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COVID-19NC: Public School Pause, Mask Politics & Pandemic Parallels


Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks withNC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss the pause on the governor’s school opening plan, the politics of masks and the parallels between the coronavirus and HIV/Aids pandemics.

HC: So let's start off with schools. The governor hit another pause button this week, this time it was on the announcement about plans for public schools this year.

I'm not completely surprised, there's so much information coming out.  They've been telling school districts to make all kinds of plans, the full opening plan, the hybrid  - you're half open and half online and then just doing remote learning plan.  And of course this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in on the conversation, saying basically that they felt like the kids do best when they're in school.  So there's so many people tugging in, in so many directions.  The governor alluded to the idea that they need to get buy in from teachers. So that seems to tell me that there are teachers who are very worried about the idea of going back in a classroom with 20 or 30 kids.

HC:  NC health news that touches on a, another issue. We've been hearing a lot about that stirred lots of discussion and that's face masks and  how they’ve become such a political issue.

Now what's happening is that we're starting to see more acceptance on both sides of the aisle now of masks. And I think, you know, what happened was Texas and Arizona. You now you've had the governors of Texas and the governor of Arizona getting up on television, putting on masks, encouraging their citizens to wear them. Apparently the, the data, you know, you need like, like 80% compliance in order to slow the spread. NC Health  secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen talked about it in her Thursday press conference said that, you know, it could be two or three weeks before we see a real result from this, because there is a long lag time. So to see any decrease in the numbers might take a couple of weeks

HC: Your reporter Hannah Critchfield had a really interesting article this week, comparing coronavirus pandemic to the HIV Pandemic.

The quote that she has is - that it's kind of terrifying how little has changed.  You have a pandemic where people are saying it's the other's fault. It's the blaming. You have these horrible deaths, there's no treatment, there's no cure. There's no vaccine and public health messages are becoming weaponized in a political environment.   You and I, we're both old enough to remember HIV and I'm sure you remember, it was like you had these young guys who were like, it's not going to affect me. And they were going out and they weren't practicing safe sex. And then of course there were all of these public health messages around condoms and safe sex and, you know, way before there was any treatment.  Can I say this on public radio -  that masks are the new condoms.  

But the messages like it's just hasn't sunk in for people or maybe we've forgotten, or I don't know, or maybe there's just a whole new generation that's, you know, never experienced HIV. So it, it was it was really interesting.  And I found this story sobering as I was reading it and thinking about friends that I lost in the eighties and nineties.

It is agonizing to have a patient and know that you have nothing to them and you have to treat them and you have to hold their hand and you have to be with them as they die. It is a brutal experience. And I'm sure that any healthcare worker who's been working with COVID patients, who's hearing this now will resonate.  

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News,as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health, policy and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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