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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff.
Restaurant owner Donnell Singleton delivered fresh vegetables and a chicken and rice dinner to JoAnn Witt in Dorchester in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

As I try to catch up on articles I saved from before the lockdown and in its early days, I thought you’d be interested to know that the Boston restaurant in this inspiring June 2020 piece was still operating on its community-oriented principles.

Suzanne Kreiter at the Boston Globe wrote the story and took the pictures.

“When the pandemic shut down Boston’s schools in March [2020], Food for the Soul restaurant owner Donnell Singleton made a decision. Working with activist Monica Cannon-Grant of Violence in Boston, Singleton closed his Grove Hall restaurant to customers and turned it into a provider of free meals for the community.

“He thought they would feed a couple hundred people on the first day. Some 850 showed up. The next day, 1,050. On the third day, 1,200 people came for chicken, collard greens, sandwiches, rice, and other fixings.

“Unable to continue safely serving so many people out of the storefront restaurant he opened four years ago on Warren Street, Singleton and Cannon-Grant transitioned the effort to a free community food delivery service. …

“To support the effort, Singleton at first relied on donations. Then Cannon-Grant swung into action. ‘Monica is the queen of grass-roots,’ Singleton said.

“He got a Resiliency Fund grant from the city, as well as money from the Boston Foundation, Nike, and other funders. Singleton couldn’t pay his staff, but they stayed on as volunteers. Through her own fund-raising prowess, Cannon-Grant provided stipends to the restaurant’s staff so they could keep food on their own families’ tables.

Other volunteers from the community, having no job to go to during the pandemic, crammed into his small restaurant to cook, package food, and drive meals to families, many of whom were in need even before COVID-19. …

“Every day, potential customers peer in the windows or ask through the door for Singleton’s soul food, a mouth-watering assortment of chicken (fried, baked, barbecued, smothered, and jerk), fried haddock, beef ribs, brisket, rice and beans, and more. But they have to wait.

“Singleton said he’s not worried about lost business. He said he felt it would be ‘almost disgraceful’ not to have been there for his community.

‘“Sometimes you have to ask yourself what’s important,’ he said.

“Singleton, a 47-year-old father of three, was born and raised in Roxbury. He attended Latin Academy and was the first member of his family to graduate from high school and college, Clark Atlanta University. He has worked as a teacher, often focusing on at-risk youths, and he owns a children’s book publishing company, Origin Nile Publishing.” More at the Boston Globe, here.

From the restaurant’s website: “Food For The Soul is the only location in Boston where you can walk in and find a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a cop, a fireman, and a school teacher. All of these individuals would be of different ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socio-economical levels, and educational levels. It is here at Food For The Soul [that] every single one of those people are the same, ‘human beings deserving of and receiving great service, great products, and amazing Food For The Soul.”

Follow the restaurant’s unusual array of community activities on Facebook, here.

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Illustration: Shivani Javeri.
Many artists in India donated their work to fundraisers such as the Fearless Immunity art sale to help others during the height of the pandemic.

You can trust artists to come through when there’s a need for empathy. They are often sensitive enough — perhaps wounded enough — to feel someone else’s pain and want to do something about it.

For example, as Rohini Kejriwal reports at Hyperallergic, India’s creative community became a beacon of hope during Covid-19, using their talents to raise money for vulnerable populations.

“In April and May, amidst a devastating second wave of COVID-19, India faced an overwhelming shortage of hospital beds and vaccines, choked crematoriums, and a rising death count. …

“From their homes, artists took to social media and used visuals, words, and even cake to raise funds for frontline workers and organizations helping affected communities get basic supplies like oximeters, thermometers, basic medicines, and masks. From every part of the country, illustrators, photographers, poets, and bakers came together to do their bit. 

“Hundreds of illustrators across the country have sold their prints, calendars, and other merchandise in exchange for donations to individuals and organizations most affected by coronavirus. … Keeping transparency in mind, the artists and their supporters shared donation receipts publicly, and Instagram was suddenly flooded with posts by good Samaritans doing whatever they could. 

“Several artists also took on commissions, like Shivani Javeri and Upamanyu Bhattacharyya, who made digital portraits for COVID-19 relief, and Divya, who did pet portraits on commission. Ria Mohta of Artisan’s Arbor created Feel Good postcards, through which people could buy postcards and write a customized message for loved ones. Creative Dignity, a volunteer-run movement, has been working to help traditional artisans and craftspeople from India who face the double threat of a health crisis and livelihood uncertainty. 

“Several print sales have been hosted by the photography community as well, like Art for India, Ode to India, and Prints for Hope by Eight Thirty; Chennai Photo Biennale’s PhotoSolidarity, as well as the Print for Srishti sale, with 45 participating photographers, initiated by photojournalist Smita Sharma.

“A series of art sales, in which multiple artists pooled and sold their work to raise funds as a collective, also arose. Author-illustrator Devangana Dāsh brought together 26 talented women artists to sell digital artworks; Kulture Shop ran two Art Fights Covid campaigns with 50 artists selling their art for oxygen relief; the Fearless Collective created an art sale Fearless Immunity; and LOCOPOPO and a group of artists and illustrators sold their original works and art prints.

A Friendly Fundraiser was started by a group of friends who decided to donate their time in exchange for donations, offering a variety of services and experiences from home coffee brewing, writing better college essays, personalized digital portraits, and even guidance on raising a puppy in lockdown. More recently, community fundraisers with various workshops and panels have grown in popularity, like student-run initiative Moonflower COVID Relief and Sensory Expansion by Unlocked

“India’s poetry and music communities have also had a part to play. In May, a group of writers hosted an evening of poetry, In the Dark Times, There Will Be Singing. Poet Nakuul Mehta is currently running #PoemsForHumanity, where he writes and performs an original poem for those who donate. 

“Even the independent music community has been doing their bit. Producer Arjun Vagale mobilized his friends in the Indian electronic music community, and together, they created a charity compilation album titled SOS. Producers Sanaya Ardeshir and Krishna Javeri collaborated with the coffee estate Kerehaklu to create Kerelief, natural soundscapes intended to bring calm. Sanaya, along with 11 other producers, also helped create CRSP (Covid Relief Sample Pack),  a bespoke sample pack of sounds produced from across the globe.

“Offering workshops as a way to share practical knowledge also became a way to incentivize donations. Shub (also known as the Hungry Palette) hosted a visual journaling workshop, and natural color maker Manya Cherabuddi started a fundraiser called Find Your Calm and donated all the proceeds from her classes on natural dyes and pigments. In June, NPI Collective hosted a 3-day workshop on children’s books as maps to help navigate the pandemic.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: Mark Naison.
Fordham students who helped launch the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, stand with the project’s faculty adviser and an artist interviewed for the project outside the Crab Shanty Restaurant in the Bronx on May 20, 2021.

It’s hard to predict how anyone will respond to a stressful situation. A tightly controlled person may completely lose it; an anxious individual may find a reservoir of calm. As Harry Bruinius reports at the Christian Science Monitor, there were surprises like that in lockdown. What was clearly a stressful time had an unexpected positive side when kindness and resilience shone through the darkness.

“When Bethany Fernandez first began to document oral histories in the Bronx during the pandemic,” Bruinius writes, “her own life was ‘chaotic.’ … But the past year and a half has become, almost in a strange way, a time of profound personal growth and self-discovery, says Ms. Fernandez, a lifelong resident of the Bronx, a borough of New York City.

“The communities surrounding her were among the most afflicted in the country, and they were being documented relentlessly in the news. But when she decided to join a group of fellow students at Fordham University to launch the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, she found a reality not fully captured in the news, she says.

“ ‘In moments like these, a cynical person might think,”Oh, people are going to be selfish” – resources are scarce, survival of the fittest, or whatever,’ says Ms. Fernandez. ‘But no, it was the complete opposite.’ …

“Far from tales of woe, in fact, she and the five others in the project found their subjects again and again using a particular word to describe their experiences: resilience.

“Resilience in the face of hardship and trauma has always been a part of the human story. But during the past few decades, researchers have probed more deeply into what some scholars call a ‘psychological immune system’ that enables many people to respond to even the worst of situations and to recover from their resulting traumas. …

“ ‘If there is a silver lining that could come out of this, it would be that people are understanding that while the negatives scream at you, the positives – the resilience you can always find in people – these are only whispers,’ says Ken Yeager, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

“Human beings are wired to take particular note of the dangers that surround them and even focus on stories of trauma and fear. ‘The fight-or-flight response actually helps the species as a whole to survive, but it does nothing to make you happy,’ Dr. Yeager says. ‘It does nothing to help you build resilience.’

“The Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project tells this story.

“[According to] Alison Rini, a senior from New Jersey studying English and Italian … ‘It was such a surprising experience, finding these examples of people describing their resilience in the midst of such hard times – in the Bronx, in particular. …

“ ‘The pandemic has been a test of the global psychological immune system, which appears more robust than we would have guessed,’ wrote scholars Lara Aknin, Jamil Zaki, and Elizabeth Dunn in the Atlantic. ‘In order to make sense of these patterns, we looked back to a classic psychology finding: People are more resilient than they themselves realize.’

“The authors emphasize that such broad trends should not erase ‘the immense pain, overwhelming loss, and financial hardships’ so many have faced over the past year and a half, especially disadvantaged populations. …

“ ‘But [the] pandemic holds its own lessons,’ they wrote. ‘Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being.’ …

“In what Ms. Fernandez calls one of her most memorable interviews, the owner of a Bronx restaurant described how she lost nearly 85% of her business and struggled to stay afloat after laying off most of her employees.

“Though the restaurant specializes in Puerto Rican and American cuisine, the owner, Maribel Gonzalez, kept the original name of the restaurant she bought 16 years ago, South of France. …

“Describing herself as a person of faith, Ms. Gonzalez said she had always offered her local community a free buffet every Wednesday. During the pandemic, as she and one or two employees struggled to keep the restaurant open, she kept that tradition alive, providing a free buffet at the height of the shutdown, even if only for an hour or two a week.

“ ‘You know, in all of this devastation, there are also a lot of blessings, because you find that you’re more resilient, that you’re stronger than you may have thought,’ Ms. Gonzalez told the project. She said her restaurant provided hundreds of meals for front-line health workers in partnership with others, supported by donations from a GoFundMe page.

“ ‘When you need to lug that 50 pound bag because you have to make whatever money you can, because maybe some of it can go to feed families that can’t afford it, you find the strength, you get the stamina, you find the chutzpah, if you will, to lift that bag, because there are so many depending on it – myself, my business, my future, the future of my employees, and those of my community.’ …

“The project had a profound effect on Ms. Fernandez as she wrestled with the challenges in her own life. ‘It was the one thing that stood out to me, the generosity that was shown all over, even throughout the time of the pandemic,’ she says. ‘Because when you see how resources are limited, when you’re being stretched out by work, by family obligations, by life and all of that, even with all the suffering going on, people were willing to give, people were willing to offer compassion and kindness.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Sierra Mar via Forbes.
A California restaurant has initiated impressive air-quality controls post-pandemic.

In the beginning, we were wiping everything down with bleach. I know I kept sharing a video from a doctor who’d worked with Ebola protocols. And for quite a while, I was treating all my groceries as if they could kill me.

Then we learned Covid was contracted mainly through the air, in invisible droplets from people breathing. So now that it’s possible once more to eat indoors in restaurants, the wary among us are asking how well restaurants are doing on ventilation.

At the Washington Post, Chris MooneyAaron Steckelberg and Jake Crump report on a few restaurants in California.

“When California’s Monterey County allowed restaurants to reopen in March, indoor dining returned to the cliff-perched Sierra Mar, known for its spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

“The Big Sur restaurant now featured some new pandemic touches: 18 tabletop mini-purifiers, 10 precisely distributed HEPA air purifiers, an upgraded heating and air conditioning system, and four sensors measuring the air quality in real time.

“The bar was closed, and at a table in the back sat someone new: an engineering professor whose specialty is air quality.

‘If this is going to work right, the ventilation keeps up with the head count,’ explained the expert, Mark Hernandez of the University of Colorado.

“Every 15 minutes, he would walk to the front desk to check how many people were now seated indoors. Then he would compare that number to the air’s current levels of carbon dioxide and particulate matter, to see how much exhaled breath lingered in the air and what expelled aerosols it could contain.

“Indoor dining remains risky, as the pandemic rages on, propelled by highly transmissible new coronavirus variants that threaten gains from widespread vaccination. The virus has been brutal for the restaurant industry. … Thousands of restaurants already have shut down permanently.

“Those struggling to hold on are considering a broad range of air ventilation and filtration techniques to keep customers and staff safe. Sierra Mar’s new air-quality experiment, partly funded by a regional foundation, cost about $30,000. That’s a hefty expenditure that might be out of reach for many restaurants running on thin profit margins.

“Mike Freed considers it a worthy investment. He’s the managing partner of the Post Ranch Inn, the exclusive resort that contains Sierra Mar and caters to an affluent eco-conscious traveler. Since the setup, if successful, could potentially be utilized in other restaurants and indoor spaces, the Washington Post asked several experts on indoor air to review the restaurant layout and strategy. They agreed it should work to make the dining experience considerably safer, while noting 100 percent safety is unattainable.

“These experiments in the restaurant industry may usher in a new data-driven relationship with indoor air, with people able to judge where they dine, vacation and work based on the quality and transparency of real-time readings. …

“[One] interior air circulation has been designed, says Hernandez, as a ‘seat belt in a place where you can’t control your peers … This is long overdue for public places.’

“At a time when its vista is clouded by recurrent wildfires, the Post Ranch Inn now displays the restaurant’s air quality updates on its website, so diners can time their escape around what they want to eat — and breathe.”

Check the Post, here, for a variety of new air-quality gizmos. For example: “An air purifier about the size of a water bottle [that] sits on each table. It can’t clean a lot of air quickly, but it can direct filtered air in a small area. And it runs on batteries.

“While the portable air purifier can be tilted toward a person’s face, Hernandez positioned it straight up, to reduce the risk of unmasked diners infecting others by breathing across the table. Instead, the device, made by Wynd and marketed as a personal air purifier, should push any shared or unfiltered air aloft”!

I keep thinking how the the pandemic has created new opportunities for obscure products like that and has also made rock stars out of certain kinds of engineering professors. Those are among the changes we’ll keep.

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Photo: Jörg Gläscher via DesignBoom.
A photographer built nine massive waves of deadwood in a forest near Hamburg, Germany.

A few years ago, I blogged about seeing Patrick Dougherty’s giant stick sculptures in Salem, Mass. He was getting a lot of attention at the time, and I studied up on him at the Smithsonian.

So I was reminded of Dougherty and the beautiful possibilities of sticks when John sent me a link to an article at This Is Colossal. The German photographer Jörg Gläscher, or @joerg_glaescher on Instagram, is the artist. (Colossal was tipped off to the story at This Isn’t Happiness.)

Grace Ebert reported, “As the fear of a second wave of COVID-19 swept through Germany in the fall of 2020, photographer and artist Jörg Gläscher decided to channel his own worry into a project that felt similarly vast and domineering. ‘I was working (with the idea of) the pure power of nature, the all-destroying force, which brings one of the richest countries in the world to a completely still stand,’ he tells Colossal. …

“Between November 2020 and March 2021, Gläscher spent his days in a secluded location near Hamburg, where he gathered deadwood and constructed nine massive crests — the largest of which spans four meters high and nine meters wide — that overwhelm the forest floor in undulating layers of branches and twigs. Each iteration, which he photographed and then promptly destroyed in order to reuse the materials, overwhelms the existing landscape with pools of the formerly thriving matter.

“Gläscher’s installations are part of a larger diaristic project he began at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, he published a few magazines to present the works that range from photography to sculpture in one place. … Find more of his multi-media projects on his site and Instagram.” Great photos here.

I like thinking about an artist pursuing a project suggesting tidal waves when, like him, we were all isolating ourselves from the tidal wave of Covid. There is something intriguing about his taking the waves apart and reconstructing them in different forms. Doesn’t coronavirus do that, too?

The Covid Art Museum on Instagram was and still is an artistic response to the pandemic. And considering that the pandemic wave hasn’t yet crested worldwide, I’m sure we’ll be seeing other, Covid-inspired artworks — not to mention, more art from sticks.

As Patrick Dougherty has said, “A stick is an imaginative object. … I think we have a kind of shadow life of our hunting and gathering past, especially in our childhood play. Because a stick — a piece of wood — is an object that has an incredible amount of vibration for us.”

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Photo: Yenvy Pham.
The owners of a Seattle Vietnamese restaurant, Phở Bắc, came up with the idea of a “Pho Now” cup and a “Pho Later” meal kit during the pandemic. “Survival mode is in our blood,” says Yenvy Pham.

I like to have a pipeline of possible articles in case I draw a blank some morning. But after Covid changed so much, it seemed like a good idea to check whether last year’s stories were still relevant. So I did a search on the restaurant in today’s article and found that the Covid innovations described here really worked.

In June 2020, Ashley Nguyen wrote at the Lily that Seattle’s Phở Bắc pivoted fast. “On March 13, Yenvy Pham went to New York City to celebrate the grand opening of her friend’s new Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon Social. But as the coronavirus spread, Helen Nguyen — Saigon Social’s chef and owner — decided to cancel.

“By the time Pham flew home to Seattle on March 16, Washington Gov. Jay [Inslee] had ordered restaurants and bars to cease in-person dining. Pham and her siblings, who own and operate several restaurants called Phở Bắc in Seattle, saw sales plummet. … They instituted new safety precautions, made sure their employees had masks and gloves and started pivoting.

“Phở Bắc’s namesake dish is not something people typically order to-go, Pham said. To appeal to their customers, the Pham siblings introduced a ‘Pho Now’ cup that people could eat while sitting on a nearby curb, on their walk home, or in the car. They also began selling a ‘Pho Later’ meal kit, complete with broth, separately wrapped ingredients and assembly instructions. The restaurant started delivering orders using an old parking enforcement vehicle dubbed the ‘Pho Mobile.’

“As it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going to end anytime soon, Pham and her siblings had to start making tough decisions. They closed two of their four Phở Bắc locations, and they were forced to reduce staff. … But if any of Phở Bắc’s current or former employees need something, the restaurant owners try to help: ‘My restaurant dynamic is very Vietnamese,’ Pham said. ‘It’s very practical. If [workers] need money, help [or] loans, we just kind of do what we can.’

“Operating multiple restaurants during a pandemic isn’t easy, but ‘survival mode is in our blood,’ Pham explained. Her parents, Theresa Cat Vu and Augustine Nien Pham, opened the first Phở Bắc location in 1982, a year after they came to the United States. Ultimately, Theresa and Augustine created a nourishing landmark in Seattle’s Little Saigon: The restaurant takes the shape of a red boat.

“Yenvy Pham and her Phở Bắc partners, siblings Khoa and Quynh-Vy, are dedicated to supporting fellow business owners in Little Saigon as economic fallout from the pandemic persists.

‘It’s my neighborhood, my Little Saigon,’ Pham said. ‘For me, business comes and goes, but the vibe of the neighborhood is so important, and so are the characters here. You’ve got to take care of your own people.’

“They recently donated $5,000 in proceeds from the Pho Mobile to the International Community Health Services clinic, where their sister works as a primary care doctor, and a small business relief fund for business owners in the Chinatown International District. …

“The siblings are also collaborating with other business owners. They added Hood Famous Bakeshop’s mini Filipino-flavored cheesecakes to their menu. Pham let Mangosteen — a traveling Texas-style barbecue joint from chef Thai Ha — take over one of their closed locations to sell brisket and wings with specialty sauces for pickup.

“The pandemic has given people more time to take stock of what’s important, Pham said in late April.

“ ‘I like the world stopping for a second to reassess our morality and get us out of this state of complacency,’ she said. ‘We’re doing powerful thinking about each other, ourselves, about the world. … We’re being more creative too and helping each other out,’ Pham added. …

“Despite the unknowns, Pham is confident that everything will work out. In her family, ‘we either fix it, we take care of it, we accept it, or we move onto something else.’ ”

More at the Lily, here.

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Photo: Camilla Forte.
Nikkie Bauer sticks social distancing reminders for spectators onto the window of Chicago’s Reckless Records, where she performs her window play.

This story reminds me of being a kid. I had a passion for theater and many impractical ambitions. For instance, I was certain that if I put together a production of “Snow White and Rose Red” from the Brothers Grimm, my friends and I would be welcomed to perform it before a movie at the Lafayette Theatre. The grownups laughed.

In today’s article, frustrated theater people who persevered made surprising things happen.

Camilla Forte writes at American Theatre, “When the pandemic shut down live theatre in March of 2020, the ensemble members behind Chicago’s Stop Motion Plant were in the middle of producing a performance commissioned by Theatre Evolve. With the stages shut down and their play canceled, they found themselves having to pivot.

“As the world adapted to a new reality, the group began meeting virtually to discuss the possibility of producing and performing live theatre in a way that would keep both the performers and the audience safe. Eventually, inspired by Macy’s dioramas [and] Chicago performers who put on ‘porch concerts’ throughout the summer, the concept for Window Plays was born.

“Presented as a ‘walking tour with theatrical displays,’ and running Feb. 19-21, the performance was not a traditional narrative play, but rather a collection of six short individual vignettes performed within the storefronts of six separate businesses in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.

In order to secure each storefront venue, members of Stop Motion Plant went door to door to explain the concept to shop owners.

“After receiving what they described as overwhelming support, the group landed on performing out of the Neo-Futurist Theater, Rattleback Records, Enjoy, Women and Children First, *Play, and Raygun.

“Each two- to five-minute play was acted out on a loop for an hour in its storefront window, allowing audience members to cycle between performances in a way that encouraged social distancing while making the experience accessible to a fairly large number of people. …

“Ensemble member Kevin Michael Wesson … drew on his puppetry background when determining the music and scale for his window play, Badvice. During his two-minute performance, Wesson asked audience members increasingly personal questions through the phone while pressing his hand against theirs through a pane of glass sanitized after every act. After the interaction concluded, he bestowed attendees with an envelope with three pieces of advice —two good and one bad — as a parting gift. …

“[Perry] Hunt placed a cardboard cutout of herself herself behind a screen and illuminated the cutout from behind. She then Facetimed her audience, convincing them the person they were speaking to on the phone was the person whose silhouette they could see in the window, only to reveal she was never actually there. …

“Although the performances were a revival of live theatre, the actors still had to grapple with the challenges of a virtual format throughout the six months it took them to put together the piece. …

“Despite the challenges this format presented, some ensemble members found the innovations born from working around these challenges refreshing. Hunt, for instance, found that working within a more limited format allowed her the freedom to think about theatre in more abstract ways, with this experience being something that will influence her work beyond the pandemic.

“ ‘I think it’s given me permission and space to think about more innovative ways that I can produce art,’ Hunt said. ‘This project has pushed me to be challenged and make challenging things.’ “

More at American Theatre, here.

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Photo: University of Canterbury.
Maoris teach that we’re all in the same canoe, an understanding that enough New Zealanders have absorbed to make Covid restrictions successful there.

I don’t know much about the Maoris of New Zealand (does the Disney movie Moana count?), but having seen how successful New Zealand and its prime minister have been in dealing with Covid, I’m not surprised to learn that the high level of cooperation among the populace relates to absorption of Maori values.

In an opinion piece at the Washington Post, Matthew Milner and Richard Ngata explain.

“Life in New Zealand is almost back to normal. While the United States has seen more than half a million deaths from covid-19 — with a death rate of more than 160 per 100,000 of population — New Zealand has lost only 26 people at a rate of 0.53 per 100,000.

“Two months ago, one of us, Richard, went to a New Year’s festival with more than 12,000 fellow revelers — something barely imaginable in the United States, where most concerts are online-only. Meanwhile, teachers, including Matthew’s parents, have been instructing in person since May [2020] without requiring masks or social distancing measures.

“Why has New Zealand fared so much better? Many people argue that these differences stem from New Zealand’s geographic advantages, and there is no doubt that being an island nation has helped. But … there is a deeper reason: Manaakitanga.

“While New Zealand hasn’t always been great at recognizing or celebrating our indigenous Māori culture, campaigning by Māori advocates has helped to ensure that Māori culture is now well-incorporated into society.

Manaakitanga is one of many customs of the Māori people that are now taught in New Zealand schools. It holds that others have importance equal to, and even greater than, one’s own.

“Manaakitanga is about understanding the power of the collective. It derives from the Māori term ‘mana,’ which is the spiritual life force and energy that every living thing possesses. When you honor the mana of others, your own mana will increase through the respect you have earned. When you acknowledge these connections, you understand that your freedom as an individual is only as strong as your place in the community.

“This community approach underpins many aspects of life in New Zealand. We provide health care to anyone who needs it. Our gun safety laws focus on keeping the community safe. And manaakitanga is one of four key values the Teachers Council for New Zealand wants teachers to focus on in the classroom.

“But never has the importance of manaakitanga to our society been more evident than at the start of the covid-19 pandemic. Last March, when New Zealand went into full lockdown, people were not permitted to see others outside their ‘bubble’ (such as a household); only one person from each bubble could leave at any given time, and not travel farther than five miles from the house.

“This strict lockdown lasted six long weeks, and while there was political pushback, the ‘team of 5 million,’ as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls New Zealanders, stayed home and stamped out the virus.

New Zealanders were willing to give up many of their individual freedoms and face personal hardship for the benefit of the community. …

“Still, people found ways to connect and support each other. The lesson of the coronavirus is that an individual approach is not sufficient and that it takes a team for us all to gain true freedom. The Māori proverb ‘He waka eke noa’ expresses these sentiments clearly: We are all in this canoe together. …

“While [the US president] was playing down the virus, Ardern was running daily broadcasts alongside the nation’s director-general of health to clearly communicate the latest updates and restrictions. The central message: ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe, Be Kind.’ ” More at the Washington Post, here.

If you want to dig deeper, check out research by Diane Ruwhiu and Graham Elkin at the Leadership journal on the “converging pathways of contemporary leadership,” here. The authors describe “two emerging domains in leadership – servant leadership and Indigenous Māori leadership. Both not only have strong resonance with each other,” they say, “but also reflect a common concern with individual and collective morality that draws us to the significance of human relationships.”

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Photo: ENO via CNN.
Australian soprano Alexandra Oomens singing for a English National Opera (ENO)
program that works on singing, breathing and well-being for recovering coronavirus patients.

Who has a story that could happen only in a pandemic? Today I have one silly one that involves me and one serious one that involves opera singers helping Covid patients.

Silly story first. Because I haven’t been going to stores since the pandemic started, I haven’t collected any five-dollar bills to give as tips to delivery people. So I write $5 checks to “cash.” Well. Twice now, a woman I have never met in a nearby town has rescued a muddied check I wrote from her driveway and mailed it back to me. We must have the same milkman, one who is careless with his tips. Meanwhile, I’m gaining a penpal!

Andrew Dickson writes at the New York Times, “On a recent afternoon, the singing coach Suzi Zumpe was running through a warm-up with a student. First, she straightened her spine and broadened her chest, and embarked on a series of breath exercises, expelling short, sharp bursts of air. Then she brought her voice into action, producing a resonant hum that started high in a near-squeal, before sinking low and cycling up again. Finally, she stuck her tongue out, as if in disgust: a workout for the facial muscles.

“The student, Wayne Cameron, repeated everything point by point. … Though the class was being conducted via Zoom, it resembled those Zumpe usually leads at the Royal Academy of Music, or Garsington Opera, where she trains young singers.

“But Cameron, 56, isn’t a singer; he manages warehouse logistics for an office supplies company. The session had been prescribed by doctors as part of his recovery plan after a pummeling experience with Covid-19 last March.

Called E.N.O. Breathe and developed by the English National Opera in collaboration with a London hospital, the six-week program offers patients customized vocal lessons: clinically proven recovery exercises, but reworked by professional singing tutors and delivered online.

“While few cultural organizations have escaped the fallout of the pandemic, opera companies been hit especially hard. … The English National Opera, one of Britain’s two leading companies, has been trying to redirect its energies. …

“In a video interview, Jenny Mollica, who runs the English National Opera’s outreach work, explained that the idea had developed last summer, when ‘long Covid’ cases started emerging: people who have recovered from the acute phase of the disease, but still suffer effects including chest pain, fatigue, brain fog and breathlessness.

” ‘Opera is rooted in breath,’ Mollica said. ‘That’s our expertise. I thought, “Maybe E.N.O. has something to offer.” ‘

“Tentatively, she contacted Dr. Sarah Elkin, a respiratory specialist at one of the country’s biggest public hospital networks, Imperial College N.H.S. Trust. It turned out that Elkin and her team had been racking their brains, too, about how to treat these patients long-term. …

“Twelve patients were initially recruited. After a one-on-one consultation with a vocal specialist to discuss their experience of Covid-19, they took part in weekly group sessions, conducted online. Zumpe started with basics such as posture and breath control before guiding participants through short bursts of humming and singing, trying them out in the class and encouraging them to practice at home.

“The aim was to encourage them to make the most of their lung capacity, which the illness had damaged, in some cases, but also to teach them to breathe calmly and handle anxiety — an issue for many people working through long Covid.

“When Cameron was asked if he wanted to join, he was bemused, he said: ‘I thought, “Am I going to be the next Pavarotti?” ‘

“But Covid-19 had left him feeling battered.. … ‘Everything I did, I was struggling for air,’ he said.

“He added that even a few simple breathing exercises had quickly made a huge difference. ‘The program really does help,’ he said. ‘Physically, mentally, in terms of anxiety.’ Almost as important, he added, was being able to share a virtual space and swap stories with other sufferers. ‘I felt connected,’ he said. …

“And how was Cameron’s singing now? He laughed. ‘I’m more in tune,’ he said. The program had helped him reach high notes when singing along in the car, he added. ‘Having learned the technique, you can manage much better,’ he said. …

“It wasn’t just patients and clinicians that had benefited, Mollica said: E.N.O. Breathe had also given musicians and producers at the company something to focus on during a bleak time. ‘Everyone’s found it really motivating,’ she said. ‘It’s fantastic to realize that this skill set we have is useful.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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Photo: Cairo Scene.
Last fall, the Mersal Foundation, a health-care nonprofit in Egypt, received one large award from AstraZeneca for its work with lung cancer patients and another to aid those afflicted with the Coronavirus.

When I read a story like today’s, which is about a nonprofit that’s filling the gaps in a health-care system, I think of my favorite Allen Ginsberg poem:

“When Music was needed, Music sounded
“When a ceremony was needed, a teacher appeared
“When students were needed, telephones rang
“When cars were needed, wheels rolled in …”

It reminds that good people can make things happen.

Sudarsan Raghavan reported recently at the Washington Post, “The pleas for help were flooding in. By 2 p.m., Raba Mokhtar was picking up the 131st call of the day to the Mersal Foundation’s 24-hour hotline. Like the vast majority, it was related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“On the other end of the line, a woman was frantically describing the condition of a relative, a 67-year-old man who had tested positive for the virus. He had a 100-degree fever and could hardly breathe. They had first tried the Health Ministry’s hotline to look for a bed in a government hospital, with no luck. …

“In a country where government health resources can be either stretched or inadequate and where most people cannot afford hospitalization, a once little-known charity has become a lifeline for thousands of Egyptians. For the past year, and especially during the latest coronavirus wave, the Mersal Foundation has contracted and paid for beds in private hospitals or provided oxygen tanks to people in need.

“Mersal and its founder, Heba Rashed, have become so trusted that more than a quarter-million people now follow her social media accounts to learn the true impact of the pandemic in Egypt. …

“Egypt has reported about 165,000 infections and 9,100 deaths since the start of the outbreak. Medical experts and even government ministers have publicly said the real numbers are far higher.

“Doubts among the public deepened in January when a video went viral online claiming that coronavirus patients at a government hospital had died because of a lack of oxygen. The government denied the report, but a week later Sissi ordered a doubling of oxygen production to meet increased demand.

“Against this backdrop, the Mersal Foundation has emerged as a trusted oasis of care. And Rashed, 40, has become a coronavirus prognosticator for her legions of followers.  

‘It makes me feel very responsible for every word I utter,’ she said. ‘People get affected by everything I say.’

“Growing up in Jordan and the Egyptian desert town of Fayoum, Rashed never intended to start a charity. In college, she studied Spanish and Arabic and later earned a master’s degree in linguistics and several diplomas in other fields. She later worked as a linguist and as a project manager. In her spare time, she volunteered at a local charity.

“Soon, Rashed said, she realized she had ‘no passion’ for her job and found her charitable work more fulfilling. She also noticed there were few nonprofit groups in Egypt specializing in health issues. So with two friends, she launched Mersal five years ago. ‘It was truly hard at the start,’ Rashed recalled. ‘We had no connections.’

“Eventually, they found a sympathetic donor. He gave roughly $1,300, and they set up the charity in Rashed’s apartment. Slowly they grew, soliciting donations mostly on social media. They began to get noticed by some larger donors.

“Today, the foundation has four offices in Cairo and one in the northern city of Alexandria, with roughly 200 employees, according to Rashed. …

“ ‘The second wave is much more vicious than the first one, in terms of the intensity of the infection,’ Rashed said. ‘The number of infections is bigger than the last wave. The symptoms are much more.’

“She was infected. So were more than half of her 100 employees in the office, forcing mass isolations. ‘It made it very hard to do our work,’ Rashed said matter-of-factly. …

“The case of the 67-year-old man who had been struggling to breathe was typical. His oxygen levels were extremely low, though he was using a tank. … Mokhtar, the employee who took the call, asked the man’s relative to send a complete medical report, X-rays of his lungs and any bloodwork. Mokhtar gave her the WhatsApp number.

“ ‘We will show them to the medical department, and we will get you a bed when one becomes available,’ Mokhtar said. ‘Peace be with you.’

“Finding a bed usually takes a few hours but can stretch into a day or two, employees said. … The foundation has contracted with more than 30 private hospitals. In some cases, patients who need help getting care can pay some or all costs. Mostly, though, the charity pays as much as $1,300 per day for hospital beds in intensive care units, money obtained in large part through online appeals for donations.”

More at the Washington Post, here. Grateful stories may be found at the Mersal Foundation Facebook page, here,

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Photos: James Austin V.
Alaska is delivering vaccines by sled, boat, plane, and snowmobile. Flashback to the Iditarod origins — when diphtheria antitoxin was rushed to Nome by dog sled.

It’s so interesting to me which states are doing well with vaccine distribution and why! West Virginia was ahead of the pack because it used local pharmacies but also had a central sign-up site. Now Alaska seems to have taken the lead, and its techniques are completely different.

Cathy Free writes at the Washington Post, “Alaska, the state with the largest land mass in the nation, is leading the country in a critical coronavirus measure: per capita vaccinations.

“About 13 percent of the people who live in Alaska have already gotten a shot. … But the challenge for Alaska has been how to get vaccines to people across difficult, frigid terrain — often in remote slivers of the state.

“ ‘Boats, ferries, planes, snowmobiles — Alaskans will find a way to get it there,’ said the state’s chief medical officer, Anne Zink, 43.

“Alaskans are being vaccinated on fishing boats, inside 10-seater planes and on frozen landing strips. Doctors and nurses are taking white-knuckle trips to towns and villages across the state to ensure residents are protected from the coronavirus.

“Contributing to Alaska’s quick speed in getting the vaccine to its residents is a federal partnership that allows the state, which has more than 200 indigenous tribes, to receive additional vaccines to distribute through the Indian Health Service.

“Other reasons include the state’s small population of 732,000, as well as a high number of veterans, Zink said. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that high-risk veterans receive priority for the vaccine.

“But one big reason is the state is practiced in delivering precious cargo by transport not often used in the Lower 48. Sometimes that even means adventures by sled. One all-female medical crew of four in December used a sled pulled by a snowmobile to deliver vaccine to the village of Shungnak in the state’s remote Northwest Arctic Borough.

‘It’s just an easier way to get around when you don’t have a lot of roads,’ said Kelli Shroyer, public communications director for the Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, Alaska, where the crew started their journey. …

“Zink was so impressed by the sled crew’s delivery in December that she posted about it on her Facebook page. ‘I love the pictures of vaccination distribution in Alaska,’ she wrote. ‘Recipients expressed how grateful they were that even though they are so remote, they are getting this vaccine. They are not forgotten. …

‘One chief told me how his grandmother took his mother out to the wilderness for a year so that she would be safe. When they returned, they learned that most of their village had died.’ …

“Thousands of Alaskans are playing a role in getting people vaccinated, Zink said.

“Curt Jackson used to employ his water taxi, the Orca, to shuttle tourists from the small city of Homer to villages across Kachemak Bay that aren’t accessible by roads. In late December, Jackson received a request to take three nurses across the bay to Seldovia, a town with about 450 residents, including members of the Seldovia Village Tribe. Planes couldn’t fly that morning because of weather, and the water was rough.

“When the women climbed aboard his 32-foot aluminum landing craft and took seats in the windy darkness, Jackson said, he noticed that the woman in the middle, Candace Kreger, was clutching a bright blue cooler. That was when he realized that the women were traveling with the precious doses. …

“For Ellen Hodges, a doctor from Bethel, Alaska, the coronavirus vaccination effort is the most rewarding project in which she has been involved, she said. Hodges, 46, has flown to several villages in a six-seater plane to vaccinate medical workers and elders, who meet her on the runway.

“ ‘We land in the isolated tundra, and they’ll be lined up waiting,’ she said. ‘Some places have up to 30 people, and some have only one.’ “

More at the Washington Post, here.

An all-female medical crew from Alaska’s Maniilaq Health Center took a sled to deliver vaccine to the isolated village of Shungnak in December.

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Photos: Doug MacCash
A house on LePage St. in New Orleans was converted to a stationary ‘float’ by the Krewe of Red Beans ‘Hire a Mardi Gras Artist’ program.

So many things have been cancelled this year! But the people of New Orleans are not taking the cancellation of their beloved Mardi Gras lying down. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Doug MacCash writes at NOLA.com, “Carnival season 2021 may lack the usual parades, marching bands and big bags of beads, but never-say-die New Orleanians have taken their holiday back by inventing a whole new way of celebrating. …

“Socially distanced float houses have become a thing. A really big thing. … Lavishly, lovingly, laughingly decorated houses are becoming as ubiquitous as potholes. …

“Tiffany Tandecki, a marketing and development exec, said the thing she would have missed most about Mardi Gras parades is the satire. So she transplanted some Carnival-style comedy to her 5975 Canal Blvd. home for the pleasure of passing commuters. Tandecki used the characters from her TV binge-watching fave ‘Schitt$ Creek’ to lampoon the crumbling streets of her Lakeview neighborhood and COVID-19-era frustrations in general.

“In Tandecki’s view, the sweet-tart sitcom, in which a family of millionaires finds themselves adapting to small-town life, is a perfect metaphor. There’s millionaire Moira Rose shaking up an afternoon martini to take the edge off the stress of home schooling. There’s disdainful son David passing judgment on the inconvenient virus with raised eyebrows. There’s ditzy daughter Alexis stating the obvious: ‘I miss my life.’ And there’s bewildered hubby Johnny, standing beside a burglarized Lakeview car with a smashed-out window.

Tiffany Tandecki conceived her ‘Schitt$ Streets: Welcome to Lakeview’ float house on Canal Blvd to bring some satire to Carnival 2021. 

“The painted plywood cutouts of the ‘Schitt$ Creek’ characters standing in Tandecki’s front yard look exactly like the sort of thing you might see on a passing Carnival float, because they were made by professional float maker Lindsay DeBlieux, who Tandecki hired to bring her vision to life. …

“For DeBlieux, like most Mardi Gras float artists, the cancellation of this year’s parades was a catastrophe. Her employer, Mardi Gras Decorators LLC, tried to keep the staff employed as long as possible, she said, but in December, she was laid off. Thank goodness that by that time, the float house fad was fast taking root.

“Almost immediately, DeBlieux said, she was commissioned by three homeowners who planned to participate in the Krewe of House Floats, a citywide stationary house parade. … Then she was enlisted into the Krewe of Red Beans ‘Hire a Mardi Gras Artist’ campaign that is producing some of the city’s most elaborate float houses.

“Of course, DeBlieux welcomes the income at a time when many of her fellow citizens are unemployed. But the float house phenom is important in another way, too. Despite the popularity of parades, the talents of float artists can go unnoticed in the joyful chaos. Carnival 2021 has helped slow down the parade, so to speak, and let the creativity shine. …

“Megan Boudreaux, an insurance claims adjuster and member of the Leijorettes Carnival dance troupe, has made a historic impact on Mardi Gras. She’s right up there with the first person who put a plastic baby in a king cake, or tossed the first doubloon. … Boudreaux’s contribution began humbly. She just didn’t want to sit out Carnival 2021. So she planned to decorate her front porch and maybe toss trinkets to passersby on Mardi Gras morning. …

“Boudreaux didn’t invent Carnival house decoration, of course. But she made it into a movement. In no time, her Krewe of House Floats Facebook page attracted thousands of do-it-yourselfers aching for a way to safely celebrate, plus homeowners eager to employ professional artists. Before Boudreaux’s widening eyes, KOHF subkrewes sprouted up in 39 neighborhoods across the city. …

“On Feb. 1, the KOHF plans to launch an online map that will allow Carnival fans to tour decorated houses in social-distanced safety. Boudreaux said it was startling to realize that roughly 3,000 participants have added their addresses to the site. Some of them live far, far from the parade routes. …

“Artist Devin DeWulf, the captain of the Krewe of Red Beans, a marching group known for its dizzyingly complicated costumes decorated with dried legumes, has become a COVID-era hero. His organization raised more than $1 million to support restaurants by supplying meals and snacks to front-line hospital employees. To help provide float sculptors and painters with work, the krewe founded the Hire A Mardi Gras Artist project. …

“The project was conceived by Caroline Thomas, a float designer with Royal Artists. … Each house cost $15,000, paid for by donations and a lottery. DeWulf said the project has employed 45 artists and is on track to produce 21 projects.”

More here.

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From trying to maintain holiday traditions like Christmas-tree cutting to getting kids to wear masks and maintain social distance in school, it was a year to remember (or forget).

Normally, this is a week when people take stock of their year, maybe make New Year’s Resolutions. But how to summarize 2020? What to resolve for 2021 other than to stay alive and donate more to people in need?

Kara Baskin at the Boston Globe, having taken on writing a pandemic newsletter for parents, decided to ask them what they have learned from this strange time.

“This year has been piercingly difficult for most of us in ways ranging from soul-shatteringly epic to mundanely depleting,” she writes. … “As parents, we’ve cared for kids in close quarters — and our own parents, often from afar. We’ve tried to work while serving as supplemental tutors, counselors, and IT gurus. We have sworn at Google Classroom. We have cursed Zoom. We have vowed to never, ever take teachers for granted again. … The daily rhythms of life faded and morphed. Our circles often became smaller; our waistlines sometimes got bigger.

“But there were glimmers of happiness, too: more time for stuff that really mattered. Perspective. Gratitude. Reframed expectations. Hope? …

“I’ve learned that true colors come to light in the darkness. I’ve watched as my community and friends have stood up for causes they believed in, donated to businesses they felt compelled to support, and rallied around the sick and hurting. I’ve also realized that some connections fray without sustenance. … Most of all, I hope this year has allowed us to be vulnerable. … To realize that there is no shame: in being hungry, in being sick, in feeling inadequate or lost. …

“How about you? What has this year taught?

“ ‘That I don’t give myself enough credit after surviving COVID-19 for almost three months with three children as a single mom.’– April Golden-Shea

“ ‘I’ve learned that I need to be able to ebb and flow with how my kids are feeling. That might mean cutting them some slack one day and keeping them on task on another day. My parenting style has never been one-size-fits-all with my kids, but this pandemic has only crystallized how important it is for me to see them as individuals.’ – Eric Berman

‘That volunteering has saved me in every conceivable way.’ – Julie Lucey

“ ‘I have learned that I crumble without external structures.’ – Susan Anderson Garcia

“ ‘I appreciate that I’m not constantly comparing myself to others (and feeling like I come up short), because there’s not the constant level of activity or achievements which are usually happening. I hope I can continue this practice of not comparing, as it gives me more peace.’ – Roslyn Fitzgerald

“ ‘I will never take seeing a full, smiling face for granted again. The eyes can show a lot of emotion, but so much is hidden behind masks.’ – Alysia Tardelli Rourke

“ ‘My lesson learned (or emphasized?) from this year is that you can’t compartmentalize yourself. Being a parent and being a worker are intertwined. … In a former pre-COVID life, I would feel embarrassed (as though I were failing at work) when I had to leave early to pick up a sick kid or take a phone call from my child’s teacher. Now, it’s clearer to me that expecting work and family to stay separate is not only unrealistic but unhealthy.’ – Mallory Rohrig

“ ‘One lesson that is often internally known is that our kids come before ourselves. However, this year I feel like we’ve really had to live up to that. I’ve had to put my own college grades and aspirations aside in order to help my kindergartener through her homework and starting school during the strangest time of our lives.’ – Karlie McDaniel Le

“ ‘I’ve learned the importance of neighborhood and how it almost seemed irrelevant until a crisis. Our son’s second birthday was a Facebook Live production. And instead of having a handful of people over, we had 100!’ … – Michele Aron.”

So many awesome comments: hard to choose! Read others at the Globe, here.

Photo: Cherry Lane School
Suzanne says if she’s learned one thing this year it’s that “school is essential.”

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Photo: Pointnshoot, Flickr, CC by 2.0
What is the exact reason that recreational hockey seems to have a higher risk for coronavirus than some other sports?
Living on Earth says the jury is still out.

Do you listen to the radio show Living on Earth? This environmental news program is nationally syndicated and has a free newsletter you can sign up for here. I have learned so much from it over the years.

Today I’m writing about a story that caught my attention because I have a grandson, 10, and a granddaughter, 7, who are forces to be reckoned with in the sport of ice hockey. And one of them had a quarantine episode after a teammate test positive for coronavirus. I would not want to see these two lose their favorite sport for a year when so many other things have been lost, but I guess I want to know how infection is being carried in ice hockey and what can be done.

Living on Earth reports that “outbreaks have occurred in connection with recreational and youth hockey, and researchers are rushing to pin down the role of air temperature and humidity in creating optimal conditions for contagion. For some advice about getting through winter safely, host Steve Curwood caught up with pediatrician Aaron Bernstein, the interim director of Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment. …

“CURWOOD: There is much that science still has to learn about Covid-19, such as why indoor recreational ice hockey has been associated with outbreaks in several states, not just in the north but also in Florida, where about a dozen people got Covid 19 after a game at a hockey rink in Tampa Bay. … Welcome back to Living on Earth, Ari! …

“Walk us through in basic terms, what about the virus might make it more dangerous for these cold weather sports? …

“BERNSTEIN: The best clues we have right now is that transmission may not be happening as much on the ice, but may be happening off the ice in locker rooms or on the bench when people may take off protective gear or sit too close with each other. We don’t really know. … But we mostly see in in other indoor settings transmission happening when you’ve got people sticking around each other for long periods of time. …

“We do know a couple of things. I mean, what’s clear is that sunlight is really good at inactivating the virus. So, you know, ice skating rinks are not in a lot of sunlight. … Here in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s a lot less ultraviolet radiation hitting us from the sun.

“CURWOOD: So as we move into winter, of course, historically, the influenza virus seems to do much better in the winter. …

“BERNSTEIN: I do think we need to pay close attention to places where we’re asking people to congregate, and being careful about the appropriate precautions. … We’re breaking records in transmission as we speak and there’s a great risk that this virus can spread through the winter. The idea has been floated that herd immunity will protect [us] is reckless and dangerous. …

“[Safety is] the same dull stuff that folks have been talking about for a long time. It’s wearing a mask, it’s washing your hands, it’s keeping physical distance. And those measures can have a dramatic effect upon the spread of disease. … A lot of people, including folks like Tony Fauci and other public health leaders have strongly advised people to not gather in person, because the risks are growing so great, because the reality is that we have more cases today in the country than almost any other time. …

“Part of our action here is not just for ourselves, it’s for the people who live in [our] communities. [For the regular flu, ] there’s a vaccine. … If you take the current coronavirus season, and you add to it even a mild flu season, there are no hospital beds for people to go into. … There are a lot of people who don’t want to get vaccinated for the flu because they think it’s not that bad, or they think the flu vaccine doesn’t work. And neither of those things are true. …

“I should be getting vaccinated against the flu to protect people who are older than me, my family members who may have cancer. … Think about it. If you have a family member who’s pregnant, they often need to go to a hospital. Do you really want them to go to a hospital in which the hospital is overwhelmed with preventable influenza infections? [These] things tie together pretty quickly.”

I have to thank this show for delivering my sermon to readers. Get your shot for the seasonal flu! More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Kate Marling
“Classical Sculpture Mask,” by Kate Marling (2020). But can she breathe?

I’ve really enjoyed how artists have addressed the pandemic situation, whether designing socially distant ballets and theater or specifically coronavirus-related paintings, constructions, and photos.

Today we learn from Hyperallergic that the lowly face mask has been a particular inspiration. Hakim Bishara reports on a Denver exhibition of artistic face coverings.

“Face masks in all forms and colors have become an essential part of our lives. … A new exhibition at the Vicki Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver comes to remind the nonbelievers and the COVID-fatigued among us that face masks are not only crucial to our health but that they can also be delightful means of self-expression.

MASK … celebrates the centuries-long use of masks as ritual and ornamental objects throughout human history with new works by a group of 41 artists. The dozens of masks are positioned on mannequin heads throughout the gallery space. While some of the face coverings on display are not functional, they are a creative reminder of the times, and the creativity that can emerge from isolation. …

“As the COVID-19 crisis continues to worsen in Denver, the gallery says that it hopes that the exhibition will ‘call attention to the [significance] of masking as an issue of public health and a demonstration of civic responsibility.’ …

“As part of the exhibition, the gallery has joined forces with RedLine Contemporary Art Center in Denver to fabricate free, functional masks that will be distributed to members of the community.

“Ranging in style from the classical to the otherworldly, the masks on view offer inventive notions of what face-coverings can look like. Serge Attukwei Clottey’s science fiction-esque mask appears to be constructed from plastic pipes and found industrial materials. Elizabeth Morisette’s avian mask is a beak made out of zippers. Kate Marling designed a mask that invokes a classical sculpture as if freezing half of her face in stone. Trey Duvall’s ‘COVID19 (Mask for the Art World)’ covers the mouth area with a brick fastened over surgical hand gloves, perhaps hinting at the silencing of certain voices. By contrast, Tobias Fike attached a sizeable megaphone to a mask titled ‘Mouthpiece.’

“A virtual panel discussion with some of the featured artists will be held on November 5.”

A selection of the works, including images of some of the artists modeling their masks, may be viewed at Hyperallergic, here.

Looking for an unusual mask for yourself? Check out the variety at Etsy, here, where you can also get beautiful masks by a family member of mine, good for preventing foggy glasses.

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