I have been in and out of my doctor's office several times during this pandemic season, just my usual constellation of minor ills mostly associated with advancing age and having lived a, shall we say, somewhat active and under-doctored lifestyle for many years.
The first time, you had to call from the parking lot. They came out, asked about your mask -- "Pleated paper or double layer cloth, or do you need one of our masks?" -- checked your temperature with a non-contact thermometer, asked if you had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or had any symptoms, and, if you passed muster, walked you in. The lobby hadn't been changed from what Tam calls "pre-war" conditions but it wasn't being used.
The next time, you walked in. Two of every three chairs were gone from the lobby, leaving generous six-foot or larger gaps. The receptionist windows had new clear barriers up that left only a small opening for handing insurance cards through. They did the same screening: mask questions ("Pleated paper? Two-layer cloth? Or do you need a good one?"), temperature check, exposure to symptoms. If you passed, you waited and nurse came to the lobby to collect you.
Yesterday was even more different. Same sparse lobby and barriers, but about two-thirds of the seats were occupied, and the first words from the screener were, "You're next. Before you go back, you'll need to replace your mask with one of ours."
I must have looked incredulous. I have been using plain, decent-quality two-layer cloth masks since about a month into the recommendation to wear them (and pleated cloth or paper before that). Then I thought about the scene in the lobby. Six people: a woman in an extensively bedazzled fashion mask that looked kind of porous, an older lady in a mask like mine (but a nice print fabric), a guy in a slightly askew and grimy-looking paper mask and another fellow who could not seem to keep his mask in adjustment, constantly fiddling with it, pulling it away from his face and reseating it, smoothing it over his nose and chin. At that point, the receptionist spoke again, "It's policy now. Everyone has to use one of our masks." She was holding one out to me.
I nodded and took the mask. The office has no control over what you wear in the door and they're not in the business of evaluating your choice; they hand out standard, one-size-fits all paper ones and there's no need for debate.
So I swapped my mask for theirs and the nurse took me back, asking screening questions about exposure and symptoms along the way. Now they shoot your forehead temperature right before they weigh you and ask how tall you are.
The doctor is pretty sure my heart's not going to blow up this week. Over the next twenty years, she's not so sanguine and so they've added another drug to my routine. She told me no, I can't just promise to cut down on the bacon and ride my bike more so I can skip this one. But at least I asked.
BUILDING A 1:1 BALUN
6 months ago