Thoughts on Summer Travel

One of my parents was recently found to be riddled with cancer. The oncologist declined even doing a biopsy, as no treatment regime would extend life and any treatment would either accelerate death and/or incur unnecessary pain.

As a result, many members of my family gathered in Utah for our final time with this parent. Happily, each member of the family has individually been cautious, though not always for the same ideological reasons. Our parent was declared uninfected by COVID as part of the hospital visit that determined symptoms were partially attributable to widespread cancer. 1

Road Trip versus Air Travel: We chose to primarily travel via roads, though we sent two folks home early via air.

When traveling via air, it appears masks are required and efforts are made to distance family groups as much as possible. You clearly have no control over the status of other passengers (regarding those who might be infected but are not yet obviously infected). I can imagine that people might pull off their masks when attendants aren’t watching, much as people used to use their electronic devices when attendants weren’t watching. As folks become more willing to travel via airplane, flights are beginning to fill up. This is great for the economics of airline companies. But this means you can’t count on having any significant distance between yourself and unknown parties of unknown status.

When traveling thousands of miles via roads, it is at least necessary to stop for gas. Credit cards and gloves can minimize any need to interact with unknown individuals or touch surfaces that could be contaminated. One member of our party was particularly concerned about avoiding contamination based on a loved one at home with compromised health, so this individual minimized use of public bathrooms.

On the way to Utah, we had enough drivers to avoid any need to stop to rest. On our return, we stopped in motels, booking in advance. We were informed several budget motels we hoped to stay in were sold out. The hoteliers said there was no specific event – just that people started traveling in droves around June 20.

Church: While we were in Utah, Church meetings resumed. They were limited to a short opportunity to partake of the sacrament, and the opportunities to show up were split to ensure no congregation was larger than 50 persons (masks required, family groups separated by 6+ feet, procedures for administering the sacrament to minimize any possibility of people touching surfaces that could be contaminated). I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to add my visiting self to their load. The first meeting extended family attended reportedly included only 15 individuals. I think the second meeting that day included 38 individuals. It works out so each individual would effectively be able to partake of the sacrament once a month with the new protocols. Under these practices, it would be unlikely for an individual would get COVID at Church meetings in Utah (speaking only for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

To Mask or Not to Mask: My immediate family had a cache of comfortable, home-made masks. I further made masks as gifts for a couple of birthdays that occurred while we were in Utah. On the other hand, some members of the extended family refused to wear masks and cited believed dangers (oxygen deprivation, carbon-monoxide poisoning). 2 While traveling, we saw signs claiming masks were required, but no one appeared to be enforcing these signs. We saw numerous instances where masks were worn in a manner that did nothing to cover nose or mouth. When we were interacting with persons outside our family, we wore masks. But we didn’t wear our masks inside our car while driving.

Quarantine: Once returning home, we are observing various levels of quarantine. The individual concerned about their vulnerable child showered immediately upon returning home and wore masks for days. But when the vulnerable child drank from their cup in an unguarded moment, this individual decided to end extreme measures. For the rest of us in a different household, we have resumed our pre-trip practices, mostly remaining at home, and wearing masks when venturing out. For myself, we have only just entered “Phase I” of returning to work, and they are only allowing a maximum of 20% of individuals to return to our shared office spaces. So continuing to telework is still acceptable and even encouraged.

Where to find truth: During out trip I learned about the 91-divoc website. This website allows you to sift through a couple of different data sets (JHU (US and entire world) and the Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project (US only)) and view the data in a number of different ways. One of the interesting visualizations is the one showing your “community” as a grouping of 1000 persons. Depending on what state you live in, it appears there may be only a handful of individuals with COVID in that group of 1000 (presuming a majority of those with symptoms have been tested).

Even when discussing the same data, some obviously feel the vast majority are perfectly healthy and all these precautions are silly. Others may liken this to a cup of cooked rice with only ~20 maggots, making care with individual instances worth the bother.

As to Truth, we who believe in an omniscient God can presume that God knows Truth. If you believe in a final judgment, you might imagine that God will share at least that portion of Truth that affected (and was affected by) your life. I hope none of us will be found to have force-fed the equivalent of maggots to our fellows. I similarly hope none of us will be found to have limited others without sufficient cause.

Notes:

  1. Other symptoms were related to a readily-curable condition other than cancer or COVID.
  2. Various reputable news stories insist there is no danger of oxygen deprivation or carbon-dioxide poisoning if wearing a home-made cloth mask.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

9 thoughts on “Thoughts on Summer Travel

  1. Wearing a pulse-oximeter in the ER, I found the difference between wearing a mask and not was >10% drop…

    So I don’t really care about some biased study claiming it doesn’t change my oxygenation, I have data…

  2. We eat bugs and parts of bugs all the time. Radiation seeps up from the earth killing many thousands every year. It comes down from the sun killing tens of thousands. Yes those aren’t contagious. But we all face death. Some of us wish to live rather than fear death. If it comes to us, we accept it. If it comes to our family, we will mourn it. It’s a difficult position to be in where the justified, but maybe exaggerated, fears of other can be cited for the control of neighbor.

    We can extend all kinds of analogies as to why it’s rational and fair to do so. But the worst regimes in history operated on that process. We are a national of laws not fears of men. To bend or twist the law on account of our fears makes a mockery of that law when we need it’s protections the most.

    The time will hopefully come when many look at this period of scientific conformity with disgust.

  3. My son is visiting from Idaho, having driven south with one hotel stop and being careful since we are in the vulnerable age group for COVID-19. He said masks are more in evidence in California.

    Somehow masks have become politicized. Everyone will inevitably make their own decisions. I consider being careful, taking personal responsibility for your own health and the health of your family, obeying the law, and being courteous to your neighbors to be conservative traits.

  4. It is a given that every person born will also die.

    As to eating bugs, seeing evidence of Brood IX in southern Virginia reminded me that Brood X of the 17 year cicadas will be emerging in my area next spring. When Brood X last appeared, I took advantage of the opportunity to prepare cicadas in a variety of ways. The optimal preparation was to pop a newly-emerged cicada (white and soft) into a salty marinade (killed them instantly), clip off the overly-crusty bits, then roast. My youngest daughter thought these were delightful and even begged to be allowed to consume the last several when we tumbled across them in storage a few weeks later. As to me, I have been trained to avoid bugs sufficiently over many decades of life that I couldn’t quite bring myself to enjoy the chewy thorax aspect of the savory roasted bugs.

    Yet there is something less desirable about maggots.

    COVID-19 is unusually destructive and can be caught from people who aren’t showing obvious symptoms. A medically-trained family member informed me there is no such thing as asymptomatic COVID-19 infection, just that people don’t think a higher rate of breathing (trying to get sufficient oxygen despite compromised lungs) is a symptom. At any rate, any person I interact with could be infected and either not know it or (like the Missouri hairdresser) may presume that their symptoms don’t warrant them behaving responsibly.

    The two great commandments are to love God and love others as ourselves. It is only because people are dumb and venal and evil that any other commandment ever need be articulated (don’t kill – duh). If governments are taking action to enforce limits (interpreted as infringing on civil liberties), it is because individuals have not taken appropriate action.

    Is it infringement of civil liberties that New York has decided to enforce mandatory 14 day quarantine for people from locations (such as Utah) where infection rates exceed limits? Is it infringement of civil liberties that the EU plans to ban any travelers from the United States?

    In other terms, an organization that has proven it can’t manage a dangerous element of its “product” will be told it can’t transmit that product to others. This happens for food items all the time. Farms that don’t control contamination will be barred from selling their food, will be publicly identified as a source of food-borne illness. Between recalls and loss of future income, this usually results in ruin. But it isn’t the fault of the market that a farm failed to control E. coli or Listeria or Salmonella and ended up causing premature death in various members of the public.

    In the case of the food-borne illness, it is interesting to note that the market, not government, has imposed strict certification guidelines. While governments have set standards, the controlling entities were stood up by grocery stores, to ensure they didn’t bear unmanageable risk of culpability for killing people.

    Most large companies have put in place mask requirements, including employee testing, independent of what local governments may or may not be mandating. This is due to an abundance of caution, not wishing to be cited in headlines regarding super-spreading events.

    My brain reminds me that Typhoid Mary never did accept culpability for any deaths attributed to her. She didn’t understand the science that indicated she was the source of the illness that killed so many of her neighbors.

    This is why I cite Truth. Our opinions about these things matter very little in the face of Truth. Whether current reactions constitute “hysteria” or not, there does appear to be an illness that has the capacity to overwhelm medical resources and which causes an inordinate amount of premature death and/or extreme expense when attempts are made to avert premature death. Meanwhile, science and compelling anecdotal evidence suggests wearing masks can protect folks.

    [This is why I have yet to be selected for jury duty – I solemnly inform the attorneys that I will follow the evidence, no matter where it leads me.]

  5. Andrew,
    You may have uncovered a serious health issue. What you describe is not in any way normal.

    Meg,
    Your comment about jury duty cracked me up. Keep safe.

  6. Re: AZ, TX and FL.

    Does anyone have local knowledge about figures for COVID hospitalizations and ICU percent utilization in these states? Are those figures rising as quickly or proportionately to the positive test results?

    I can’t tell if the media hype over the increase in people testing positive is due to widespread testing now catching asymptomstic people, or if the *rate* of actual “sick” Covid-positive people is increasing.

  7. We look at the updates coming from the New York Times and the Washington Post and I think my husband also is getting updates from the Salt Lake Tribune. At any rate it does appear that not all of the increase can be attributed simply to an increase in testing. Also, the most recent updates from new sources is citing a report where they’ve been looking at blood samples for all kinds of tests, Where they’ve tested for COVID-19 antibodies. And that’s the source of the recent discussion that as many as 20% of folks in New York State has apparently had COVID-19.

  8. To Andrew’s report of 10% drop in the oximeter reading, I purchased a home oximeter for grins.

    The initial reading of my normal state (no mask) was above 95%, starting around 96% and wandering up to as high as 98% and down as well.

    I held my breath for 45 seconds, and the oximeter only started to fall below 95% after I started breathing again, the rose from 94% in the tens of seconds after I resumed breathing.

    Yesterday I had a reason to wear a mask, so I kept the mask on for the car ride home and into my own home. The oximeter read 96% on average. When I removed the mask, the oximeter wandered upwards as high as 98%.

    Of course, these are only isolated measurements with a cheap instrument I got from Amazon. And I should mention that I suffer from asthma (on occasion experiencing those moist popping sounds as alveoli reopen when I breathe deeply).

    I’m also amused because I have to read the numbers upside down. Always reminds me of the story of the BYU admissions officer looking at my mom’s SAT scores. She was surprised they were frowning and saying her scores weren’t good, except one score which was an 86.6. She informed them they were holding the paper upside down.

  9. “Somehow masks have become politicized. ”

    The people politicizing masks are the ones insisting others wear them. I don’t care if you wear one. I just don’t think they work. And I’ve looked at all the “evidence” and rationale and found it wanting.

    Show me a virology laboratory that works with small quantities of viral samples and believes that a simple facemask would reduce 80% chance of infections. That number in itself (80%) is a joke.

    There are better ways to reduce covid deaths that no one is talking about. That’s what’s policitized. Rejection of actual, data driven improvements over a mask based theory, that likely only has benefits in a very narrow defined set of circumstances that don’t apply 90% of the time in the real world.

    Want to argue over facemasks or reduce covid deaths by 40%? The answers are there, and if I have to string along the real evidence to reduce covid deaths by 40% it shows exactly what elephant in the room is crowding out the truth.

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