Remember when face masks weren’t necessary? Then they were, but you could potentially spread the coronavirus to other people?
I’m a bit puzzled, then, how goggles will be of use, as Dr. Anthony Fauci says they’re going to be.
Is this supposed to protect other people if you’re the lachrymose type? Let’s say you’re at an onion convention or you’re watching “A Walk to Remember” with someone else?
Whatever the case, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters on Wednesday that people might consider wearing goggles or a face shield if they really wanted to ward off the coronavirus.
“If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it,” Fauci told ABC News during an Instagram Live session.
Would we really get to the point where that was necessary?
“It might, if you really want perfect protection of the mucosal surfaces,” he said.
“You have mucosa in the nose, mucosa in the mouth, but you also have mucosa in the eye,” he said.
“Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces. So if you have goggles or an eye shield you should use it.”
He added that the gear was “not universally recommended” yet.
“But if you really want to be complete, you should probably use it if you can,” he said.
A day before, during a chat with the American Federation of Teachers, he said “eyes are also vulnerable, so if you can have goggles of some sort that can cover the eyes” that would be “one way” to protect yourself.
Lest you think this is just Dr. Fauci, it isn’t. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, is endorsing face shields.
“The mask is to protect others, is to block those droplets and block that contamination that happens when you speak or sing or talk, or even breathe,” Birx said Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”
“The thing about the face shields — we think that could protect the individuals and that it would decrease the ability for them to touch their eyes and spread virus as well as those droplets coming towards them. So there are two different technologies for two different reasons.”
To be fair, my jokes about the whole crying thing are actually inaccurate.
In a piece for The Guardian with the wonderfully prescriptive title, “You’re already wearing a mask — now consider a face shield and goggles,” Adrienne Matei cites evidence that tears are actually a poor transmitter of the virus. So instead, this would be all about protecting you.
And what’s not to like about that? You get to feel like a villainous B-movie doctor every time you go out in public, and you only get to be exponentially more uncomfortable than you were before. Shouldn’t you be down with this tradeoff?
Matei hit on why this won’t work, quite accidentally, when she talked to Dr. Warren Dinges, a Seattle-area physician, who said the aerosolized nature of the virus makes face masks and goggles a sound move.
“When something is airborne … little droplets remain in the air longer and you could then walk into a stream of suspended droplets that could then transmit the virus to you,” Dinges said.
“And by wearing goggles you would prevent those airborne droplets from landing on your [eye] mucus membranes and causing transmission.
“I think it’s reasonable, certainly if you’re not going to be able to socially distance, to wear goggles of face shields based on the evidence of airborne transmission,” he added.
A powerful case for shields and goggles, right? Matei, however, was forced to note, after all that, that Dinges “has yet to wear them going to the office or grocery store himself.”
So this doctor, who believes it would be a fantastic idea to put on a Volvo station wagon for your face every time “you’re not going to be able to socially distance,” hasn’t actually done it himself.
About a month ago, I visited the dentist for my biannual scaling. As always, she told me, in detail, how I should be brushing my teeth, what motion I should be using, how I should floss, what floss to buy — honestly, I forget the list because if your teeth aren’t an outright disaster, at some point you tune out the arcane details, safe in the knowledge you’re dealing with the orthodontic version of Patrick Bateman discussing his morning skincare routine in “American Psycho.”
But here’s the thing: If I’d had the foresight (and, well, the effrontery) to ask her if she went through this time-consuming dental regime every morning and night, she’d tell me that of course she did. And I’d believe her, too.
She wouldn’t be putting me on just so that I’d follow her advice to always start brushing with the bristles in the middle of the tooth and to work in a circular motion. (This is where I tuned her out this time.)
This may be some pretty tedious stuff, but I’ve never met a dentist who doesn’t take it seriously enough to cheerily tell you how to angle the brush to catch the gums best — and mean it.
To write a piece about why you should “consider a face shield and goggles,” Matei found a physician — one who specializes in internal medicine and infectious diseases, no less, during the most horrifying pandemic in our lifetime — and got his opinion on the subject.
Will putting all of that on your face reduce your chances of getting the virus? Of course. It’s sound medicine, uncomfortable though it may be.
Has the cost-benefit analysis caused him to actually take this advice on his own? Nope.
Instead of focusing on realistic ways to fight transmission of the virus, Dr. Fauci — the man who famously came out against shaking hands ever again — is using his messaging time suggesting to us that a trip to the grocery store should feel like the least comfortable part of going to the pool or woodworking, combined with a face mask and a face shield.
There’s a limited amount of credibility any expert has to expend with their audience. Fauci, reasonably popular though he may be, has lost a great many people with garbage like this.
Only the most fear-stricken among us will actually take this advice. There are reasonable suggestions we can consider that would be a lot more practical — and less risible — than this.
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