Wednesday 5 June 2024

Masked crusaders, working overtime, fighting crime...

So, firstly a nostalgic blast from the past, just because.

But seriously, this week the Canberra Times reported a huge recent spike in COVID-19 cases which has prompted a return to mask mandates and restricted visitor numbers in health facilities.

Which raises the inevitable question: what should we be doing in other public spaces right now? That includes libraries, museums, and entertainment spaces such as theatre that hold a huge number of people in a tightly enclosed space.

We already know that people are infectious usually a couple of days before symptoms emerge. So if there's currently a higher risk of infection, why aren't we wearing masks when indoors and in close quarters with other people?

I feel like the main answer is because it triggers a lot of feelings for a lot of people. You just need to read the comments in the above Instagram post. Nobody wants to be the one to make that call. And certainly nobody wants to be the person to have to enforce that rule (see my previous post).

At the same time, I'm also observing a growing trend of people lobbying for people to opt to mask up anyway when indoors at public events as a sign of being a good ally to those who may be immunocompromised and more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19, especially those who have been experiencing long COVID. Basically, refusal to wear a mask in a public place is ableist behaviour which contributes to harm to people living with disability.

I think that things are also becoming more dangerous, now that COVID tests are no longer freely available. I think I saw a packet at the pharmacist for $20 the other day. But the reality is that many people just don't want to know, and would rather pretend that they're not sick and infect others. I am fortunate that if I'm not feeling 100% then I can (and do) work from home. Both times that I've come down with COVID, I isolated until I was clear, and even then masked up for a few days to minimise the risk to others. But I had no obligation to, and there are plenty who don't have enough sick leave and/or cannot work away from the office for a week.

Again, it comes back to those frontline workers who are face-to-face with the public every day. Another way that we are putting workers at risk of harm. And whether we enforce mask-wearing in our spaces, or allow people to enter these spaces freely without masks, it's those frontline workers who will bear the brunt of the resulting harm.

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