Whenever Joe Glickman heads out for groceries, he places an N95 mask over his face and tugs a cloth mask on top of it. He then pulls on a pair of goggles.
He has used this safety protocol for the past 14 months. It did not change after he contracted the coronavirus in November. It did not budge when, earlier this month, he became fully vaccinated. And even though President Joe Biden said on Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask, Glickman said he planned to stay the course.
I guess I have a toe in this camp? I think it’s just polite and considerate to wear a mask when you’re feeling under the weather, especially in a city like New York with packed subways, so I won’t be throwing my masks away.
Flu deaths dropped by 90-something percent, because masks keep other people from getting sick and the simple act of taking it off keeps you cognizant of why you’re doing it in the first place, which makes you wash your hands more.
So I’m keeping mine nearby, in case I have a sniffle and still have to go somewhere.
We have to protect each other from COVID.
It’s not an Us vs Them, and if you know better, you should do better, regardless of what the next person is doing.
The White House just told Republicans to go die in a frosty ditch and y’all know my spirit leapt in agreeance!
(cont. White House)
However. We are where we are because the virus was politicized right out the gate, people refused to take it seriously, and Americans in general are uninterested in taking steps to protect each other if the cost is any small inconvenience to personal impulse. People who *are* vaccinated don’t want to wear masks, even though masks are the #1 way to prevent the spread of COVID. People who *are* vaccinated don’t want to put a pause on going to the movies or the bar or large gatherings while we have a much more transmissible strain making its way through the population.
The unvaccinated are going to remain unvaccinated. No amount of fear-mongering or finger-wagging or liberal-shaming will make them change their minds. So! The answer isn’t to posit the vaccinated as the occupiers of the moral high ground while the rest suffer and die. They die *in* hospitals — and now your dad can’t get treated for a heart attack because the beds are full of COVID patients.
Wear your mask (properly! it’s been two years y’all!), get tested before and after these gatherings that you have decided you can’t stay away from, and reevaluate risk. No, you’re probably not going to die if you pick up COVID, but think about who might die further down the line because you decided you didn’t need to wear a mask at the movie you had to go see.
Test your drugs for fentanyl.
The illegal drug supply is becoming less reliable and more contaminated.
When I was in college hanging out in dive bars and chugging PBR while a steady stream of local bands competed to be the next Interpol, cocaine was everywhere. If you had told 7-year-old me in DARE how much recreational coke I would do before I turned 25, I would have been horrified. When I moved to NYC, it was easier to find a bump than a cigarette. In Williamsburg on somebody’s rooftop pregaming before a night out. On New Year’s Eve with some finance bro at a swanky hotel party. In the East Village listening to a band play. In Hell’s Kitchen on the dancefloor where no one has yet offered you coke, but your lips are tingly after making out with a stranger, so you ask and receive. In all of my years partying until the sun came up, I never once bought cocaine. I simply trusted the coke of whoever was offering, because they’re obviously not dead, so it must be fine.
I would never accept coke from a stranger now. And I wouldn’t even do coke I’d bought myself without testing it for fentanyl first.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid created in the 1960s that is used in hospital and medical settings primarily for anesthesia because it works fast and it only takes a little. Outside of those environments, fentanyl is prescribed for severe pain as a last resort measure. You climb the mountain of painkillers, and if none of them work, you finally hit fentanyl at the top. It’s 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin, and for many people, it’s the only drug that keeps them from committing suicide. This summer I was listening to Very Uplifting Podcasts about Enron and global warming and addiction, and Painkiller produced by Vice has a lot of interview subjects discussing their experience with Fentanyl. There’s a wide spectrum of the population, from fentanyl dealers to loved ones of overdose victims to addicts to patients who have been prescribed fentanyl for extreme pain. Listening to people who have struggled with chronic pain reach the end of their rope on the brink of suicide only to be pulled back after a fentanyl prescription is very enlightening for those of us who only hear the drug in association with illegal usage and overdoses. Those overdoses have now made it more difficult for legal users to obtain the drug, since the government is cracking down and making it harder for medical care providers to write new prescriptions. These people who wanted to die before fentanyl then realized they could live with fentanyl now want to die again.
So why are so many people suddenly overdosing on fentanyl? Well, the most basic answer is potency. Look at a lethal dosage of heroin next to fentanyl (next to carfentanil, another synthetic opioid on deck to become a widespread problem).
Buzzfeed has an in-depth article about the rise of illegal fentanyl usage in the United States, and I’ve read various works about where it comes from and who makes it and how addictive it is, but there isn’t enough focus on accidental contamination.
If I’m a heroin dealer and I want to make more money, I may mix a little heroin with quinine and milk sugar. I just stretched my heroin supply, but I also made a crap product. My users won’t get high the way they used to and they won’t buy from me anymore…unless I cut it with a little fentanyl. They’ll get the high they expect (or better!) and I increased my profit margin. They may become hooked on fentanyl and I don’t have to sell them heroin at all. That’s intentional. A heroin user who tries fentanyl is less likely to overdose than someone who has no experience with opioids.
If I’m a cocaine dealer, there is no reason for me to intentionally cut my product with fentanyl. The highs are different, so I’m not using it to recreate the feeling of a product I’ve watered down with junk for a higher profit margin. I’m likely to kill my customers, which is terrible for business. If there is fentanyl in the cocaine that I’m selling, it’s because it accidentally got there through cross-contamination. (There are cocaine users who intentionally lace with fentanyl, similar to a cocaine-heroin speedball, but that kind of overdose is what we typically think of when someone overdoses on a drug — they meant to use it, they just used too much.)
For some reason, people are very protective over their drug dealers. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard friends and acquaintances say “Oh my guy gets the best stuff…” or “Oh I buy from him all the time, I know it’s good…” We love brand loyalty in this country. I use Tide on my clothes mostly because my mama used Tide, so that’s just the laundry detergent I know. If you buy cocaine from the same guy all the time, I love that for y’all’s relationship. However, your dealer is the last person in a chain of people that stretches to South America.
Unless your dealer physically picked the coca leaves and performed the multi-cycle processes of dissolving and extracting with lime water, kerosene, and sulfuric acid in big metal drums, he is not 100% certain what’s in it. And making cocaine in the jungle is not an FDA approved process where people are wearing gloves and wiping tables and cleaning out containers. Fentanyl has exploded onto the market over the past five years and every supplier wants a piece. If your dealer gets your cocaine from a place that is now making fentanyl, he doesn’t know if the cocaine and fentanyl were packaged on the same table. He doesn’t know if bags were reused. You don’t know either until you get the first baggie of contaminated coke and your next line is your last.
If you take away nothing else about fentanyl take away this: You do not know if your regular supply will contaminated. You do not know if the bump you take in a bar from a friendly stranger is contaminated.
Cocaine has been my example because that was my party drug of choice, but recreational users across the board are dying from fentanyl. Snapchat is currently running from litigation because teenagers keep buying pills (typically Oxy) on their platform, and they’re dying from fentanyl.
Nobody stops doing party drugs because of something they read on the internet, but you can try to be safer and encourage those around you to be safer as well. If you are a regular partier, test your drugs with fentanyl strips. If you are regularly around people who party, learn how to use naloxone and carry it with you to stop an overdose and save a life.
There are many places to get both for free and the most popular in NY (or at least the one that I see the most) is endoverdose.net. You register, fill out an anonymous survey, and order what you need.
I don’t have anything to say about the War on Drugs. Addiction is complicated and should be treated as a public health crisis instead of crime and punishment. If we lived in a society that made space to talk about drug addictions openly and rationally, we would be able to talk about recreational drug usage. DARE would have us believe that every line of coke is another cobblestone on the road to destruction and embarrassing your family, but we know better. Illegal drugs exist right alongside alcohol and the fact that we can’t talk about it means we can’t regulate it. Lack of regulation means opportunity for intentional malfeasance and unintentional contamination. The only solution to accidental fentanyl overdoses that the law and the government will suggest is to simply Stop Doing Drugs. Humans have been doing drugs for all of recorded history, so take care of each other and use your best judgement. There is no reason to accidentally die from something you could easily test for free.
Does being “pro-mask” mean you have to wear one 100% of the time?
We have to change how we think about interaction and exposure.
Yesterday, I posted this handy little reminder on social media, because some of us are tired of wearing masks and it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place.
A mask is to protect others, and we should still be striving to protect each other.
Someone called me a hypocrite because I’m very pro-mask even when vaccinated, and yet I go to bars and restaurants where you don’t need a mask if you show your vaccine information.
So let me clarify!
I wear a mask on the subway, in grocery stores, picking up food at the deli, at the post office, in the gym etc.
I don’t wear a mask when I’m socializing in a bar or a restaurant. And that’s because I feel like those are two different social contracts.
I wear a mask so that if I have a breakthrough asymptomatic case of COVID, I’m not spreading it to other people who did not sign up for the risk. The post office, the subway, the grocery store — these are essential services that everyone has to participate in, vaxxed or not. I don’t know who around me on the subway is immunocompromised or can’t get the vaccine or lives with someone who can’t get vaxxed, etc. They are just trying to go about their day and I’m trying to do my part.
In a bar, everybody assumes the same risk. You know someone COULD have COVID, even though everyone is vaxxed, but that’s the contract you all signed to socialize. If some of those people get grandma sick, that’s their irresponsible action, not mine. I am not at risk of transmitting COVID to anyone because I wear a mask when I’m around people outside of the social contract, and nobody that I’m maskless around is vulnerable. If *you* live with Grandma then *you* should not be in a bar.
This is how I feel about COVID: it’s here forever. There is no point when we go back to pre-COVID where it is “safe” to go to a bar or restaurant. We have to change how we think about interaction and exposure. Social settings are consensual exposure. Everyone there signed up for the same risks. Essential services are nonconsensual exposure. Everyone *has* to participate in them, so we collectively do what we can to minimize risk and protect each other.
I don’t think that’s hypocritical.
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