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COVID tracker: Winter is coming, so don your mask

  • This DIY neck strap lets me take off my mask without losing it. Ridiculously simple and obvious but it makes mask-wearing a lot more bearable. DAVID BROOKS / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/24/2021 7:00:14 AM

Recently I covered an indoor gathering in person, my first since BC (Before Covid). Of the two dozen people who spent all morning in one big room I was one of the very few to wear a mask.

This wasn’t the usual clump of anti-mask loudmouths and needle-dodging whiners, either. Everybody was sensible, informed and aware; organizers said that masks were required if you weren’t vaccinated, but I’m sure that everybody had gotten all their jabs.

Rather, the overall feeling of the group was that the pandemic was behind us, at least in these surroundings. COVID-19 wasn’t even mentioned (which I must admit was delightful; I’m sick of the darn topic). So why should they bother with masks?

Unfortunately, my daily slog updating COVID data for the Monitor doesn’t let me pretend that the pandemic is over. As the numbers below indicate, we’re heading into another cold-weather surge and it’s not clear when it will stop. Gov. Sununu is starting to fret again about overwhelmed hospitals.

So masks should be part of our daily life for the foreseeable future, which brings me to a small but of practical advice.

This is what I hate most about masks: I’m downtown and go into a store so I put it on but when I return to the sidewalk I want to take it off. What then?

Leaving it hooked to my ears is uncomfortable. Carrying it in my hand is annoying, Shoving it into a pocket means it gets too beat up to use or maybe falls out.

This is, I think, a big part of the reason some people avoid masks – they’re so inconvenient.

I have taken to attaching a neck strap to the mask of the moment, similar to those used by people who wear glasses. Once off my ears the mask hangs out of the way but ready to spring into action when I’m lured through another retailer’s front door.

Many of you might wonder why I’m making a fuss out of such an obvious method that has long been in use. But it’s new to me and has made the necessary evil of masking much more palatable. Of such small victories are battles won, and we’ve got a lot of battles still to fight against COVID.

How are we doing on vaccinations? Seeing a slight uptick.

In September, the average number of people added to the state’s tally of the fully vaccinated was under 200 per week. In October that has risen to between 300 and 400 new vaccinated bodies each week.

This is still a tiny number among 1,350,000 residents of New Hampshire but it’s a hopeful sign. The possible approval of vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds should add to the increase.

What’s the trend on spread and impact of the disease? Getting worse and worse.

Last week the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 topped 200 for the first time since February. The daily number of new cases is well over 500 and deaths have increased to about three a day.

This is similar to our neighbors – even Vermont, poster child for intelligent response to the pandemic, is seeing record levels of new cases – and reflects the fact that cold weather sends us inside where we share our virus-laden aerosol droplets.

Which brings us back to: Wear a mask because the pandemic is most definitely not behind us.

For coronavirus-related information and updates throughout the week, visit concordmonitor.com/coronavirus.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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