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You’ve got your nose in my business — and everyone else’s

COVID-19 is hitting every group, every demographic, every stratum of Israeli society; of course, my wife expected other clinic patients to be as careful as she was
The author and his son at the Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem. (courtesy)

Our 7-month-old has had a high fever (103 F/39.6 C) for the last 48 hours and it has worn us out. He’s doing okay, back from Terem/the emergency clinic. What astounds me is the audacity of a couple other would-be patients who outright refused to mask themselves.

We had already had a stressful Shabbat, as our baby, Harel, would gag whenever we gave him medicine. His fever just kept climbing though. Once it hit 103, I hopped in the car to buy suppositories and race home. On and off the phone with doctors all day, we needed to know where to go in case he had COVID-19. When we finally got the green light for the clinic, my wife bolted to the Modi’in clinic.

I stayed home and got our other two visibly concerned kids to bed. Meanwhile, the torture of the waiting room settled in for my wife, sitting among a dozen others. But one mother took a far brisker approach. Even though she was indoors surrounded by patients with who-knows-what-kind-of medical conditions, she wore her mask only on her mouth, oftentimes taking it below her chin.

As the woman was sitting with her adult son, my wife didn’t think that a request would elicit the reaction it did. When my wife asked them to lift their masks, they replied that our baby should be the one wearing one. The rest of the wait was pilloried with a hail of snickering and mocking. When the attending finally called her in, these two adults audibly jeered.

What were they making fun of her for? Being smart? Is she some sort of “friar” (“sucker” in Hebrew) because she actually cares about other people and covers both her air holes when she is in a room with other people?

The lack of acceptable Israeli contact tracing makes this worse, but the elephant in the room is that so many people — and it only has to be a sizeable minority — don’t cover their faces right. This is definitely extending the pandemic. There’s no way it isn’t. And perhaps an elephant is an appropriate mascot for this kind of irresponsibility, considering it pretty much comes down to people not keeping their schnozzes behind their masks.

Considering how many times I’ve seen chin-only maskers sneeze at a supermarket, or how quick people “get to” remove their masks as soon as they enter a restaurant (even 20 minutes before they get their food), or literally pull their masks down to lick their fingers to open a plastic bag at a checkout counter, it’s obvious that we don’t have one or a couple dominant sources of infection anymore. This is everywhere.

It is in every group, every demographic, every stratum of society here in Israel. From the arrogant politician afraid they’ll miss a good PR photo if they mask up when they deliver a speech, to the non-social-distancing teachers who had my son take off his mask for end-of-the-year photos with a cluster of kids and staff.

My 7-YEAR-old has expressed far more concern and anxiety about this than other people. He is far more cognizant of covering his nose than other people. Yet, he was the one holding back tears last night because he couldn’t stop dreading that his baby brother had COVID-19. He has spent so much energy — as have so many thousands of kids his age — dealing with an overwhelming burden that many of the adults around him just simply don’t take seriously enough.

This selfish bullshit has to stop. All the way up to the prime minister pandering to people who want to travel abroad en masse for a holiday, all the way down to the daycare giver who wore the same mask so often, day after day, that she actually wrote her name on it. And if there is a need for a selfish reason to do this, the evidence is mounting that masks protect the wearer as much as the crowd around her.

You have blood on your hands. Stop cutting corners. This isn’t over, not by a long shot. Stop acting like it is. And this message applies wherever you’re reading this, not just where I live. It doesn’t matter what country, here in Israel or anywhere else.  

About the Author
Gedalyah Reback is an experienced writer on technology, startups, the Middle East and Islam. He also focuses on issues of personal status in Judaism, namely conversion.
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