Category Archives: Health Care

Mask Protection

November 27, 2020

Pearl River     There’s a huge back and forth among the American masses about mask protection from Covid-19. Support, according to surveys, for mass masking has continued to rise, despite resistance in the White House. We’re certainly going to see something approaching a national mandate or call for mass making with a new administration, but we’ve got a long way to go.

A lot of our brothers and sisters are at best flying half-masked. Many seem to believe that the mask is something similar to a chin guard, but I’m unclear what kind of helmet it’s holding up? Others seem to think it’s a fashion statement showcasing the much under highlighted nose as a facial feature. Friends, if it breathes in and out, rather your beautiful nose or your massive mouth, it lets the virus in and out with peril to you and your neighbors.

I talked to Dine Butler, coordinator of Last Mile NOLA-PPE and deputy area director for CORE Response, a testing delivery site, on Wade’s World to try to get the skinny on masks, and it was an education.  First off, be clear, masks protect you, not just your community according to all of the research now, more than eight months into the pandemic. That’s good news, but not just any mask will do the trick. A single layer cloth mask or bandanna seems to be mainly a fashion statement, rather than a public health practice. Simply put, you need to double up, at the least.

Butler was nice about it, but it was clear she was take-no-prisoners on mask handling. She argued that you need to wash your masks daily or you are just creating a storage container for Covid. She recommends wearing a disposable surgical mask over your main mask, so you can throw that away after work or the end of your day, and wash or wear your cloth mask. If you’ve heard about the value of N-95 masks, it’s all true, but they are in woefully short supply and really reserved now for healthcare and other vital workers, except of course if you’re a millionaire in which case, can you spare a mask, brother? KN-95’s are more available and they are worth protecting with your cover mask.

Face shields for the robot, star trek fans, just don’t get it. Butler gave the example of walking into a smoke-filled room. If you had on your face shield, you would still smell and breathe in the smoke, so same-same, they won’t protect you from Covid. Having flown recently, I can tell you that everyone in the airport requires you to have a mask under the shield, so what’s the point of the shield I wonder, unless you’re doing dental work or something with a lot of spray.

I asked Butler if mass masking is likely to permanent. She wouldn’t go there, long term, but she predicted this would be a major fashion and public health statement for the next year or two. In Japan or Korea, it is common to see masks on people in crowded settings and on public transportation. We’re going there now, and it’s likely we’ll all have masks handy for the rest of our lives. Now that we’re learning to be prepared, there’s really no going back.

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Moving Forward on US Healthcare

New Orleans       Breaking away from a meeting with our new tenant organizers at a table in front of Publix grocery store in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, I had to find a place quiet enough to talk to Rosemarie Day about her take on expanding universal healthcare on Wade’s World . Walking down an alley fifty yards away, some of the restaurants were still not open for the day, so I found myself perching everything on top of a garbage receptacle, hoping it would work.

And, it was worth it!  We needed to see where he Affordable Care Act was going next, which made Day’s book, Marching Toward Coverage:  How Women Can Lead the Fight for Universal Healthcare, very timely.  Day had been there and done that as former chief operating officer for the Massachusetts Health Connector, which had been the model and precursor of the national legislation.  Before we talked about the prospects for extending coverage, we were hearkened by the news that in a hearing before the US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanagh had both seemed to signal that they saw the issue of the individual mandate before the court has one where severability would apply, meaning that even if they found one piece, even a fundamental one, constitutionally flawed, the act would still survive.  Day’s cut on this was that a simple legislative fix might work, even one that lowered the individual mandate penalties to only one-dollar.

Day’s call was for women to lead the charge for universal care, but she saw Biden’s public option as progress compared to where the ACA had been left.  There were other fixes that Biden could make to restore attacks on the ACA by the Trump administration.  Capping the deductibles closer to $3000 as Massachusetts had done and providing more generous incentives in the marketplace would also allow the ACA to get closer to the 95% plus range Massachusetts had achieved.  I hoped that would allow lower waged workers to not be blocked from the marketplace incentives by the play-pretend skinny plans with exorbitant deductibles offered by many employers of essential workers.

We agreed that the pandemic seemed to put wind in the sails of reform.  Day believed that heighten recognition of the need for more investment in public health would now be a major factor.  I hoped that the fact that an estimated 14 million had lost employer provided coverage due to layoffs and job losses in the pandemic depression would also point the way to a more robust federal health support.

The marketplace is also more inviting during the current enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.  Kaiser estimates that the cost of benchmark plans had fallen by 2%.  According to Get America Covered, a nonprofit advocate, two-thirds of customers on HealthCare.gov can find a plan for $10 a month or less.

Who knows if Day is right that women can lead the fight, but for sure someone has to step up, so why not women?

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