Commentary

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Bridging our great national divide…or maybe just dealing with it

The elderly woman approached our table, her arm hooked through that of a younger companion, probably her daughter, who was wearing a MAGA mask 12 days post Biden victory.

“Ahhhh! Here’s some folks who like President Trump!” the older woman said with obvious delight.

Six faces stared back. My forkful of overpriced cheese grits hovered halfway to my mouth, so great was my shock. The grits and I were both quivering, uncertain which direction to take.

“We love him, don’t we?” she continued.

We looked at one another, three couples stealing away for a socially distanced birthday celebration, still not catching.

“No, we definitely don’t,” we said, clearly horrified. I was dying to ask them why they thought we were Trump fans. Was it because we were white and a certain age, dining in an upscale restaurant in conservative South Carolina? Yep.

While I am grateful as all get out to South Carolina for singlehandedly resuscitating Biden’s candidacy back in the primaries (I’m convinced he was the only one who could’ve beaten Trump in the end), there are a LOT of “Confederate American” bumper stickers and oversized Gun Lovers for Trump flags wherever you go. Even the Uber driver seemed shocked we would believe Anthony Fauci instead of her “gut instinct” that she’ll never catch COVID  because she’s built up immunity by being around so many people. In other words, there’s a distressing amount of unapologetic crazy in these parts.

Back at our table, the women prattled on about Trump’s eventual second term (once the fraud is revealed) and then announced they were visiting from Kentucky and thank God their Mitch McConnell beat that woman who wants to make everybody have a late-term abortion.

Who wants crème brulee?

A half hour later, as we waited for our ride in the parking lot, there they were again. Two men and another woman had surfaced, also from Kentucky.

“Just walk past,” I hiss-whispered to my friend who proceeded to not do anything of the kind instead opting for full-blown confrontation.

I’ll spare you the details but trust me when I say there’s not a doubt in my mind these people are in the “Michelle Obama’s a man” basket of deplorables, a phrase Hillary should’ve totally owned instead of shrunk from because of its admirable accuracy.

One of the Kentuckians, perhaps trying to make peace, said they had a Democratic governor, but he said it like he was owning up to peeing in the shower. Yeah, it’s the truth but I’m not proud of it.

Here’s the thing. Ever since the election we’ve heard the phrase “we are a nation divided” over and over but it doesn’t really sink in until you’ve had this kind of unprovoked personal run-in with “the others.”

We now live in a world where you can expect to be harangued in a restaurant – twice – for not being a member of the cult. “Nation divided” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Celia Rivenbark wonders if the makers of off-brand wipes are secretly overjoyed at pandemic. Sani-Happy-Home for the win.

News

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Commentary, COVID-19

Why face masks belong at your Thanksgiving gathering – 7 things you need to know about wearing them

Image: Adobe Stock

COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives, and it is poised to completely disrupt the holiday season. As people make holiday plans and think about ways to reduce the risks to their loved ones, a strategy is essential.

Face masks are a crucial part of that strategy, and they’re now mandatory in public in an increasing number of states as COVID-19 cases soar.

I am an infectious disease-trained epidemiologist, researcher and nurse practitioner. Here are answers to some key questions about how and when to wear masks, and how to manage their use during the holidays.

Are masks really necessary at family gatherings?

If you’re gathering with friends and family who don’t live in your home, yes. Just because you’re with people you know doesn’t mean you’re safe from the coronavirus. Infection rates are higher now than they have ever been in the U.S., and small gatherings have been a source of viral spread. All it takes is one infected person who doesn’t know they have the coronavirus to infect others.

Remember, people can be contagious two to three days before symptoms show – that’s one thing that makes this virus so hard to stop. And it’s why, even if you feel fine, you should wear a mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that when both people are wearing masks, the likelihood of infection is low.

Who am I protecting when I wear a mask?

In a word: everyone. The coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets that you send out into the air when you talk, sing or even just breathe. The tiniest of these droplets can float on air currents for long periods.

Face masks stop many of those droplets, reducing the amount of virus in the air. That lowers your chances of getting infected, and it also lowers the chances that you’ll infect someone else.

Studies of people who had prolonged exposure to others with COVID-19 have demonstrated how masks can reduce the chance of the virus spreading. In general, well-fitted cloth masks made up of multiple layers can stop most large droplets and at least half of the tiny ones. Plastic face shields alone are far less effective. Face masks with valves or vents might be good for construction work, but they don’t stop the wearer from breathing out virus into the air.

Can I reuse a mask and when should I replace it?

Reusable masks should be kept clean and dry. We’re moving into cold and flu season, and noses get drippy. A rule of thumb: Anytime a mask is wet to the point that you can discern the wetness, it’s time for a new one if it’s disposable, or it’s time to clean your reusable mask.

Wetness allows viruses to more easily move through paper or fabric because it allows the threads to move and may reduce the electrostatic charge in the masks that add extra protection with some fabrics.

In general, you can use a mask that stays clean and dry for about a week before you need to wash or discard it.

How should I clean a cloth mask?

Washing your mask is like washing your clothes. You know when it is time.

In general, cleaning your mask weekly should be sufficient. If odors develop before then, it’s a good idea to wash it sooner. Odor generally means bacterial buildup.

Cleaning your mask by hand with soap and water is your best option. Using a general detergent on a gentle cycle in the washing machine is also fine, but that may increase the risk of damage, depending on the quality of the material. COVID-19 is not a hardy virus. Any soap or detergent should work fine. There’s no need for special chemicals, bleach or harsh soaps.

Be careful to remove any inserts before washing. Inserted filters are generally not washable.

Air drying masks works best. Remember, masks should be completely dry before use. So be sure to have a replacement mask handy while the one you just washed dries.

Sunlight is always a great source of heat to dry your mask. Also, sunlight has ultraviolet radiation, which has been shown to eliminate coronavirus and is also known to have antibacterial properties.

Can I wear the mask below my nose?

Wearing your mask below your nose is, frankly, ridiculous.

Think about it. If you are breathing through your nose and only covering your mouth, you are effectively eliminating the point of the mask. Properly wearing a mask requires covering both your nose and mouth at all times.

Studies show that wearing a proper cloth mask or surgical mask while exercising doesn’t affect the flow of oxygen or carbon dioxide in any detectable way. So, unless you have serious heart and lung problems, that isn’t an excuse.

How do I safely remove my mask if I’m going to eat or drink?

When you take your mask off, remove it carefully by the straps without touching anything else and put it somewhere safe, like wrapped in paper in a purse, bag or pocket. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. When you put it back on, wash your hands again.

So, how can I have a safe holiday gathering?

The safest way to celebrate this year is to do so with members only within your household. The CDC is now stressing that point, as well. If you do celebrate with friends and relatives from outside your household, you need an action plan to reduce the risk of exposure.

Here are five recommendations:

  • Limit the number of people – fewer people means fewer opportunities for exposure, and you’ll have more room to spread out.
  • Require masks when not eating or drinking.
  • Use physical distancing when eating. Try to seat people at least 6 feet apart. Eat outside if you can.
  • Consider being tested for COVID-19 before traveling or gathering. It’s not a guarantee, but it can help flag illnesses. Remember to self-isolate between the test and the event.
  • Be prepared to self-isolate for 14 days after traveling or participating in any event that involves people from outside your home.

Jason Farley is a Professor, Infectious Disease-Trained Epidemiologist and Nurse Practitioner at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

[For research into the coronavirus and other news from science, subscribe to The Conversation’s new science newsletter.]

COVID-19, News

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News

NC certifies 2020 election results and puts up some staggering numbers

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted Tuesday to certify all but a handful of contests in the 2020 general election.

“We officially recorded the voices of more than 5.5 million North Carolinians in certifying this historic election,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

Other notable numbers from the November 3rd election as highlighted by the state board:

7.36 million: Registered NC voters (most in NC history)

5.55 million: Ballots cast (most in NC history)

75.35: Percent turnout of registered voters (most in modern NC history)

1 million: Absentee by-mail ballots cast (most in NC history)

471: Early voting sites (most in NC history)

77,887: Early voting hours (most in NC history)

348,000: In-person early votes cast on October 15 (most ever in a single day)

3.63 million: In-person early votes cast (most in NC history)

900,000: Approximate ballots cast on Election Day (November 3)

2,660: Precincts open on Election Day

57,017: Poll workers recruited through Democracy Heroes program

14 million: Items of personal protective equipment delivered to county boards of elections

6 million: Single-use pens delivered to county boards

0: Clusters of COVID-19 tied to voting sites in North Carolina

Only five races were not authenticated this week due to pending election protests: Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, District Court Judge – 10F (Wake County), N.C. House District 36 (Wake County), Hoke County Board of Education and Wayne County Register of Deeds.

A statewide recount is underway in the Chief Justice race where Paul Newby holds a 432 vote lead over Cheri Beasley.