I’m keeping my mask

Everywhere I go now, people are running around without a mask, like all our concerns about public health have evaporated. Not me. I’m keeping mine for when I’m out and about.

I double-checked those numbers — they’re about right.

According to Scientific American, influenza cases all over the globe have dropped to “minuscule levels.” We’re not seeing nearly the same numbers as we have in previous years because of the health measures in place to help slow the spread of COVID19 — hand-washing, mask-wearing, staying home when sick, and socially distancing.

The publication reports approximately 600 deaths attributed to influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season in the United States, which typically peaks between December and February. Compared to previous years, where the numbers in the 2019-2020 season saw roughly 22,000 deaths, and the 2018-2019 season had more at 34,000 deaths, 600 is a 97 percent drop. So why is that happening? Are the typical flu deaths being categorized as something else?

Nope. The numbers are so low because the flu isn’t around. “There’s just no flu circulating,” Greg Poland, a researcher who has been studying the flu for the Mayo Clinic for decades, told Scientific American. Because of the measures in place for COVID, including increased handwashing, wearing masks, and staying home when sick, no one is out there spreading the flu either.

Who knew just improving the general level of hygiene would be so effective?

The real question is, why are people so eager to return to living in filth? I didn’t have a single day last year where I was too sick to get out of bed, and I didn’t even have the prolonged snotty sniffles of a cold. I don’t miss that.


  1. Alan Brown says

    As a teacher, I’m used to getting a bad cold in September, then 2-3 more through the school year. I haven’t had one since January 2020 (and we’ve mostly been in class this school year). Pretty sure it’s the longest cold-free stretch I’ve had in my life by quite a margin.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m going to keep wearing a mask for a while in stores. I’ve ditched the kn-95 mask, and just wear the cloth one, which is much more comfortable.

  3. maggie says

    I plan to wear a mask for shopping for quite a while, even when/if heard immunity is achieved. I was wearing my own homemade masks until the more contagious variants came along but now I use a nice N95 that is very comfortable and well fitted. I started using hand sanitizer when shopping or travelling about 15 years ago after watching kids wipe their noses with their hands and then grabbing the grocery cart handle. Also, having worked in a industrial setting, I know handwashing is not a habit with everyone. Seldom get a bad cold. Seldom come down with a nasty poop and puke. Don’t get the flu, even when the vaccine isn’t a great match. Oh, yeah, Canadian here. Province of Ontario is still in shutdown but I don’t want it to reopen for a few weeks yet.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    I’ll be using disposable masks in shops, public transport and other indoors or crowded public places until I two things happen: The epidemic is locally over and it’s more than a month from my second shot (I’ll be getting it at the end of May, so early it’s going to be early July). I expect the former to come after the latter*.
    After that, hand hygiene, staying home while sick and being Nordic about social distancing should suffice. We’ll see about the flu season or new strains of Covid-19, when they come.
    * = I’m guessing that here people in their teens and twenties would be getting their first jabs in July (they are the last age cohorts to be vaccinated) and the second jabs 12 weeks after that.

  5. numerobis says

    I bit my tongue when public health messaging was panicking about the double whammy of flu and COVID.

    The data was already clear that there would be no flu due to control measures: there was none in the Southern Hemisphere during its winter. Not even in countries that were doing poorly at COVID control — influenza is much less infectious (probably because we aren’t immunologically naive to it), yet spreads almost the same way.

  6. anat says

    Since April 2020 my place of employment allowed those whose work requires them to be on site to enter the building (about 40% of us). Said group was also offered vaccines early on (we are a biomedical research organization that is affiliated with a large healthcare provider). Starting from this week we are open to all fully vaccinated employees and only to fully vaccinated employees. Most parts of the building are now ‘masks optional’. Almost everyone I see is still wearing masks.

    Masking at the grocery shops I go to remains (almost?) universal as well.

    And now the county health officer is strongly urging everyone, vaccinated or not, to keep wearing masks indoors until vaccination rates are more uniformly high and rates of infection and hospitalization drop further.

  7. PaulBC says

    I’m just telling people the mask is to keep the murder hornets out of my mouth and nostrils.

  8. asclepias says

    Here in Laramie County, Wyoming, the number of infections has increased from perhaps 8 a week in past months to 114 this week. It’s only going to get worse, as Frontier Days is happening this year–every July (except for last year), thousands of people descend upon Cheyenne for the rodeo. I plan to stay well-away from downtown. I’ve been doing physical therapy for a shoulder injury, and even though there is a sign on the door saying that masks are optional, most of the patients and all the staff are wearing them, me included. A couple of friends in far-flung states have said they’ve been asked multiple times why they are wearing masks (DUH!). I think they should answer a question with a question. “Why do you care?” I haven’t been asked that question, maybe because I’m hanging out in the wrong places and not going out. Besides, I’ve got a couple of really cool-looking embroidered masks that I ordered fair trade from Mexico for Los Dias de los Muertos. Those need to be worn all over the place!

  9. raven says

    As of May 18, Covid-19 cases are still going up in a few states. Because they don’t wear masks as much as the rest of us and because they have low percentages of vaccine uptake.


    This past week, only four states reported increases in COVID-19 cases compared with 10 states the prior week.

    The four state are Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming, and Idaho. All deep Red states, no surprise.

    Who wants to be the last Americans to die from Covid-19 virus?
    Cases are still high in the USA at 30,000 cases a day and 600 or so dead a day.
    The number of people who will choose to die from a preventable virus infection is in the tens of thousands.

    It is looking like this pandemic is going to have a long tail and be concentrated in Red states.
    I’m still wearing my mask everywhere while in indoor public spaces and so are the people who live around me.

  10. davidc1 says

    @1 Well if you will insist on hanging around with a bunch of snot smeared ,nit laded grubby children it is only to be expected .

  11. PaulBC says


    Who wants to be the last Americans to die from Covid-19 virus?

    I do! I do! Because at the rate we’re going it means I’d probably be alive about 500 years from now when we finally get it under control.

  12. raven says

    Here is the latest from the Friends of the Covid-19 Virus Fan Club.

    US Covid-19 vaccination pace is down by nearly half in the last month. These states slow to vaccinate may struggle this summer, expert warns
    By Travis Caldwell, CNN Updated 2:56 AM ET, Fri May 21, 2021

    The eight states with the fewest vaccine doses administered per capita are Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Wyoming, Idaho, Georgia and Tennessee, according to the CDC.

    The states with the most administered per capita are Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island, New Mexico and New Jersey. Washington, DC has a rate of vaccination that would qualify in the top eight if it were a state, according to the CDC.

    The vaccine uptake is highest in the Blue states, lowest in the Red states. No surprise.

    A lot of people, especially GOP governors, are acting like the pandemic is over. It’s not though.
    Cases are still relatively high in the USA even though the vaccination rates/day are going down at 30,000 cases and 600 dead per day.
    In some areas, most of the patients in the hospital ICU these days are Covid-19 virus deniers and antivaxxers. In a few weeks or months, it will be almost all of them.

  13. robro says

    I’ve decided that masks will be a regular part of my wardrobe from now until death us do part, particularly in crowded places with lots of strangers. Even the “common cold” is too risky for a 73yo with cardiac issues.

  14. PaulBC says

    robro@14 Yeah, I think we should collectively admit that a lot of Asian nations got this one right, and when flu season hits, it’s time to break of the protection, the same way a responsible person uses sunblock.

    I like to think I won’t be wearing a mask year round forever, but it’s not that big a deal aside from my glasses fogging up.

  15. Delilah Lee says

    I agree with most of what you say, but I don’t think it’s necessary to equate not wearing a mask with “living in filth.” Don’t we get enough moralizing from the right? I know I do. For me, it’s enough to know that wearing a mask cuts down on the transmission of a number of diseases.

  16. hemidactylus says

    My car battery died today. It lived a happy but short life. Went to neighbor’s unmasked and asked for a jump. He’s full-on conspiracy buff so it didn’t bother him I was not masked. Being vaccinated I felt safe. Didn’t have time to tell him I’m vaccinated so he should mask and explain the joke. I masked at the service building at the dealership. They have always been mask-free but have plexiglass barriers. The eye opener was Publix. Used to be around 90% mask compliance. Seemed less than 50% today. New normal? Huge drop.

    I won’t mask at people’s houses unless asked. I should scare my neighbor with nanobot lizard talk. At work or general public situations I will continue masking, but feel oddball as I did as early adopter with chemistry lab goggles last year and face shield plus mask at work. Mask mandate will surely expire at work within next month. I’d prefer to see the coming data for the next coming months but between being fully vaccinated and numbers looking better I feel less scared shitless than this time last year. Still my OCD is gonna be hard to overcome.

  17. hemidactylus says

    @14 @15 robro and PaulBC

    I think the masking option will be good to have in the arsenal in the future. Until they unveil a general attack bat coronavirus vaccine we aren’t out of the woods and much of the rest of the world is still on fire, especially India, so variants will pulse this thing for months to years to come.

    I’ve been getting flu vaccines for several decades now with no breakthrough illnesses. A mask might be redundant for that, but in situations like when swine flu popped up a bit over a decade ago I will mask for that. I’ve dutifully and self-servingly worn a mask for a year. I am not happy about that PITA. I will have a much lowered threshold for wearing one from now on. I still haven’t gotten past the norm of wearing one in public yet. I still wear protective eyewear.

  18. says

    Hold on now, right after your quoted section the article says “It turns out if you drastically reduce global travel, close public workplaces and schools, and promote mask-wearing and handwashing, you’ll cut off opportunities for common pathogens to spread.” So it’s misleading to attribute the 97% drop in deaths to masks and handwashing when it’s also caused by sacrificing travel, in person school, socializing, many peoples’ jobs and a whole swath of recreational activities. While I agree that was a necessary step until the vaccines were developed, I don’t think living like we did in 2020 permanently is worth the 1% drop in deaths that we get from eliminating the flu (2.8 million people died in total in the US in 2019).

    Similarly, even if we’re limiting the discussion to mask-wearing, “why are people so eager to return to living in filth?” heavily depends on a person’s job and physiology. If you can work from home or outdoors and so only have to wear a mask when shopping and doing other indoor errands, or if you have great hearing and vision and are comfortable wearing sweaters in the summer, that little sacrifice could be worth not getting a cold or flu. But as a cashier who has to wear a mask eight hours a day, whose temperature runs hot anyway, whose job depends on talking with people constantly, and who wears glasses, I would choose to have a flu or cold a few times a year instead with no hesitancy. At least then the discomfort is limited to a day to a week and I get to be at home by myself, whereas the past year at work has been miserable.

  19. Paul K says

    jrkrideau at 16: That article was fascinating. How much suffering has been caused by inertia and stubbornness? ‘We reject your clear evidence. You must be wrong; otherwise we’d have to admit we have been.’ I get that there needs to be skepticism for science to work, but skepticism should lead to inquiry, not dismissal, especially for decades, and when lives are at stake.

    This should be made into a book. I’d go see the movie, too.

  20. Luftritter says

    I think I’ll forever keep the mask when going to crowded places and using public transport. Keep the hand sanitizer around and washing hands as soon as possible. This is probably the longest stretch of time without flu in my whole life.
    Also the handshake is dead to me.
    This whole situation convinced me that a no small percentage of the population has worse hygiene than factory farm animals.
    I’m not entrusting my life to them.