Friday, May 7, 2021

Personal escape?

I'm now fully vaccinated, so through the wonders of modern medicine I'm deeming myself to have likely escaped COVID-19, while sadly aware that so much of the world is still struggling (I pray that vaccine patent waivers will go through and help).

I've been so very fortunate, unlike so many. Starting with August, the pandemic had little negative personal impact. On the contrary, being masked and distanced made me feel more comfortable around other people, and having conference and lecture travel be replaced with online events was wonderful. It would be great, for convenience, cost and environmental reasons, if conferences continued online indefinitely, hopefully with technical progress on getting informal interactions working better. (My experience is that the formal discussions at conferences are intellectually every bit as good when online, at least when the same people are in attendance.)

Since April 2020, I had exactly four occasions where I was within two meters of someone not from my household for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period. Two of them were dental visits. And two were Uber rides between home and the car repair shop. For the two Uber rides, I wore my "industrial-looking" elastomeric 3M P100 respirator (with an added exhalation filter), so I was quite safe--alas, it wasn't practical to do that for the dental visits.

For church and grocery stores, I usually used the 3M respirator. For the gym, I have a Trend woodworking N100 respirator (eventually modified to remove valves and block the exhale port). In both cases, I was quite safe and so were others around me.

Apart from one lecture moved online due to snow and one online due to a false COVID alarm (on the basis of two negative tests, I eventually concluded it was just a bad cold), I taught in person in both fall and spring. For teaching, I used cheap but heavily modified five-layer KN95 masks, because I was much more audible through them than through cloth, not to mention elastomeric respirators. Of course, I usually had some students Zooming in, often for COVID-related reasons but sometimes probably for more minor reasons.

I am not quite sure how I will modify my protocols now that I am fully vaccinated. My 3M and Trend elastomeric masks are very breathable, and keep the filter material away from my sweaty face, so I may end up still using the Trend mask for the gym. I may replace its N100 filters with 3D printed filters based on surgical mask material, though. I have considered continuing social distancing for the rest of my life in order to reduce the transmission of all respiratory diseases. Neither the flu nor even the common cold are enjoyable, and my personal utilities are such that if social distancing were to prevent the flu, it would be worth it, since given my white collar occupation and given that I live in a smallish town, it's only a slight inconvenience to distance myself under most circumstances, and it's intrinsically pleasant to have more personal space. However, since other people in my household aren't going to distance themselves from strangers once the pandemic is over, I suspect that my personal distancing would not do much to keep me from getting respiratory diseases at that point. I may make an effort to try for at least a meter of distance in most circumstances when interacting with people outside the household--but that is anyway within the range of North American proxemic zones.


Unknown said...

Thanks for linking us up with that "Improve Cheap KN95 Mask" tutorial of yours professor Pruss. I actually use those specific masks, and a lot too since as you said, the ear loop breaks off easily. Will definitely try out the modifications.

Alexander R Pruss said...

BTW, if you're in the US and want a couple of my 3D printed back-of-head clips (I cut the ear loops and tie the clips to the bottom halves, and they are designed to be easy to clip and unclip behind the head), email me: I can make an arrangement where you make a donation to a decent local charity for the amount the shipping will cost, and I should be able to mail you some. I really hate ear-loops--they make my ears hurt. (This offer is only available if not too many people want it.)

Alexander R Pruss said...

Another relaxation of personal protocols: I've decided that if I happen to pass someone not from my household outdoors within two meters while walking or cycling without wearing a mask, I will no longer hold my breath (I used to stop breathing when I was about three or four meters away and then resume at a similar distance afterwards). Though for now I think I will continue to loop onto the grass or otherwise try to evade being within two meters of people, not because I don't trust the vaccine, but not to make others needlessly nervous.

Pascal88 said...
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