COVID or not?

Quimby Mug Bayou Florida
Updated Jan 7, 2021

Illness impacts productivity and this has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of my colleagues this week said that a source of his had been up against roughly a 30 percent increase in worker absenteeism following Thanksgiving thanks to an uptick in COVID cases.

That’s crazy and in this case it just might impact truck part production which in turn can lead to increased downtime.

While it may be a few years before we really know the full impact of this virus, we know that there are plenty of steps to take to help prevent its spread. Hand sanitizing, mask wearing and social distancing are common sense steps to take to help keep this deadly illness at bay. But it’s no guarantee.

Way back towards the start of the pandemic I did a story on cab filtration. It was then that I learned about the importance of micron ratings. The COVID virus, like other viruses, is transmitted through coughing and touch. When someone sneezes or coughs, for instance, the virus simply hitches a ride on tiny droplets of saliva that come flying out of an infected person’s mouth which can then be inhaled by unwitting people nearby. (Of course, the virus can also be passed along on human skin or objects that are introduced into the human body.)

Essential enough? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still asks that non-healthcare workers refrain from wearing N95 masks. I had mine before COVID. Should I stop wearing it? Yeah, I don’t think so.Essential enough? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still asks that non-healthcare workers refrain from wearing N95 masks. I had mine before COVID. Should I stop wearing it? Yeah, I don’t think so.

So mask wearing has taken off just as it did during the Spanish flu, a.k.a. the 1918 flu pandemic which killed my great-grandmother. The difference though is that lightning fast mass marketing—no surprise there—seized upon the opportunity to promote fashion, sports teams, products, services, politicians, etc. That’s fine. I don’t fault the free market for that. What I do get concerned about is people not doing their homework.

A lot of these masks that you can snatch up through major retailers don’t come close to offering the same protection as a certified N95 mask or multi-layered fabrics. Remember, it’s the size of the virus that matters. The smaller it is, the more easily it can penetrate that cool, Ninja-looking mask. Thankfully, the COVID virus is not an especially small virus. Still, just as our military is very mindful of wearing the right masks during threats of chemical attacks, civilians should also take precautions in wearing the right masks to help scale back on contracting or transmitting COVID and other viruses. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises that people “DO NOT choose” N95 masks that are intended for healthcare workers.

Talk about marketing. Most DIYers like me know that N95 masks, prior to the pandemic, were largely marketed to help protect against inhaling nasties while doing home improvement projects, etc. Thankfully, my family had several on-hand before COVID hit the fan. Following my interviews earlier this year with filtration experts, I prefer wearing one of those versus a thing that has the approximate thickness of a paper towel. I may not be promoting my favorite sports teams, both of which disappointed this year, but at least I’m increasing the odds for keeping harmful contagions out of my lungs. And that’s a big deal since I’ve got asthma and a big family to boot.

But again, the best masks are no guarantee at preventing the spread of this menacing pest. Recently, my family members and I suspected that COVID had come to call. One of us, who will remain nameless, began displaying COVID symptoms like headache, coughing, sneezing, congestion, fever, chills and nausea. Others, like me, had more minor symptoms. Two of us, in our gang of six, had no symptoms at all.

To play it safe, we opted for testing. And at that time, it looked like half of Bay County, Fla. had opted for testing at the same time. Following a nearly four-hour wait, four of us, including myself, were tested and told roughly 15 minutes after testing that the results were negative.

The bad news? The doctor told us that the test is not always accurate and in fact had not proven reliable when he himself had come down with COVID. Of course, no one had bothered to tell me that when I had prepaid $90 for three tests (the other family member covered their own test). We walked away somewhat relieved and puzzled too.

Ultimately, after discussing the matter, we decided that we’d just go with the negative results. After all, it seems like the odds were in our favor since all four us tested negative. Plus, the doctor believed that a cold going around was to blame and not COVID. That’s certainly plausible. The hardest hit among us has since been recovering slowly but surely with a lingering cough and occasional headache.

All of this to say that COVID, thankfully, is not nearly as deadly as the Spanish flu and that like the Spanish flu and other viruses it will be here for years and years to come because as the old line from the popular film Jurassic Park goes, “Life, uh, finds a way.” To that end, a more contagious COVID strain was recently documented in Florida. With that in mind, we’ll continue to sanitize, wear masks, take vitamins and practice social distancing knowing that it can help but is still no guarantee against catching COVID or some other virus.