Removing My Mask!?

Am I ready for this?

It took me a while to always remember to grab my mask whenever I would leave my apartment in the early days of NYC’s lockdown in the spring of 2020. Now, two years later, it’s became second nature to wear a mask and I would feel strange without one on my face in any indoor public setting. Going for a walk or being outside is another story. I’m fine without one on. The possibility of being maskless indoors, however, is going to take some getting used to.

I overheard similar concerns yesterday as I waited in the checkout line at a local CVS on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. An older woman who was standing near her friend on the checkout line was saying, loudly enough so most everyone in the front of the CVS store on Broadway could hear, that she was not likely to be taking off her mask. “You don’t know if someone near you has a new Covid form,” she kept saying. I assume she meant a new variant.

That’s the problem. We won’t know, and can only trust in the vaccines we’ve had (even though half the reports say the immunity to them wanes over time) and our masks.

Everyday is a Pandemic Groundhog Day!

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Winter and the pandemic just keep going on and on.

Unquestionably, winter, and especially several days in a row of gray skies and precipitation, seem to make the pandemic worse –at least for me. I’ve felt like Bill Murray in the movie, “Groundhog Day”, more times than I can count. One friend on a Zoom call this afternoon remarked, “I just can’t tell what day of the week it is anymore.” Many others on the screen nodded in agreement.

I’m triple-vaxxed since late October but still haven’t seen a theatrical performance or even been to a museum since before March 2020 (although that may soon change now that Omicron cases in New York City have significantly dropped). I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant.

I’m not sure how one ventures back out into the world. But until I do resume many missing activities of my life, the dreariness of the pandemic, and the winter, make the days all seem the same.

Trying to Safely Cross the Street

“HEY!!! YOU DON’T HAVE THE LIGHT!!!

It was one of those uneventful mornings after an equally uneventful trip to my local grocery store on Broadway, on the Upper West Side in New York City. I waited until the light had changed for me to be able to cross a particularly wide stretch of Broadway. The cars and trucks had stopped, since they had a red light. A large truck was stopped in the last lane. That’s significant because the truck blocked my view of a bicyclist riding one of those (wretched) electric bikes in a narrow passage of street to his left.

He blew into the crosswalk and came within inches of mowing me down. Luckily, he swerved just in time. It was a very close call.

Was this a moving violation? Well, that’s easy. There is something called the “New York City Department of Transportation TRAFFIC RULES”, Title 34, Chapter 4.

Specifically, for “Steady red alone” traffic signals, Section 4-03, says “Vehicular traffic facing such signal shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection…and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown.”

There is also a definition of “Vehicle” : “A “vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” Clearly, that electric bike is a vehicle.

Now, it begs the question of what to do to keep it from happening again…and again…and again.

Which Mask Should I Choose?!?!

Which mask should I pick from my mask arsenal?

After our vaccinations, there’s no question that we all need a good mask to increase our odds of not getting Covid. The public service announcements for what constitutes a “good mask” are coming thick and fast. There should be no tiny air spaces between your face and the mask, so the ubiquitous blue surgical masks have fallen from grace. They don’t hug your face.

The gold-standard of masks, the N95’s that we were told not to buy in 2020, so they could go to healthcare professionals, are now readily available online. The fine print for many of them say they are ‘NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved for at least 95 percent filtration efficiency against certain non-oil based particles’. The ones I have (and I bought a few to try from 3 different manufacturers) fit like a second skin on my face. The problem are those elastic bands, one around your head and the second around your neck. I can handle an hour with them on and then my face and skull begin to rebel. (If I have the courage someday to attend a play in NYC, and the mask mandate is still in effect, it had better have no more than a 1 hour running time.)

The KN95’s, the ones with the ear loops, are definitely easier and more comfortable to wear. However, my glasses fog up with one of them on. I assume if my breath is capable of escaping to fog my glasses, then those teeny-tiny Covid particles have a way in, too. So they’ve fallen a few notches down on my personal mask “Favorites” list.

I’ve already thrown out all of the cute cloth masks I bought on Etsy in March and April of 2020. Cute as those gingham patterns were, they also didn’t pass my Glasses Fog test.

The N95s are definitely the Top Mask in my mask basket. No glasses fog. No air pockets. Just pain.

Thoughts on Volunteering Now

I couldn’t believe how much need there was.

Although I’m officially retired, I spend time writing and illustrating this blog (although not as regularly as I would like). I also spend time working as a volunteer for the New York City Chapter of The Transition Network (www.https://www.thetransitionnetwork.org/events/nyc/), a not-for-profit networking organization for women over 50 transitioning into retirement. In particular, I’m involved with one of their Caring Collaborative Neighborhood Groups. These are groups that are neighborhood-based throughout the city, comprised of members of TTN who wish to support each other through regular meetings and shared information about health and well-being. I also have five wonderful grandchildren, all 8 and under, whom I hope to see more regularly, thanks to the Covid vaccine finally being approved for the 11 and under group.

However, I’m finding that I have free time, and that free time has led me to want to reach out and seriously explore additional volunteer work.

I contacted Americorps.gov and they immediately responded. After completing and submitting some forms, my contact sent me a list of potential openings with nonprofit organizations looking for volunteers. There were so many. They ran the gamut from volunteering to work in a soup kitchen, to tutoring, to mentoring, to helping recent immigrants craft their resumes and hone their interviewing skills, to simply having regular friendly conversations with homebound senior citizens. I’m deciding how I can be the most help but I’m left with the realization that there is an extraordinary amount of need out there thanks to the pandemic and everyone who can help in any way, should do that. They all also welcome donations if you can’t offer your services.

Connecting with Family on Zoom

Connecting with family on Zoom was a pandemic plus.

One of the great discoveries for many of us these past 18 months of the pandemic has to be the marvels of Zoom. For those of us who are retired and not needing to be part of a virtual office, it has allowed us to safely take classes, participate in all sorts of cultural and religious events and, most importantly, stay connected to friends and family.

For me, it has allowed for a get-together with cousins (one of whom I’ve never met and several whom I haven’t seen in years) living all over the country. We live in blue states and red states and pretty much cover all the possible time zones in the country.

Conversing with first cousins who remember some of your most embedded childhood memories, of people and places, is remarkable. Meeting first cousins for the first time is also amazing.

It’s a silver lining of the pandemic and I’m looking forward to it ending, once and for all, to be able to meet or get together again, in person. Finally.

Covid Information Overload?

There’s so much information to figure out.

If, like me, you read a newspaper –or 2, watch or listen to the news, get emails and push notifications from reliable news organizations, listen to news podcasts (also reliable), or get emails or texts from family members or friends, you’re probably getting Covid updates many times in a day. Some may contain new and important information for you personally. Some of it you’ve heard a zillion times before. And some of it, frankly, seems to contradict other disseminated information.

“ENOUGH!”, I mutter, as I yank my ear buds out if I’m listening to a news podcast or slam down the lid of my laptop, if I’m reading a newspaper online. I’m Covided-out!

My news blackout period holds until I receive the next push notification on my phone on, you guessed it, Covid.

Wearing a Mask (or 2) Again!

Masking up again! Even with 2 vaccinations.

Here it is the end of August 2021. A year ago, I was an unvaccinated senior citizen. I would venture out of my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan wearing 2 masks, with a face shield in my bag, just in case. If only there could be a vaccine, I thought.

And then there was a vaccine.

My second Moderna vaccination was on February 13, 2021. I’m about to begin the 7th month into my vaccine efficacy. Recent news reports suggest that it’s dropped significantly from the 90% or so of protectiveness I might have had two weeks after the second vaccination. At 8 months, I’ll apparently be eligible for a booster.

With that waning effectiveness, I’m now pulling out my pile of masks and, once again, wearing them. A lot. I’ll often wear two in any indoor setting (store, doctor’s office). Yesterday, I even put on a face shield over two masks when I rode on a NYC bus after the driver allowed a maskless man to board and remain unmasked for his 20 minute ride. People glared at him but he was indifferent. No one had the courage to tell him to wear a mask, such is the fear of mask rage. When I got home, I sent a complaint to the MTA about the incident and they responded saying that they “would notify the NYPD”. Good luck, I thought.

So here we all are. To quote the famous Yoga Berra line. “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

Pedestrians and Bicycles

I’m oblivious. Will I get hit?

With all the bicycles and scooters coming at you, from all directions, on city streets and sidewalks, you’d think it’s safer to walk in the park. Think again. It’s apparently the Wild West there, too.

A few days ago, as I was taking a morning walk along the east side of Riverside Drive, adjacent to Riverside Park, I forgot to look behind me when I moved over a few feet to the left to avoid a fallen tree branch. I heard a bicycle bell and and then felt the rush of air of the first bicycle as it whizzed by me, narrowly missing my left side by a few inches. A second bicycle followed, again narrowly missing me. These folks weren’t just leisurely pedaling along. They were going at breakneck speed.

I definitely think there’s a market in New York City for eyeglasses with rear-and-side-view mirrors.

I do worry that pedestrians are losing ground against cyclists here. I heard on the news this morning that Democratic Mayoral candidate Eric Adams is also an avid cyclist. Perhaps we also need full body armor.

Not Wearing a Mask Outside!

I live on the Upper West Side in New York City, near Riverside Park, one of the city’s most beautiful parks. There’s no question that my daily walks through Riverside Park during the pandemic’s lockdown were how I managed to enjoy a regular exercise routine. Those walks also helped keep me from feeling isolated.

However, last spring and summer, like most New Yorkers, I wore two masks outdoors all the time. I’d walk past blooming trees and bushes in the spring and couldn’t smell their fragrance. I remember once taking a walk after a drenching spring rainstorm and, with no one around, briefly removed both masks to inhale the smell of the wet earth and trees. It was truly a memorable moment.

Now, however, since I’m vaccinated, I’m not wearing any mask outside, and the smell of the park’s trees, flowers and earth are everywhere on my walks.

It’s extraordinary how the many deprivations caused by the pandemic cause us to appreciate what we have in ways we may never have before.