Why wearing a face mask in Asia is a social courtesy and a precaution

I was served by a Starbucks barrista wearing a mask in Taiwan (Changhua county, 2017).

I visited Taiwan in 2017 and even back then, you’d see the random healthy person wearing a mask while out-and-about doing their thing.  The thought there is the opposite of what we have here. In Taiwan, the wearing of face masks is the norm for everyone. It is highly encouraged by health authorities. It is more than just a social courtesy but it is a health precaution for the healthy and not just for those who are ill. 

Today, given our Wuhan virus situation, if a person in Asia is seen not wearing a face mask while shopping for groceries, they might be barred rom entry. Shopkeepers and shoppers alike will give you odd stares and perhaps the evil eye. Everyone will carry a face mask or two on their body when they are outside. Wearing a face mask is a duty and a social responsibility for everyone.

Failing to wear a mask is seen as inconsiderate as when we see others who fail to sneeze into their own sleeves and just let the germs fly. Down right disgusting right?I know, it’s bizarre according to our social standards here.

It might be more convenient to sneeze or cough into your own mask than into your own sleeve (if we’re not quick on the draw). It’s happened to me before.

Personally, I haven’t been one for wearing face masks but I’m noticing more people wearing them in public these days. Currently, we are being told during daily local coronavirus news conferences to wear face masks only if you are sick or if you are a frontline worker like a nurse or a doctor.

People in Asia are expected to wear a mask in public at all times and in all places–both adults and children alike.  The wearing of masks has almost become a sign of public courtesy.

It heightens our awareness of germs and sends out the message that one is cautious of not spreading or contracting germs.  Regardless of whether it’s really effective or not, at the least, it’s seen as a symbolic gesture of social courtesy.

The downside of this in Asia is this. To be seen not wearing a mask comes with a price–a stigma. A person who walks into a store to buy essential services will be viewed as one who exposes themself to others’ germs and/or who exposes their germs to others.  That person will not feel welcomes to shop there. They might even be asked to leave. That’s how it is in some places.

Why has it come to this in Asia? Asian people are deadly afraid of the virus. When Asia had the SARS and the MERS outbreak, thousands of people died, it didn’t much affect the rest of the world. The rate of fatality was close to 10% for those who did contract the virus (vs Covid-19’s 1-2%). Asians in Asia have become extremely sensitized to the dangers of sickness through their experience of SARS.

The practice of donning a mask has been carried over from Asia, but we regard this practice as socially unacceptable. It has been deeply socialized in the culture and has nothing to do with whether one has the virus. We really shouldn’t fault Asian in North America for wearing masks in public.

An illustration in point. I saw a story on social media about an Asian person in the U.S. getting harassed and beaten up for wearing a mask in public.  Either the attackers had falsely assumed they were sick, or they were just racist and wanted to take their anger out on some random Asian person for bringing the virus into America. I don’t know.

In Asia, some front line workers like doctors and nurses died because they were exposed to the virus. They reported for work knowing the chances of contracting SARS or MERS was high. It was a sense of duty to serve the people.  Those nurses and doctors who died were honored as heroes.

Some of us need to change our understanding of wearing face masks in public. We might be seeing a change very shortly. Rumors have it that the CDC has been considering a change in public directives regarding wearing face masks in public. A change might come after production of face masks gets ramped up in the United States. Is there a reason why we are being fed the line that face masks are reserved for frontline workers and the ill only? I think there might be.

Travelers at Hong Kong Int’l Airport at sanitizing station.

From start of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, Asian countries have been taking the Wuhan Coronavirus very seriously.  It explains why Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong have been successfully in maintaining lower infection rates. Their rates of infection per capita have thus far been relatively low in comparison to that of Italy’s. The wearing of face masks is not the only contributor to their success.

They also do mandatory public temperature/fever screenings at check points, though its reliability is not high. It seems somewhat draconian to have to check everyone. This is done everywhere, at airports, at schools and in some large public spaces.

A health official checks temperature of incoming passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand on 9 March 2020 (AFP)

Public health workers doing temperature screening will wear protective clothing. It gives the impression that the deadly virus could be lurking anywhere and could hit at any moment. It strikes fear in the public psyche. Some might opine that we need to increase this awareness and alertness to the dangers of the coronavirus.

These hardline measures are a stark contrast to our culture where social freedoms and liberties are highly valued and protected. Can we do this kind of thing in Canada and the United States?

Will we get to the point where a wide spread infection of coronavirus will require mandatory or random public check points, and if the donning of masks might become socialized in the western world?

Hope exists – even in our suffering

We might be asking ourselves, when is this Covid-19 pandemic going to end? We might be bored out of wit’s end and stuck in our home in isolation but around the world there are other negative events happening this week.

A Kenyan farmer tried to dispel desert locusts in a village east of Nairobi last week. The infestation in Kenya is the worst in 70 years.
  • Pestilence of biblical proportions in eastern Africa and Middle East: Massive swarms of 500 billion locusts are devouring entire swaths of vegetation in eastern Africa, i.e., Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and others, and now the Arabian Gulf. The likes of this has not been seen in 70 years. One swath measured 60 km long by 40 km wide. Over 20 millions people are in danger of starvation due to food shortage.
  • War and terrorism in western Africa: terrorists group, Boko Haram, is mercilessly murdering men, women and children and inflicting harm upon innocent people in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon.

We might be able to mitigate some evils but we cannot control all the bad and evil things happening in the world today.  The wise teacher from the book of Ecclesiastes speaks of equal and common treatment toward all humanity. 

“This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.”

Ecclesiastes 9:1-2 (NLT)

Regardless of whether we’ve been a good person, or done lots of bad things, this Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us in some way. 

This shows that control over the events in the world is not in our own human hands.  We might be rich, powerful, strong, healthy, smart and intelligent, funny, beautiful, weak, poor, ill, good or evil.  We do not have as much control as we might have thought we had.  Ultimately the destiny of our world is not in our hands.

The good news is that there is still hope. Hope is in the love of God.  There are things we can do to experience hope.

  1. Be teachable and listen for God’s soft voice during self-isolation/quarantine/lock-down. 
  2. Take this time alone to focus and pray to God. Ask yourself: what is God’s will in my own life.
  3. Enjoy the good gifts that God has already given to you. There’s always something.
  4. Pray to God for joy and hope, even in my own suffering, anxiety, sadness (or even boredom).

Marriage after Corona/Covid-19

Hi, I’m Kevin. I want to share a part of my life’s story in the blogosphere. It’ll be a longer read than usual.  I grew up seeing my parents suffer together.  When I was a young kid in Vancouver, my father raised the family (my Mom, brother and me) by working two or three part-time jobs.  Life was tough in my younger years but I didn’t know the difference. 

Later on we moved to the prairies of Saskatchewan. We worked hard together.  I grew up seeing my parents live a family-first model of marriage.  In this model, marriage is not so much about romance but it’s also about the kids, money, raising a family together.

When I grew up, became a young adult, went off to college in Ottawa and Virginia. I was taught to believe that the soul mate model of marriage was the only true way to live.  Life was about seeking happiness, and marriage was supposed to bring happiness.  From a secular view, marriage was actually seen as optional.  Marriage and children were a hindrance. These things can get in the way of achieving happiness and a comfortable lifestyle.  This is today’s current view of marriage. This will, however, change.

After college, I moved to Toronto.  I believed that life was all about achieving success in one’s career.  It was about finding the love of your life; one could then live happily ever after.  I bought into society’s ideals hook-line-and-sinker.  Love and success were supposed to make a person happy.  If one doesn’t find success and happiness, you would then be settling for second place; and second place was a loser’s place.

In a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, author W. Bradford Wilcox said this about the soul mate model of marriage:

“For those who are already married, the stresses and strains of marriage and family life in the time of Covid-19 will send thousands of couples to divorce court. Marital failure will be especially common for husbands and wives under the sway of what I call the “soul mate model” of marriage. The soul mate model—trumpeted in books like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” not to mention countless songs and rom-coms—is the idea that marriage is primarily about an intense emotional and romantic connection between two people and should last only so long as that connection remains happy and fulfilling for both parties. This self-centered model gained in popularity for many Americans starting in the 1970s, the ‘Me Decade.’”

Later in my young adulthood life I realized this model to life and marriage was wrong-headed. I could see it taking me no where. I then realized that this was actually a mass deception created and perpetuated by the mainstream media and by Hollywood. A Me-First mentality.  I looked back and began to consider history and traditions, and why life seemed better in the golden olden days. Call it nostalgia if you wish.

I looked at myself and didn’t like what I had become.  Self-centered.  Selfish.  Prideful.  I knew that there had to be more to life than just seeking happiness for myself. I confessed and repented of my ways. I made a switch, slowly but surely.

Wilcox said of the family-first model of marriage: “in times of trial and tribulation, most people—and most spouses—don’t become more self-centered, they become more other-centered, more cognizant of how much they need their family members to navigate difficult and dark times.  He believes that in a post-Covid-19 society, the family-first model of marriage will gain ground against the soul mate model.  I agree with this.

Since the great depression of the 1930s, we haven’t had such a big downturn in job losses. During this Covid-19, experts and economists are saying that we will definitely have a recession, or even, a depression.  I have never seen communities as a whole pull together. Perhaps 9/11 in New York City was one instance but on a national and worldwide scale, I don’t think this generation has ever seen anything within our lifetime as during this pandemic. There may very well be or a soon-to-be economic collapse, but of course, I’m hoping there won’t be one. It’s safe to say that everyone is coming to realize the dangers and calamity the virus will inevitably cause. 

I believe that in the end, people will pull together as communities, for the good of the community.  Families will also pull together and stick together.  Why?  In togetherness, one becomes stronger than when one is alone. Friendships will be bound together based on teamwork, team spirit and camaraderie.

An opposing direction that a post-Covid-19 society might go is the prepper-survival mentality.  Every man (and woman) for himself.  Screw the rest.  Prepare your home as a fortress to hide out.  Fill it with food, bullets, and survival items in order to stave off collapse for months or even years.  And bear fire arms. Have your ammo ready.  Lock and load to protect your fortress.  If the situation ever gets so bad, it could come to this low level post-Armageddon mentality.  Perhaps I’m too optimistic but I don’t think it will come to this level.

In togetherness, one becomes stronger than when one is alone. Friendships will be bound together based on teamwork, team spirit and camaraderie.

Families will come together because as human beings, we know there is something more to life than just living life in order to seek happiness.  There is also happiness in seeking to live life together.  This latter approach to life is bigger than life itself.  It puts the pressure off of yourself, the individual.  The pressure to succeed now lays in the bigger group, the community, and the family.

“There is also happiness in seeking to live life together.  This latter approach to life is bigger than life itself.”

My parents taught me something about sticking it out for the long haul.  Suffering for a short time will pay off in the longer term.  After I took on this new view of life, things began to change.  God blessed me with a life partner (rather than a soul mate).  We began a family together.  We now have a daughter in middle school.  Life hasn’t always been easy but life has been good together.  So far, so good.

This has been a part of my life experience and I wish to share this with the community I’m a part of in the blogosphere. I hope it encourages a few people out there who might read this.

When This is Over

Self-isolation has effected many people, if not everyone. I saw this online so I’m sharing this to encourage others out there. You might be feeling the same.

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted:

A handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded theatre…

 Friday night out, the taste of communion, a routine checkup, the school rush each morning…

Coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring, each deep breath…

A boring Tuesday, Life itself.

When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be…

we were called to be….

we hoped to be and may we stay that way…

better for each other because of the worst.”

– by Laura Kelly Fanucci –

Facing our fears and considering others

Vancouver man loading up at Costco profits 100k reselling Lysol sanitizer on Amazon.

We worry about running short of food, toilet paper and basic human necessities.  It’s driven by fear and anxiety.  We worry, so we panic.  We panic, so we buy at insane prices. Hustlers know this. Therefore, there’s no need for panic-buying.  Just buy when we need it. And you hustlers stop hustling. 

Hustlers will take advantage of our fear and anxieties. Yes, buying and selling at fair prices is a legitimate source of income.  I’m not against making a profit. Nothing wrong with that; but when people do it to gouge others at a vulnerable time, it’s just plain wrong. 

Many people will face tough times in the near future. People will lose their jobs. Small businesses will shut down and owners do not know if they will reopen. Families will suffer.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, we all had enough toilet paper.  There was sufficient toilet paper in stock in every household, organization, school and business.  No one worried about running out of toilet paper or hand sanitizer.  Now, it’s a different story. My last two trips to the grocery stores, I stopped to look at the toilet paper aisle. Nothing.

If every single person refused to panic-buy, everything would continue as normal.  Each person and family would have sufficient stock at home and go about business as usual–free from shortage and worry. Today, that’s not the case. Panic and fear has driven us into shortage.

If 5 out of 10 people bought up extra stock, the next 5 would have nothing for themselves.  Five people buying just one extra would throw off the next 5 people.  It’s simple math.  If the same 5 didn’t worry about their lack, and just leave it on the shelf for the next person, the next 5 persons would have the toilet paper to purchase for themselves and their family. Simple right?

Logistics experts have this all figured.  They can predict how much each store needs to order for that week.  Logistics’ just-in-time arrival of stock don’t account for extra buying and hoarding.  Perhaps they can start factoring in these upcoming and possible pandemics like COVID-19.

Tennessee man stuck with 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizers stopped by Amazon and EBay.

I was flabbergasted seeing the news video of a man who bought out all the Lysol hand wipes from a Costco in Vancouver.  This couple sold them on Amazon and made Cdn $70,000-100,000.  Buying a pack for $15-18 and reselling it for Cdn$89 is wrong. Another price-gouging incident in the news.  Two brothers from Tennessee going from state to state buying from anywhere they could, bought 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizers. Their plan was to resell it for a profit at US$70 per bottle. Now he’s stuck with all of it in his garage.  Their Amazon, EBay and Costco accounts were shut-down.

I hope they and others like them learn from this. Price gouging at the expense of others during this difficult time is very inconsiderate and is driven by greed. This is selfish behaviour and no excuse can justify this selfish behaviour.

Being considerate of the needs of others is one of the golden rules. Love your neighbor as how you would like to be loved by others. If we all followed this, none of us would be lacking anything.

Love trumps our personal freedoms

I was thinking about who would most be against mandatory social distancing.  Human rights and social liberties advocates.  I don’t think we’ll be hearing much from them for the next few months. Don’t get me wrong. I love my social freedoms and liberties. Freedom and liberties are something we value in the free world.

Spring Break crowds gathered at Eighth Street beach in Miami Beach last weekend. 

The idea of mandatory social distancing would seem to go against the ideals of civil liberties.  One’s personal liberties is something we ought not to abuse. 

Is there a limit to our freedoms?  I would certainly think so. 

Is it a human right to walk around and do anything we want in any or every situation?  I doubt it. 

Freedom is a concept but only a concept when we consider life and death.  To refute the call to social distancing potentially puts many lives at risk by increasing the likelihood of spreading the virus.

If I put my personal freedom ahead of the life of my aging parents or grandparents with weaker immune systems (or yours for that matter) would I then be abusing my personal freedom?  You’d likely say, “Yes”, especially if it were your own grandparents who contracted COVID-19.

This past week during spring break, thousands of young people lined the beaches in Florida.  Later, they were all turned away and told to go home.  Beaches closed.

To me, what these young people did was a flagrant abuse of personal freedoms.  There’s a serious potential of endangering the lives of many people.  Apologies if you were one of these people but I’ve got to say it. Some got around the beach closures by having house parties indoors–away from public eyes–thus, refuting the call for social isolation. Sure you have the freedom to do this, but you could unknowingly pass on the virus to each other and then bring it home to your parents, grandparents or other friends and family members.

If everyone chose to abuse our freedoms and liberties, we would certain become like Italy and surpass their numbers of death. That would be scary.

So is there a limit to personal freedoms?  You bet.

Love for our neighbors is what we need to gauge ourselves by. We need to care for one another by considering the safety of others over our own desires or inconveniences. Love and genuine care and concern for others ought to trump our personal freedoms.

Pray for Italy

The number of deaths due to covid-19 in Italy has now surpassed that of China. Hard to believe. This is one of the earliest nations where the Christian church had its origins, including the nations in the Asia Minor region (modern-day Turkey). May we pray for Italy and all the people who live in this vibrant and beautiful country.

Lord our God, we pray for Italy and your people there. Bring them comfort and pour out your peace upon all your holy people. May you lavish your grace and healing upon this nation. As they call out to you, hear their prayers, O God.