Dr Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Breath, Vapor and Spit

Robin Schoenthaler, MD
6 min readMay 6, 2022

Coping with the Great Unmasking

Photo by Matthias Heyde on Unsplash

Covid cases continue to crawl upwards in early May but not hellaciously in most places — not system-crushing. Since home testing has increased so much it’s probably worse than it looks, but still, hospitalizations are stable, too. So it’s not super-dooper terrible. But it’s not over.

There’s some new “subvariants,” still BA2, still Omicron, but now newer versions. We will have to answer exactly the same questions again about the new subvariants:

— are they more transmissible? (probably yes)

— are they more lethal? (probably no)

— will our vaccines continue to protect us? (probably yes, from severe disease)

I feel so sorry for our poor scientists, having to get up from the kitchen table and go answer all the same questions over and over and over about a new variant and a new sub variant and then a new sub-sub-sub variant. It’s like the ultimate scientific Groundhog Day.

I also feel sympathy for all the lawyers and public health people trying to figure out what the heck to do about masks on transit.

One thing that’s important to remember in all this is that “public health” involves making decisions or guidelines about individual behavior that may effect the health of the general public.

The “masks on planes” ruling (and buses and Amtrak and etc) was a legal one. It had to do with legalities, not with public health, and in fact it had nothing to do with health at all.

And it took about two point three seconds for it to have an impact. Within 24 hours, Logan was about 40% masked, within 48 it was more like 25%, it many places it’s less.

The genie is out of the bottle and I personally don’t foresee it going back in barring an insane variant (of which there is currently no sign).

So now we have to make individual decisions about how to keep ourselves as safe as possible on planes. So how to think about it?

As usual these days, it comes down to a personal risk assessment — how high the risk is, how much you have at risk, and how much risk you are willing to take.

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Robin Schoenthaler, MD

Covid-Translator. Cancer doc: ~Three decades at MGH. Writer and storyteller: Moth Grand Slam Champion. Mom. www.DrRobin.org, @robinshome, robinshome2@gmail.com