Face Masks Optional at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics Starting March 8, 2023

As of March 8, 2023, face masks will be optional for visitors, patients, and employees at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Unmasked Means Fully Vaccinated?

We were on our way home yesterday and drove by a couple of restaurants (Wig & Pen Pizza and Vine Tavern and Eatery) with crowded parking lots. We have not seen that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit a year ago. This seemed to coincide with the CDC announcement of the new mask guidance indicating you can ditch the mask both outdoors and indoors—if you’re fully vaccinated. The updated guideline was a little hard to find on the CDC website, I noticed. It didn’t jump right out at you like the update on the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

I checked the websites for both restaurants. They still say you have to wear masks. Pretty soon after that CDC update, news headlines appeared which provoked a few questions. How do you tell the difference between unmasked and masked persons who say they’re fully vaccinated? One headline said something like, “Get vaccinated or keep wearing your mask.”

And I saw a new term today, “vaccine bouncers.” Nobody wants to be a vaccine bouncer. In other words, since you can’t tell by looking at somebody if they’re fully vaccinated, how are you going to confirm the vaccination status of anyone? I don’t think there’s a lot of confidence in the ability to reliably detect the Pinocchio effect. And, regrettably, vaccination cards can be faked.

Some of us are vaccine hesitant. And some of us are unmask hesitant. Even though Sena and I are fully vaccinated, we still tend to wear masks indoors for now. And to be fair, the CDC guidelines stipulate that you should abide by local rules on wearing masks if required by public transportation and stores. But those guidelines are rapidly changing, maybe a little too rapidly for those who paid attention to daily scary news about upticks in coronavirus death rates when people sing too loud.

I feel like telling us to ditch the masks might be another way of offering an incentive to get vaccinated. Most of us hate masks. They’re hot, confining, make us feel too stifled to breathe easily, and so on. On the other hand, getting infected with COVID-19 is the ultimate respiration suppressor. As a recently retired general hospital psychiatric consultant, I’ve been called to critical care units to help manage anxiety in patients bucking respirators, which means they were fighting the ventilator tube. I didn’t have a whole lot to offer.

I think incentives are better than mandates, though (don’t spend it all in one place!). The best incentive is doing something to help all of us recover from the pandemic.

Camping In Our Basement

We’ve been camping in our basement since yesterday. We’re having our upper level wood floors sanded and resealed. This has led to a new sense of togetherness for me and Sena. We had to get all the furniture off the floor. We were lucky enough to be able to find places to move them.

We briefly considered renting a motel room for the duration. However, the cost would outweigh the inconvenience. We opted for the total inconvenience plan. This meant we had to make the basement as comfortable as possible. We had to think of all the necessities and some of the conveniences we take for granted on the upper level and somehow make those happen downstairs.

Sena came up with the idea to use air mattresses. We’ve never used them before. I had visions of me turning blue trying to blow them up. I can’t even blow up a toy balloon. Fortunately, Sena found a model that inflates just by plugging it into a regular electrical outlet and turning a knob. It doesn’t stop filling automatically, though. The instructions warn you not to inflate more than 5 minutes because that could burn out the motor. But there is no warning about the danger of an exploding air mattress. Be careful with the levitation mode.

The last two days have been pretty noisy. If you’ve ever listened to heavy duty sanding machines, the din is tremendous and nearly constant all day long. It’s like living in a giant’s wood shop. When the screeching stops, the buzzing starts. When the buzzing stops, the whirring starts. In fact, the sound is similar to the noise of Frank’s stump grinder (see post 10/2/2020). We were a little surprised when one of the workers sanded all the way through the floor and landed on our new folding table while we were having lunch. Good workers like that are hard to find.

Sanding wood floors raises a regular haboob of dust, so we were sort of barricaded by heavy plastic on the stairway. We could sometimes hear the workers sneeze and cough, but most of the time they were muffled by masks. We never needed to wear masks against the dust because of the measures the workers took to protect us. We wore them when we talked face to face with them for the same reason—to protect them (and us) from coronavirus.

Heavy sanding also raises the temperature and it got pretty warm upstairs. On the other hand, it tends to be chillier downstairs and the furnace doesn’t come on. We’re lucky to have a little space heater.

I mentioned togetherness earlier and a smaller space like the basement has brought us together more. It’s more crowded in the kitchen (I guess I should say wet bar). The refrigerator is a blessing, even if it’s smaller. Doing the dishes can be a little bumpy, but we haven’t broken anything—yet.

The Masked Walkers on the Terry Trueblood Trail

Today we took another walk on the Terry Trueblood Trail. This time there was a different feel. We wore face masks and there were new signs directing one-way traffic in order to facilitate social distancing. We noticed a few people wearing masks, but not many more than the last time we were out there.

Sena got a kick out of picking up groceries the other day. The guy who brought out the groceries was wearing a face mask—just not covering his face. He knew the guidelines and could recite them, but he had complaints about the mask: “I can’t breathe!”; “It’s hot!”; “It fogs up my glasses!”; “It gets in my way!”

I heard that. But there’s a right way and many wrong ways to wear a face mask.

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