• Susannah Colt

SILVER LINING - masking & social distancing equals cold-free life

I have discovered a silver lining to this pandemic – no colds. For the past year and half I’ve never been healthier. As far as I can remember the last time I had a cold was after I’d flown to Richmond, Virginia to conduct research about my father. That was in November of 2019. I sat next to a gentleman who was sneezing, wheezing and blowing his nose. Sure enough, two days after I got home, I came down with a cold.

I conducted an informal, non-scientific survey with my friends on Facebook to find out when was the last time they had been sick with a cold. Nearly all of them responded that they’d gotten sick before COVID and have been cold free ever since. One friend admitted to getting sick in July, but she had taken a vacation to Europe, thereby proving my point that being crammed like sardines in an oversized tube is risky.

Ever since the government figured out that it was wise to wear face masks to prevent catching and spreading COVID-19, I have been a faithful mask wearer. Even after I got jabbed with the J&J vaccine, I have chosen to wear a mask in stores that are crowded with people I don’t know.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that my cold-free existence is because I wear a mask and socially distance. When the CDC said we didn’t have to wear masks if we were vaccinated, I tried to loosen up and return to a sense of normalcy. I took off my mask when I got a haircut. It was liberating. But that was my limit of comfort without a mask in public.

With the news of the recent upsurge of cases all over the country (including New Hampshire) because of the Delta variant, I have decided a few more months of social distancing will be prudent. In fact it is the only thing, along with wearing my masks, that will ensure I won’t catch and spread COVID-19.

It boggles my mind that Governor Sununu has stated he has no intention of revisiting mask mandates and won’t issue an order mandating schools to require masking. Even if the governor does end up issuing mask mandates, there is no way to enforce it in light of the fact that the legislature passed a law returning all fines to businesses that thumbed their noses at mask mandates last year. The anti-maskers have won on that issue, so the only way to convince them is to wear masks is irrefutably prove that masks work.

I fear the beginning of the school year when masking will be hit and miss and the cases of COVID-19 will rise and the children who can’t be vaccinated will be the victims. I applaud those cities like Concord which have decided to mandate mask wearing in their public schools.

Regardless of whether one chooses to wear a mask, science has proven that the most effective defense against the virus is vaccination. Only 45% of the New Hampshire population is vaccinated. That is a frighteningly low percentage prompting government to try to figure out how to lift that number to achieve herd immunity (no one can agree whether herd immunity is 70, 80 or 90%).

How can we effectively encourage the unvaccinated to get vaccinated? Maybe it is time to consider the stick rather than the carrot and hit people where it hurts – their bank account. I’d start with health insurance. The unvaccinated should lose coverage of the medical cost of treating COVID. Sort of like the good old days of pre-existing conditions. Better yet, like smokers who can’t get insurance, anti-vaxxers should lose their insurance or not be allowed to get it at all.

Alternatively, insurers could raise the health insurance premiums for those who refuse the vaccination. Isn’t that what auto insurers do when people have a history of auto accidents or liability insurers do when lawyers or doctors are repeatedly sued for malpractice.

Sadly, I fear people will only be convinced to get vaccinated when the numbers of infections and deaths rise so high that it will be too late for most of them. That is a very high price to pay for stubbornness. Darwin’s theories will be severely put to the test during this next phase in the pandemic.

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