Monday, September 18, 2023

Round of Accommodations for All!

Last fall, when I started back to school for the first time in a couple decades, WLU had mask mandates, which was such a relief for anyone trying to avoid getting Covid. Then they dropped them last February with this announcement

"While face coverings will no longer be required, members of our community are encouraged to wear masks in higher-capacity, close-proximity settings."

For the winter and spring terms, I sent an email to my classmates to just ask if they wouldn't mind wearing a mask in class. It went something like this:

Hi everyone! Looking forward to starting the course tomorrow, and a bit nervous asking this - but, if possible, I'm wondering if people could wear masks in the room?? I have some health concerns, and while I'll be supermasked, one-way masking isn't nearly as effective as two-way. Every little bit helps! If you can't, or even just can't stand it, then you can't. I get it - no worries. But if you can.... I would really appreciate it.

Last term, one student responded, 

"Good for you for asking for what you need, Marie!"

And, in each class, all but one or two people wore a mask all term. We were all safer for it.

This semester, I sent the same message and brought a box of masks with me the first day to hand out to anyone interested. Two people took one. Both put it on for a minute or two, then looked around and took it back off. 

It is SO hard to be different.

It really feels like nobody's wearing masks anymore except for 100% of the people I interact with online, many of whom live in my city. Curious. 

I'm planning to send another request, but this time backed up by information and cited sources. I wavered all day on this, asking many people their opinion. Best case scenario, a few people mask - maybe even the whole class! Worst case scenario, though, someone goes to the dean and complains that they feel harassed by me. Second-worst, all the students think I'm crazy. 

What solidified my decision to ask just one more time was one line from a reading we have for the class, from M. Shawn Copeland's "Disturbing Aesthetics of Race":

"We cannot simply retreat from challenges of engaging other . . . simply because such engagement is difficult and fraught with negative possibilities."

Felt enough like a sign for me! Here's what I wrote:

Hi everyone! 

This is the first class so far that didn't respond to my personal plea for masks with almost complete engagement, which might have been reached in prior classes from an act of compassion, concern with disability equity, and/or a way to practice in case a prospective client makes the request, but also because we were nearer to the mandates, so it wasn't such a stretch to continue wearing one. A couple people took masks from me last class, wore them for a minute, then took them back off. I know it is SO hard to do something different than the crowd, but if a few more of us do it, then maybe it won't feel so weird! 

I'll try just one data-driven route this time around - just one final attempt before I accept the will of the majority. Some fast facts (sources in this doc): Cases are increasing. Most transmission is from people without any symptoms. The virus travels across a room in minutes. The HEPA in the room isn't cleaning the air enough (I've gotten CO2 readings of 1500 ppm; optimal air flow gets us closer to 500 ppm), so we're breathing each other's lung backwash! Vaccines reduce acute symptoms, but aren't enough to stop transmission. There's no cure for Long Covid (which you can get even after a mild or asymptomatic acute case), so all we have is prevention. Luckily, well-fitting masks work really well to reduce the spread of transmission! If most people in a room are wearing masks, it dramatically reduces the risk of infection to anyone in the room. 

I sometimes get yelled at off campus for continue to wear a mask, for being a sheep - despite  following nobody - but it's worth it to prevent the lasting illness to me and anyone around me that can come from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Here's an upbeat 98 sec Tiktok on masks if it helps.

 Thanks so much for reading, and I'll bring more masks just in case!

The frustrating thing, of course, is that the accommodation I'm requesting is one that everyone actually needs, but nobody wants.

If I'm the only masked person in my next class, I might just leave and see if I can work out a virtual option. I'm so incredibly fortunate to be in the position to even ask for an accommodation like this. If that's also not granted, then I guess I don't take classes at Laurier anymore! I love going to school, but I'm not dying to.

I didn't include this bit, but there's a letter circulating written by Austrian physician Golda Schlaff and colleagues providing a wealth of evidence that allowing Covid to continue to spread is going to cause widespread problems. It's asking Medical Associations to develop long-term strategies to actually manage this ongoing health crisis, and tons of healthcare providers are signing it. 

Something's got to give soon, right??  


Laura Fry said...

I asked last year for all guild events to be masks required. Most people grudgingly complied. This year at the AGM, I and one other person were wearing a mask, with 3 or 4 others ignoring us. As people started to arrive for the meeting, the ratio of mask wearers to non-mask wearers flipped until there were more people wearing a mask than not. At which point ALL of the non-mask wearers put one on (we keep masks in the room for the purpose.)

Apparently as soon as I and one other mask wearer left, tipping the balance again, most of the people left in the room took theirs off. :(

I have no solutions to offer. I continue to pound the drum of wearing a mask on my social media, not to change anyone's mind, but perhaps stiffen the resolve of those who are beginning to waiver.

Right now cases are building but since we are largely not counting in Canada, I have no stats to backup my requests to others to mask.

I am supposed to be teaching an in-person class next month and I requested that the guild newsletter go out with a reminder that it will be 'masks required'. I was told it is listed as such on the website. I requested a reminder go out in the newsletter. One person whiffed away my concern with 'It's endemic, like colds and flu.' I pointedly looked at her and said "And I don't want a cold or flu, *either*." Then turned to the newsletter person and said "I will do many things for my craft; dying isn't one of them."

Thing is, I've made no secret that I am immune compromised and that covid would not be 'just a cold' for me. :(

It is beyond my comprehension that people even refuse to mask against wildfire smoke, with almost non-stop poor air quality advisories here for months. If they won't mask against a threat they can see, smell and taste, they obviously aren't going to bother against a virus.

My spouse and I continue to wear a mask when we are outside of our home, and inside if we have guests. Most people welcome into our home wear a mask, but not some tradespeople. So we protect ourselves from them, as best we can.

Neither of us have had covid, we are up-to-date with vaccines, and will get the next one when we can, likely in November.

Like I say - no solutions. But I will keep reminding people that covid is *not* over...

Marie Snyder said...

I was hoping I'd get that kind of tipping point in my class as well - even if just while I'm there. The funny thing is, the two who wore one for a bit during the first class, didn't for this class despite others wearing them.

It's such a weird disconnect for me on social media where 100% of my buddies mask (and many live in my city), and the "real" world where nobody does. It feels like it doesn't make probabilistic sense!

Hang in there! It's horrible to think, but if it gets bad enough (or when it gets bad enough), they'll likely bring back masks in public spaces. That might not be too far away!