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This article was published on July 7, 2020

Seriously, masks are your friend

Seriously, masks are your friend

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.

Hello from the lockdown trenches,

Since Tristan’s taking a much-needed break — and seriously, who doesn’t need a break after everything this year has thrown at us? — I’m here to take over his weekly epistle.

It still seems like the biggest bugbear for everyone is the need to wear a mask, which is… stupid. Trust me, I don’t like beating this drum anymore than y’all like hearing about it, but apparently a lot of you are still resisting this very basic safety measure.

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If you’re one of those troopers who has the courtesy to put a kerchief over their mouth during every run to the store and washes their hands at appropriate intervals: Thanks so much. This next part isn’t directed at you.

I’ll put this as simply as I can. This isn’t over by any stretch. As Anthony Fauci himself puts it, we’re still “knee-deep” in the first wave of the pandemic. And it seems that for every person who masks up or social distances, there are people like these idiots:

And before you ask: No, no one was bothering to wear a mask.

The US is currently setting record numbers of new cases a day, and hospitals in the southern states are either at or nearing capacity. And you know why? Because people out there AREN’T TAKING SIMPLE PRECAUTIONS.

If you think it’s just about you getting it, personally, then don’t look now, but your “Fuck you, got mine” is showing. It’s about the people who get it who then transmit it to elderly relatives, or children with asthma, or other at-risk people. If you’re refusing a mask because you believe you’re immortal or immune or whatever justification you’ve dreamed up, then you are the problem.

You know things are bad when the governor of my home state of Texas is making masks mandatory. Trust me, I know Texas and Gov. Abbott. If he’s insisting on something in spite of a bunch of crybabies bemoaning its imaginary infringement on their rights, the world is basically coming to an end.

And if I’m being brutally frank, if you’ve not yet reconciled yourself to the new normal, several months into the pandemic, then you need to get with it.

Put a mask on already.

By the numbers

Last week Tristan compared COVID-19 numbers to those of Beyoncé, which is as good a way of putting the numbers in context as any. In keeping with that spirit, let’s compare numbers to some popular YouTube videos, because guess where I’ve been spending most of my time since the lockdown started?

  • COVID-19 cases: 11.6 million
  • Most-viewed YouTube vid: “Despacito” with 6.8 billion views
  • COVID-19 recoveries:
    6.3 million
  • Most-viewed vid in 24 hours: Blackpink’s “How You Like That” with 84.2 million
  • COVID-19 deaths: 538k
  • Chance I’ll apologize for getting Despacito stuck in your head again: 0%

Tweet of the week

What to read

Brazil’s president literally and figuratively takes his medicine, the Louvre reopens, and Uber invests in food delivery… [Note from Rachel: Some of these stories I’m leaving here from last week because they’re either too grim to ignore or kind of funny. I’ll let you figure out which is which.]

? Facebook and Instagram will remind you to wear a mask atop your feed
? This AI can tell if you’re stupid or if you’re a Democrat based on how you talk about COVID-19
? Mexico closes US Border in Arizona to stop July 4th visitors, citing COVID-19 fears. (Sacremento Bee)
? U.S. Will Pay $1.6 Billion to Novavax for Coronavirus Vaccine as part of “Operation Warp Speed” (NY Times)
? Brazil’s President Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus (after likening it to a “little flu”)
? Uber acquires Postmates in $2.65 billion deal as demand for food delivery is rapidly increasing
The Louvre reopens, but with very strict mask and social distancing measures in place
? Coronavirus is mutating and that’s making it harder to come up with treatments and a vaccine. (SF Gate)
? US expert says we’re unlikely to see herd immunity if anti-vaxxers don’t take their medicine. (CBS News)


We’ve had a TNW writer share something weird they’ve been obsessing over every week during the quarantine, but lockdown is ending in so many places I thought it was a good time to switch things up.

Going forward, we’re going to use this space to talk about the tech that’s getting us through the pandemic. Since Tristan isn’t here this week to stop me, I’ll go first: 

Hamilton, a filmed performance of the hit musical, debuted on Disney+ over the weekend. Yes, I watched it. It seems like a calculated move, to release a musical featuring several Founding Fathers right before July 4, a major holiday here in the US. Nevertheless, it seems to have caused some backlash.

As several people online, including Ava DuVernay, have pointed out, the play is not an accurate representation of the real Alexander Hamilton. The real Hamilton owned and sold slaves, as did his in-laws, a fact not at all alluded to in the narrative.

I’m not here to argue the merits of glamorizing the life of a slaveowner in nascent America, or whether it’s fair to diminish the achievements of the modern-day artists behind Hamilton. I’m a white woman — it’s not my place to argue those things. But what I am doing is using my quarantine time to get myself educated.

So while I have watched Hamilton and find it delightful, I am using the Audible credits I’ve built up to get myself some books to read on the topic. Not just about Hamilton, but the whole sordid history of human bondage in early America, something I only really knew about in that puddle-shallow way we’re taught in school.

Lockdown might be lifting, but with COVID cases still on the rise, I’m content to stay in and listen to some audiobooks for the time being, particularly about an issue that still resonates with us today. At the moment, I’m listening to “The Other Slavery” by Andrés Reséndez and “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.


We’ll be back next Tuesday. And every Tuesday after that until the pandemic ends. Because we’re all in this together.

In the meantime, here’s a few links to help you manage the misinformation as the disease hits its peak:

The Center for Disease Control’s myth-busting section on COVID-19

After Recovering from COVID-19, are you immune?

John Hopkins Univeristy COVID-19 myth vs fact

Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Stay healthy and take care of each other,

Rachel (and wish Tristan a happy vacation)

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