We Are All Essential

We Are All Essential

Asking, “Who is essential?” is the wrong question.

Declaring, “I’m not essential,” is the wrong answer.

We are all “essential” to someone, even if our work is not essential – today – to the continued functioning of our civilization. The question of who should get the COVID-19 vaccine first, and in what order thereafter, is a question for virologists, epidemiologists, and medical ethicists. The correct term is “essential worker” – not “essential person.” Essential workers are the people who take care of the rest of us – who allow us to not go out there and risk close exposure to a deadly pathogen. But if we are not “essential,” then what are they risking their health for?

Adjectives should no be carelessly applied, or turned into nouns – just as people and immigrants are not “illegals,” we do not have some class of humans called, “essentials.”

The media does no one any favors by asking, “Who is essential?” Given they seem determined to fill the airwaves with their blather, 24/7, they could spend an extra second on, “Who is classified as an ‘essential worker’?” or “Which jobs are considered ‘essential’ when determining how the vaccine will be distributed?”

The CDC does a decent job of outlining the plan: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations.html

Eager as I am to get vaccinated, I wouldn’t put me at the head of the line. Not because I’m “not essential” but because I’m not out there working in the medical field. I’m not a first responder who is likely to encounter people stricken with COVID-19. I’m not trucking food and toilet paper and PPE cross-country, every day. I’m retired, and I have no school-aged children living at home, but I’m not old enough to be in the high risk age groups. I’m overweight, but not “morbidly obese.” I’ve had cancer, but that’s in the past. My immune system is fine. I’m glad I’m still too young and too healthy, overall, to be in the first group slated to receive the vaccine. Patience has never been one of my virtues, but .impatience is hardly a risk factor for COVID-19.

I’d put my grown children and my grandchild ahead of me, too. Every parent knows that elementary and secondary school is a breeding ground for germs, and those germs get shared more liberally than unwanted carrot sticks from a sack lunch. They’re brought home more reliably than a math worksheet. University students can, for the most part, follow directions and protect themselves, but what kind of a life is it to hole up alone in your dorm room like a mole rat and experience college life via Zoom? I used to joke that having kids in public school was how we develop immunity to “nuisance” diseases, like the common cold. But I remember lining up at school for a slew of required vaccinations. It wasn’t a choice and our parents remembered the devastating effects of smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, tetanus, and polio too acutely not to consent to our receiving those shots. Fortunately, most people my age don’t have first-hand knowledge of any of those things, thanks to vaccines.

There are a lot of negative and untrue stories out there, concerning vaccines. I’m not going to argue with the anti-vaccination crowd, but participating in large-scale vaccination is one of the prices to be paid for living in civilization with other humans. There are many more lives saved because people took a chance and put their faith in science, rather than risk death by microorganism when there was an effective way to prevent it. I’m one of those people. I’ll get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they’ll let me – to reduce your risks, as well as my own.

But even if I have to wait until March, it doesn’t mean I’m “not essential.” And neither are you. Don’t let the news media convince you otherwise.

Bedsheets

Bedsheets

I don’t sew. Or didn’t,
Though I bought a machine:
A nice, beginner-level sewing machine,
along with some “how-to” books.

They all wanted me
to make a drawstring bag.
I have no use for drawstring bags;
Seems like a waste of time and cotton.

But idle hands, make idle minds;
That dive down rabbit holes. And so
Inexpert, but with purpose, I sew
Masks for the war effort.

Old, fitted bedsheets – sacrificed!
No more folding. They’re off to war!
Or maybe, just… the grocery store,
Where Sherman’s tank is armed

…with toilet paper.

In all seriousness, I think that this effort serves some additional purposes:

  • Gives people a sense of purpose and control – a feeling that they have a constructive way to help themselves and others;
  • Keeps panic prone people from stockpiling PPE that is desperately needed by medical workers;
  • Keeps hands from being idle – if you can figure out how to make these or get supplies to others, you’re not just sitting around dwelling on apocalyptic scenarios;
  • Made correctly, they are not pleasant to wear and should also help encourage folks to stay home.

Cloth masks like the ones I’m making are less effective than surgical masks and way less than n95. BUT… they are 2 layers of bedsheet cotton with a pocket for adding additional filter (like HEPA filter from a vacuum bag).

There are two styles being made out there, and some confusion – the other one is designed to cover and prolong the useful life of an n95 mask. It’s probably still effective for people running errands, but I don’t know if the fit is as good.

And unfortunately, even our medical professionals have had to resort to these in times of shortage. The call was put out by a hospital in New York, originally. Now that supply is being reserved for medical professionals, these are a good idea for the rest of us as an ADDITION TO social distancing. If nothing else, they keep you from touching your own face while grocery shopping. Why are they being recommended, now? Because you could be infected and showing no symptoms – mainly, wearing a mask is a way to protect others from you, whether it helps you much or not. Not to put too fine a point on it, but SARS-CoV-2 (“novel coronavirus” that causes COVID-19) is airborne, and wearing a mask in public helps you to keep your (possibly infected) “droplets” to yourself.

Launder on HOT and dry on HOT; only touch them after proper, vigorous handwashing. After use, wash hands, remove, throw into the laundry, and wash hands again. Assume both sides are dirty.

Stay safe and healthy out there!