Five to Four


As many of you have probably heard or read by now, the U.S. Supreme Court just gave Religion a vote of confidence. Of course, for many of us, this comes as no surprise since we knew Ms. Amy Coney Barrett was going to be an influencing factor in church/state decisions.

However, what was surprising – and gratifying – is that Chief Justice John Roberts took a much more egalitarian approach to the issue. A good sign, hopefully, of things to come … although we should never get too confident.

The entire matter is addressed in this article.

Beyond the fact the decision favored the churches in this case, I found the overall reasoning lacking in so many ways. It was Justice Neil Gorsuch’s comments, in particular, that really stood out to me.

He noted that other businesses, such as bicycle repair shops, did not have similar restrictions and went on to say:  … “according to the Governor [of New York], it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine or shop for a new bike.”

Does anyone else see the fallacy in this reasoning? How many people does it take to pick up a bottle of wine … or shop for a new bike? How many people might be in one of these businesses at any given time? 3? 4? Especially during the pandemic shutdown. From my perspective, it’s hard to imagine a liquor store or a bike shop ever having 25+ people on the premises at any one time – which is the lower end of the restricted number for church gatherings.

And this comment by the Rabbi involved in the case is also mind-boggling: “This landmark decision will ensure that religious practices and religious institutions will be protected from government edicts that do not treat religion with the respect demanded by the Constitution.”

DEMANDED BY THE CONSTITUTION??!!?

Finally, IMO, this remark by Chief Justice Roberts summed things up — and should have been the most compelling of all:

It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic.”

Yet five justices of the Supreme Court did just that.

It’s Not Just The Mask

Consider the following scenarios that were recently printed in our local newspaper related to the spread of COVID-19:

  1. Going to work when sick.
  2. Not wearing face masks or not wearing them correctly.
  3. Traveling to COVID-19 hot spots and bringing back the virus.
  4. Sending children to school sick.
  5. Attending large holiday parties where unmasked people engage in close contact activities like dancing, singing, and sharing food.
  6. Gathering for in-person birthday parties with guests from other households.
  7. Attending large prayer group sessions without following social distancing and masking guidelines.
  8. Visiting grocery stores or other areas without practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
  9. Joining poker games where people sit too close to each other.
  10. Huddling too close together at bars to watch football games.

THINK PEOPLE!
These are clear examples of how this virus continues to spread.

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Recently, we considered ordering a to-go dinner from a local restaurant, but decided against it when we considered point #1. How many food handlers are working because they need the money, yet they know they are experiencing symptoms? Or how many cooks temporarily remove their masks because they’re uncomfortable to wear in a hot kitchen?

And how many of us have seen individuals wearing masks that covered only their mouth (#2)?

And those get-togethers (#5, #6, #7, #9)? Uncomfortable as it may be, we simply must take precautions — even when it’s family, church members, and/or close friends.

And game-watching at a bar? IMO, bars should never have been opened. Who’s going to take precautions after a few drinks?

Yes, we’re ALL getting virus-weary. But the only way we’re going to conquer this enemy is by stopping its spread.

Please. Do your part.

Brain Fog

brain-fog

Just came across an article that talks about the “Brain Fog” that some COVID-19 survivors experience.

One individual said he lost all memory of a 12-day vacation trip, even though he had taken the trip just a few weeks earlier.

Another person reported that several weeks after recovering from Covid-19 symptoms of nausea and cough, she became confused and forgetful to the point she couldn’t even recognize her own car.

It’s becoming known as Covid brain fog: troubling cognitive symptoms that can include memory loss, confusion, difficulty focusing, dizziness and grasping for everyday words.

As I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone would even notice anything different if Covid Brain Fog were to affect our (self-reported) “Covid-Free” president.

The Covid-19 Mask Conundrum

Sometime back I signed up to receive The Washington Post’s “Coronavirus Updates” free newsletter. (If you’re interested in getting your own copy, you can sign up here.) The information offered in the newsletter isn’t generally anything new and/or earth-shattering, but at the end of each issue they share, and provide a response to, questions related to the virus  — and some of them can be very relatable.

Such a question was included in the latest issue, which I’m sharing here. I think many of my readers will identify with “Anne in Pennsylvania.”

“I live in an area with a large Republican majority. State law requires masks inside and outside. Today, I unfortunately was in a checkout line behind an unmasked 30-something female, very busy chatting up the cashier. I said nothing, because we were inside and the problem of aerosols would just have been aggravated. What is your advice for a courteous way to mention to people that their habits put my health at risk while still minimizing the risk of confrontation?” — Anne in Pennsylvania

This is becoming an unhappily frequent conundrum. On the one hand, we have scientific evidence that it’s especially dangerous to be near people who fail to wear masks. On the other hand, confronting such people risks increasing the chance of contagion, or even violence.

Nor do these bare-faced renegades appear to be going away. A small group of anti-maskers actually marched through a Target store in Florida this month, loudly inviting customers to join them.

Let’s first dispense with two obvious options for Anne: She could have simply left the store, though applying this advice globally would effectively surrender all public spaces to anti-maskers. Or she could have reported the offending customer to a store manager, though doing so would have simply forced an employee to take on the risk of confrontation and contagion. We’ve reported that retail workers already have it hard enough during the pandemic.

Luckily, experts do have advice for how to encourage a stranger to mask up without provoking them into even more dangerous behavior, which wellness reporter Allyson Chiu shared in an article today.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s possible the maskless person is a narcissist — someone who lacks empathy and believes themselves exempt from rules. That may sound like a snap judgment, but Chiu reports that peer-reviewed studies in the United States, Brazil and Poland all suggest that people prone to narcissism are less likely to follow social distancing guidelines or wear masks.

This does not mean everyone without a mask in the grocery store has a personality disorder, but it may be safest for you to assume they do, because another common trait of narcissists is being prone to anger. A simple eye roll directed at a maskless narcissist “will be enough to spin them into a rage,” a clinical psychologist at California State University at Los Angeles told Chiu.

So you should avoid even semi-confrontational comments such as “You’re supposed to wear a mask in here,” behavioral experts told Chiu. One suggested speaking to the person like a “hostage negotiator:” kindly, softly and appealing to their own self-interest as much as yours.

A Harvard Medical School psychologist suggests trying the line: “You can make the difference between life and death because we’re all in this together.” Using the word “we” emphasizes interconnection and might appeal to a narcissist’s sense of grandiosity. A small bribe might work, too: some experts recommend carrying an extra factory-sealed mask with you and offering it to the person you’re trying to convince.

At all costs, avoid letting the conversation become an argument. If it’s clear that the person isn’t listening to you or is stirring to anger, you should disengage. Simply stop responding to them, and walk away if you have to. You tried your best to make the situation safer for everyone around you. You can at least make it safer for yourself by leaving.

I tend to think most of us would prefer to avoid any confrontation on this issue, but if you decide to try the suggested approach, let us know how it went!

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Image by digital designer from Pixabay