Tag Archives: pandemic

“Judge Not, O Ye Masked or Mask-less Ones!”

“Sheltering in place.”

Just for the record, it might be worth mentioning that “sheltering in place” is what we’re not doing.

Forgive me, please. I am far too much in love with freedom to turn anyone over to the Covid-19 police. I won’t be scowling at you if I meet you pushing your basket the wrong way down the jelly aisle at the supermarket. Besides that, it’ll probably be me swimming upstream; I seem to be clueless when it comes to noticing arrows on floors.

Nor will I cast a masked smirk at you if I see you mask-less behind your cart, becalmed in the aisle, not moving in any direction as you “ponder in place,” wondering whether store brand green beans are as good as Libby’s (pretty much, yes) or generic peanut butter is as tasty as Peter Pan’s (not even close.) In the state where I live, you can still make your own decision about that. Not peanut butter. Masks.

So far, I’ve consistently chosen to take a mask with me every time I’ve gone to the grocery store. And I’ve consistently chosen to keep it in my pocket. Mostly because we’ve had just handful of Covid-19 cases in our county and half a handful have already recovered. I know this could change quickly, and that’s probably a good reason to wear a mask at the store. Would I wear a mask in a store in New York City? Yes, indeed. Would I wear a mask at a store in a much smaller less virus-besieged city if everybody else in the store wore a mask? Probably so. We may not have achieved “herd immunity,” but I’m still part of a herd.

In this strange time, what is a customer saying if he or she walks into a store or church or “essential business” liquor store masked or mask-less (and is not robbing the latter)? I mean, what’s he saying in a city where no laws are in place about masks or, for that matter, whether you can buy a 32-ounce soda?

I don’t know. And neither do you. I think we’d be wise to “judge not, lest ye be judged.” We don’t know if the masked person is sick, medically compromised, careful, neurotic, wise, scared, smart, smug, self-righteous, considerate, “virtue-signaling,” a wonderful and thoughtful human being, a jerk, or a lot older than the unmasked potion of their face looks. And we all know wise medical folks who tell us, “Here’s the evidence thus far, and here’s what I’d recommend.” Resounding Yes? Resounding No? No, not terribly resounding. So mask-wearers and non-mask wearers are usually best advised, I think, to wear some humility. It looks good on us and protects us from an affliction worse than Covid-19 anytime, even as we’re not sheltering in place.

I’m not the English usage police, either. I think I can live with occasionally turning “shelter” into a verb. But “sheltering in place,” as I understand it, actually means to stay in the closet until the bullets quit flying, or not sticking your nose out of the storm shelter until the tornado has flown away and the “all clear” is given. It must be terribly difficult, but you’re not  technically “sheltering in place” even if you’re going stir-crazy staring at your over-priced and claustrophobia-inducing apartment walls in New York City, but still putting on a mask and emerging occasionally for some useful purpose like buying food or just to take a walk to avoid full-blown psychosis.

To borrow a musical metaphor, “sheltering in place” is fortissimo and only a few measures long. “Stay at home” is forte and can seem like forever. And “safer at home,” a nuisance and not a storm shelter, is semi-forte and certainly not normalissimo (don’t look either of those up).

Misuse the term if you want to, but if you start out at -issimo don’t blame me if you want to get a lot louder and have already limited your linguistic options. I promise not to call storm troopers from the EUP (English Usage Police).

I’m about to mask up. Always do when I mow the yard. But, as I write, our county’s Covid-19 cases are passing two handfuls. A mask at the store, even if you don’t intend to rob the place, is making more sense.

But “judge not” makes the best sense of all.


     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! No mask required or even suggested.


Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Coveys of Quail, Columnists, Politicians, and Covid-19

Quail. I have nothing at all against those birds. I enjoy looking at them. I’ve fed a few. Raised a few. Shot a few. Eaten a few. I enjoy them on every level, from my eyeballs to my taste buds. So I don’t mean to slander these fine birds when I say that their images should be woven into the logos of the world’s leading stock exchanges.

Or maybe instead the exchanges could use in their logos images of a bunch of frightened old women leaning on walkers. But that would be grossly unfair to elderly females, most of whom I’ve found to be savvy, courageous, and wise. Come to think of it, most of that breed cower and whine less than any other group you’d care to mention.

Anyway, if you’re looking for courage and fortitude, don’t look to find it in any of the world’s stock exchanges during, say, your average epidemic. If you haven’t looked at your retirement account lately, I’d suggest you wait a few months, or a year or two, to let the quail get over their cowering and covey up again. Even if the sky really has fallen by then, you’ll have time to make peace with it. (My deep apologies for herein mixing metaphors of quail and Chicken Littles, but I’m scared out of my mind. Can’t you tell?)

Of course, what at present has the national news media ecstatic and the stock market falling to its knees in terror is a virus, a “coronavirus,” namely, Covid-19. The Wall Street Journal’s headline today: “Disease Takes Toll on Companies.” But it’s not yet the disease taking a toll; it’s fear of the disease.

In that publication’s weekend edition, one columnist (who I like) conjectured that, while this thing is nothing to sneeze at, irrational fear of it will do a lot more damage than the disease itself. I understood his point to be: wash your hands, get out from under the coffee table, don’t stand in lines with hordes of other quail buying face masks, have the good sense and decency to stay home when you’re sick, and get on with life.

Another columnist (one of my favorite), writing a few pages away, while basically agreeing with the first, expressed a gut feeling that this thing and its impact is “going to be bad.”

Take your pick.

The most informative article I’ve read yet is by Matthew R. Francis (Popular Science, “Just How Contagious Is COVID-19?” 2/28/20). He looks to well-established epidemiology. An R0 (“R naught” or “basic reproduction number”) enumerates how many people will be infected by one infected person. Flu is usually 1.2; this virus seems to be “above 1.4 but below 4.” Measles is 12-18, which is why it’s crazy, if not criminal, not to vaccinate!

He also mentions the CFR, “case fatality rate,” and says that, though the “seasonal flu” has a low CFR, so far in this flu season almost 30,000 Americans have died from flu. He writes that estimates now are that the CFR of this new disease is 1.4 per cent (14 per 1000). And he cites serious research that shows that “city-wide quarantines” and “travel bans” don’t help much. They may slow down the spread, but it’ll spread anyway, do what it will do, and be done. I read that to mean that, if you’re a Christian and, on a particular Sunday morning, you find that the barometric pressure in Bolivia is right, your dog seems healthy, and it’s completely convenient, it probably won’t hurt you to go ahead and go to church.

I guess we’ll see how this all goes.

Forgive me while I make everyone mad, but I’m not presently ready (it’s the Monday before “Super Tuesday,” as I write) to place too much trust in the two guys presently “leading” in our two Keystone Cop political parties. “Controlling” a pandemic? One can’t control his own cell phone and the other recently felt compelled to give a nice “shout out” to a totalitarian murderer for “literacy” efforts. Our political prospects are enough to make you want to take a good sniff of Covid-19 or a large dose of Corona (not the virus).

I admit that, as I watched a news program yesterday, I found the words of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to be sensible. (I hope he has time to do some good things before he is inevitably thrown under the bus.)

But I find these words more reassuring: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).



     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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