "Having now had time to read and consider the draft resolution to impeach the governor announced by a couple of members, it is clear to me that it is an imprudent attempt to escalate important policy disagreements with the governor into a state constitutional crisis. Even serious policy disagreements do not rise to the level of impeachment under our constitution."

Ohio-based journalist John Conway, in an article for the conservative website The Bulwark, is vehemently critical of Becker and the Ohio House Republicans who have embraced his Impeach Mike DeWine effort — which, Conway stresses, is "likely to go nowhere." But Conway also notes that Becker's campaign "raises a sadly common question: how did Ohio get here, and what does this mean for the future of the Republican Party?"

"Any rational person operating outside of pure nihilistic self-interest can see that Gov. DeWine's actions do not warrant impeachment, but rather, praise," Conway writes. "But to be fair, these state Republicans learned it from higher-ups in their party. Many GOP elites, including Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia, have continued to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19 to appeal to their constituencies. And beyond just the current pandemic, the last four years have shown that the GOP establishment — with rare exceptions like Mitt Romney — will let Donald Trump get away with anything and everything out of fear of electoral consequence."

Conway laments that even if former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, does defeat Trump in November, the GOP will still be plagued with anti-science extremists like Becker.

‘Hell, Hug ‘Em!’ Gov. DeSantis Dismisses Social Distancing For Elderly

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday urged people to hug the elderly despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis said that as long as people are wearing personal protective equipment, he sees no reason not to hug people when visiting.

"Look, I'm comfortable with the PPE," the Republican governor said. "Hell, hug 'em! I mean, come on." He added that maintaining social distancing of six feet during visits — as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — seems unnecessary because it's "a reminder that it's still not normal."

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Trump Campaign Blocked Safety Measures At Tulsa Rally To Make Crowd Look Bigger

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Trump campaign deliberately arranged for Trump's recent rally in Tulsa Oklahoma to be as dangerous a venue for the spread of Covid-19 as possible, even as they required those who did attend the now-infamous event to sign away their right to sue if they became infected.

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Remote Work: Adjusting to (and Thriving in) the New Normal

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much in full swing, many states are navigating the process of reopening. That means many American workers who were formerly claiming unemployment benefits will start needing to look for work again; while those wages never reached the same level as temporary disability payments in California (which can be up to $5,077 per month), the inflated weekly benefit from the pandemic was able to keep many laid-off staff members afloat until now.

Of course, not everyone has been furloughed over the past few months. While stenographers and court reporters -- who can make up to $70,000 during their first year in the field -- were largely unable to work due to court closures, many businesses have been able to shift to a completely remote workforce over the past few months. Even professionals who typically rely on physical interactions with clients have had to make changes. If you're a real estate agent (which is typically a lucrative endeavor, as real estate has outperformed the stock market two-to-one since 2000), you might have to get creative in order to show off available properties or virtually meet with prospective buyers and sellers.

But with many areas entering the final stages of reopening, many employees and business owners hope that they'll be back to work as usual before too long. However, the danger of the coronavirus is far from over -- and without a vaccine, our best defenses continue to be frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. As you might have already guessed, none of these measures is especially conducive to the traditional office environment or any occupation that requires you to work in close quarters with others.

So what's the solution? It might be to make a permanent shift to working from home. Roughly 72 percent of people surveyed by Monster.com said they'd be hesitant to return to an office even when they were allowed to do so and 60% said they have no desire to return to in-person meetings. Instead, 45.5 percent of new job seekers will adjust to working remotely, with 42 percent specifically seeking out remote positions. Many big-name employers are making adjustments in order to stay fully staffed in this new normal, with tech leaders including Google, Twitter, and Facebook allowing employees to either extend work-from-home arrangements or continue remote work indefinitely.

Of course, remote work isn't a possibility for every business. But the pandemic did force many organizations to take a closer look at the jobs they used to insist could be performed only on-site. Much to their surprise, some found that their employees were perfectly capable of doing their jobs without ever coming into the office. And as a result, even smaller companies are allowing their employees to continue operations from the comfort of their homes for the time being whenever possible.

That said, there are some definite challenges to remote work. Cybersecurity is an ongoing issue for many businesses, as employees may be inclined to use their personal devices and unsecured connections when working from home. In fact, a recent survey showed that 52 percent of employees felt they could get away with riskier behaviors pertaining to cybersecurity when they worked outside of the office setting. Whether you're an independent contractor or you're managing a team of staff, it's important to invest in cybersecurity measures (like VPNs, password lockers, and other types of encryption) to ensure both professional and personal data stays safe during this time.

Another challenge is productivity. Although older data suggests that employees may be more productive when they're able to embrace more flexible work arrangements, the pandemic has forced many family members to stay home at one time. An employee who's trying to balance Zoom work meetings, homeschooling, and other obligations likely won't be able to give their all in every situation -- no matter how much they care. Still, the upside is that remote work has forced many businesses to streamline and embrace leaner operations; with fewer distractions and unnecessary meetings, it's easier to see what's really essential to get the job done. Many major businesses are reporting that productivity has gone up during the pandemic, as well, which just goes to show that some are actually thriving right now. But regardless, individual employees will need to work out logistics with other members of the household and discuss how goals will be set and met with their managers if they want to stay productive. And if you don't already have a designated room for work with a bit of privacy and quiet, you'll want to establish one if you want to keep working from home.

Remote work certainly isn't the ideal scenario for everyone. Many employees thrive off of social interaction, meaning that they may not do as well in isolation. Working from home can make it more difficult to concentrate for some -- and if there isn't enough oversight, it can be hard for some employees to really care enough to perform as well as they used to while in the office. But for others, working remotely is the ideal scenario that provides more solitude, more control, and more flexibility. If your office plans to continue with remote work, you'll want to conduct a thorough self-assessment to determine your own feelings about it, the challenges you face, and the actions you'll need to take in order to be successful. As many are finding out, remote work may be crucial to our economic success in the future... but it may require some major adjustments along the way.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.