Perspective

By: Erin R. Hennessy

It’s been quite a week in coronavirus quarantine-land. The governor has extended our “stay at home” order through May 4 – so three more weeks of quarantine has been added to the previous two. I’m still able to work part-time as an essential employee at my new job. Apparently, I make too much to qualify for unemployment benefits, so there’s a silver lining? Maybe? Except I’m not making as much as I used to, either…thank goodness for savings!

People are now making masks from cloth, baseball hats, coffee filters, scarves, and t-shirts. My very kind sister is making me a mask from a bicycle print. I like the idea of masks from a logical and health standpoint. The whole idea of “you protect me, I protect you” because let’s face it – some of us are probably walking around asymptomatic. Especially because coronavirus is “mild” for 80% of the diagnosed population. Wearing masks when we go out to the grocery store keeps not only ourselves but others safe and that’s the end goal.

The one issue I have with everyone wearing masks – I am hard of hearing and read lips to communicate.

Yup.

Which means, if you are wearing a mask, I will miss 75% of what you are saying to me. Normally, in a grocery store setting, that probably doesn’t matter that much.

But what about medical settings? What if a hard of hearing or deaf person is admitted to the emergency room with appendicitis – and everyone is wearing masks because of coronavirus concerns? What about those hard of hearing or deaf individuals who actually have coronavirus, aren’t allowed visitors or interpreters or anything? How are they supposed to understand what is happening to them?

I saw an article the other day where someone made a mask with a clear plastic window in it for exactly this purpose. Those masks are great, but let’s be real – they’re not widely distributed. So the deaf and hard of hearing population still has a problem.

Right now, the only solution I can reasonably think of is – take off your mask to talk to me. I will keep mine on. I’m hoping in the days and weeks that go by, the medical community can find solutions to these problems and others that are popping up directly because of the pandemic. And maybe we can learn from these problems going forward.

What design flaws or issues have you faced in this pandemic? What do you hope we all learn from it?

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