Cynical Clinical Minute 6 – Wear Your Mask

Dr. Joseph DeJames
Dr. Joseph DeJames

Hooray the pandemic is over!!!

NOT!

But it seems like many of us believe it is. Ferries to St John are full of tourists. Once on land, very few use masks. Restaurants and bars are full with NO social distancing and NO masks. Many of our residents are following suit.

For weeks, the USVI had ZERO cases of COVID-19. This was an admirable achievement and was due to efforts in wearing masks and social distancing. More importantly, however, was the fact that there WERE NO TOURISTS!!!!

Since things have opened back up, we have had three cases, including community spread. This means a case that cannot be directly related to travel. Of course, there are more cases out there. Testing is kind of like fishing – you catch what gets on the hook but there are still fish in the sea.

A woman wearing a mask to protect herself from COVID-19

To continue with the marine analogies, let’s say you want to go in a shark cage to get up close to sharks, the kind that can bite off a limb or bite you in half. You don’t get in the cage while it’s still in the boat and the boat is at the dock with your SCUBA gear, wait until you run out of air and then get out of the cage, take your gear off and jump in the ocean when the boat is in shark-infested waters. This is precisely what we are doing now. (For those of you who pretend not to understand, the tourists are the sharks)

Pandemics usually end in five ways:

– One, if the host is eliminated. This is like the bubonic plague which is transmitted from fleas on rats. If you eliminate the host (rat), you decrease the chance of spread. FYI – the bubonic plague still exists: search Yersinia pestis).

– Two, the infecting agent becomes weaker and no longer causes much disease.

– Three, an effective vaccine is developed. We are nowhere close to that yet.

– Four, an effective medication is developed. Nowhere close to that either.

– Five, people just don’t care as much and take the risk. A gazillion people die with option 5.

I think that we may be entering No. 5. People have been cooped up for months and want to get out. It’s easy enough to search vacation destinations and see what kind of coronavirus action is happening there. The USVI then becomes an attractive option. Remember, cases are spiking in multiple states. I’m sure some of the tourists are coming from those states. This means some will be carrying the COVID-19 infection. (Remember: many people can have NO symptoms but can transmit it simply by talking)

These folk will probably not wear masks – after all, they are on vacation.

So what will happen is that they will transmit it to us and we will spread it to others. Once again, masks protect us from you.

In the words of James Brown, “Please, please, please”… wear your masks, socially distance, wash your hands, and stay home unless you absolutely need to go out.