RogerBW's Blog

Still Mostly Masks 21 November 2020

I think people just don't have the attention span to cope with something that goes on for months.

When bombs went off on the London Underground, people avoided it for a week or two then went back to normal. And many people who haven't known someone who's had a negative COVID-19 outcome are tending increasingly to neglect even basic hygiene. Hand sanitiser (never a particularly great idea) has largely vanished from supermarket entrances. In six months I expect to be The Person Who Still Wears A Mask, and to be forced to remove it…

All right, the new supermarket that opened nearer home has now been Discovered, and on the most recent shopping trip was just as crowded and pushy as the old one used to be. Yes, the aisles are wider, but that doesn't help when three blokes are blocking them while apparently catching up on all their family news. Nobody except me makes the slightest effort to keep any kind of distance; either they think masks are magic, or (more likely) they just don't think about it at all.

(But I am abusing the old tsort utility to build myself a linear map of the shop so that I can automatically put the next shopping list in order…)

Meanwhile when I was picking up some prescriptions at our local huge Tesco I noticed that both the pharmacy assistants were sliding down their masks the moment they stepped away from the counter, then pulling them up again when they stepped back. Do they think the inside and outside remain separate microbial environments when they're being dragged across the same bit of skin? When I worked in an operating theatre, a mask on the chin or round the neck was absolutely banned: if you're going to take it off, take it off (and dispose of it). Otherwise wear it. We can live without seeing your dazzling smile for twenty seconds.


  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 11:52am on 21 November 2020

    I agree this is a problem. On average, people tend to not like hospitals because the emotional triggers overwhelm them: a place full of injured, sick, and or dying people.

    On average, people don't have medical experience or the temperament to cope with the demands.

    Interestingly, I came across an analysis of the response to the Spanish Flu, where the main takeaway was that people assigned the death of others to qualitative judgements that those that died were going to die anyway.

    I see no reason to assume that society has evolved any further in the last 100 years. So I expect a similar response in the future. I hope to be proved wrong.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:55am on 21 November 2020

    But now we have better statistics…

    For example, the biggest study I've seen of medication to lower people's cholesterol levels shows exactly the same rate of death and debility between control and treatment groups. But they die of different things – less cardiovascular, more of everything else including suicide and accident.

  3. Posted by John Dallman at 12:13pm on 21 November 2020

    I'm in Ashby-de-la-Zouch this weekend and things are a bit different. In the town centre this morning, about 25% of people were wearing masks on the streets, and everyone was keeping clear of other people. In the Co-op, which is the main town centre supermarket, everyone I saw was masked.

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 06:24pm on 21 November 2020

    I've been in Aldi and Coop supermarkets in Holmfirth today. Everyone was wearing facemasks, and there was a reasonable amount of distancing. I don't wear a facemask outside, I simply cannot wear them for more than about half an hour at a time. But plenty of people were distancing outside.

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