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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

A Few More COVID Resources & Some Funnies

Since I've come across several really good pandemic-related resources recently, I wanted to pass them on to you, hence this different kind of post.

Here's the order of topics, with links directly to the resources. Scroll down if you want more info about each one before you check it out. Or additional info that is not necessarily in the linked article

  1. Update from an Epidemic - an excellent daily blog by a physician with up-to-date COVID info.

  2. App for Determining Your COVID Risk in Given Situations


    1. It's Not Just You. A Lot Of Us Are Hitting A Pandemic Wall Right Now Good article with some helpful tips,

    2. Anti-Anxiety Tools (scroll down). A few of my current favorites.

  4. What Is Toxic Positivity? Why It’s OK To Not Be OK Right Now An excellent article if people are telling you, "Don't worry! Be happy!"


    1. Five Hacks And Tips To Make Your Face Mask More Protective. Kleenex as a filter? Pantyhose to help seal the edges? Check out these simple ways improve the performance of your mask, given the new more virulent strains.

    2. A User's Guide To Masks: What's Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself) Great article.

    3. Polypropylene fabric, the material now recommended for COVID-19 mask filters: This is a non-woven fabric, not N95 mask material. See my note below for local Charlottesville (and some general US) info (this article is from a Canadian university's research page. Don't use the polypropylene in reusable grocery bags!

    4. The Best Face Mask Filters, According to Doctors and Scientists. Shorter than the first materials article (6b). But beware--there are many ads!

    5. Double masking (surgical mask under cotton mask) may be the easiest option.


    1. I've Had My Vaccine -- Now What Can I Safely Do?

    2. The concept of inoculation first introduced in the US by an African slave. See below for the short version.


    1. If Your Loved One Is Hesitant to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine. What to say...

    2. The (long) history of mRNA research. In an article about the future of mRNA. For people who worry that the vaccine was developed "too quickly." A few short excerpts below.



1. Daily COVID info blog. This first resource is one I've offered before; it is the source of much of the pandemic-related information I've shared over the last few months. It is Seattle physician Betsy Brown's daily blog, "Update from an Epidemic." Betsy (who is the friend of a friend) specializes in the treatment of viral diseases and now works with COVID patients. (She began the blog after COVID had done some damage in the state of Washington but before it had been declared a pandemic, hence the name.)

Somehow she manages to review many sources of information about the pandemic, despite her very busy schedule, then condenses it into short and very readable blog posts, always including the links to where she got the information. That's why it is so important to me. She also occasionally shares something from her personal life or something from one of the arts, which humanizes, and sometimes humorizes, her blog (including the beautiful "falling and rising" video I featured in my last post).

2. App for Determining COVID Risk in a Given Situation. This is a great app created by the Brown University Medical School. You put in your planned location (zip code), whether you will be inside or outside, how long you plan to stay, how many people there will be, the percentage you think will be wearing masks, and few other questions. And you get a risk level for infection. Keep in mind that this app does not appear to take the new more contagious strains into account, most likely because there isn't enough data yet to know what level of increased risk they pose.


3a. It's Not Just You. A Lot Of Us Are Hitting A Pandemic Wall Right Now. Includes a few tips for dealing with the stress. A great article.

Plus, for goodness' sakes, it's February!

3b. And here are a few reminders about a few anti-anxiety tools--some of my favorites:

  • One day at a time: one of my go-to self-reminders.

  • Being inspired by previous generations who have--somehow--managed to survive very tough times.

  • Exercise of any sort: Use what you have, do what you like (or hate the least!): We have what I would call an "anti-Peloton"--a stationary bike that is so old (and we are so old) that we call it an exercycle. We even have to supply the music. But hey, though it makes crazy noises sometimes it still works!

  • News-fasting: Take a break from doomscrolling and/or listening to/watching the news, at least for a little while. Please. Do yourself--and the rest of us--a favor.

4. What Is Toxic Positivity? Why It’s OK To Not Be OK Right Now “Toxic positivity is the idea that we should focus only on positive emotions and the positive aspects of life....It’s the belief that if we ignore difficult emotions and the parts of our life that aren’t working as well, we’ll be much happier....You can fight toxic positivity by acknowledging or recognizing that multiple complex emotions can exist in you all at once.” Another great article.

Toxic or forced positivity is very different from the gentle focusing on the good that Rick Hanson suggests. That way acknowledges suffering and also reminds us that we have a biological, inherited tendency to notice the bad--a survival mechanism left over from our serengeti days when missing a beautiful sunset would be okay, but missing a stalking lion could lead to death. It also suggests that we allow the bad but focus on the more sustaining peace and happiness. Check out this podcast of Rick's if you want to learn more about the difference between the two.


5a. Five Hacks And Tips To Make Your [Current] Face Mask More Protective. Our masks tend to be leaky and less effective than they need to be, especially given the new more virulent strains, but these ideas can help. Of note: the much touted coffee filters don't work very well, because it's really hard to breathe through them, so the air gets pushed around them rather than through.

Strangely two facial tissues folded (so four layers total) can actually help a fair amount. Place it in your mask filter pocket, with at least one layer of fabric between you and it--so you don't breathe in the loose tissue fibers. And be sure to remove and discard before you wash your mask!

But pantyhose? It actually works fairly well. Details in the article.

5b. A User's Guide To Masks: What's Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself)

This is helpful in terms of both mask buying and mask making. Excellent article.

  • a non-woven, non-fraying fabric.

  • not the same as N95 mask material, which is not washable.

  • unlike other materials, polypropylene keeps its electrostatic charge in the humidity created when you breathe out

  • The best bet is probably to make a double layer; cut 2 pieces to fit inside your mask, then stitch them together on 2 to 3 of the sides. Or cut one and fold it.

  • Washable.

  • After washing rub it with rubber gloves to create the charge again; one site said ironing would also give it back a charge but another site said that if you ironed it would melt! ??? I will continue to research this. Let me know if you find out anything.

Where to get it?

  • "915 Cambric" by Pellon: JoAnn Fabrics in C'ville has this in stock. This is the ONLY Pellon interfacing that is polypropylene so make sure you are getting Cambric 915. It only comes in black (but it will be hidden inside your mask). Also available through Amazon and directly from Pellon.

  • "Oly Fun" by Fairfield: Comes in lots of bright colors. JoAnn Fabrics - online only, 10 yard bolts only; WalMart - online apparently also available in 10 yard bolts, except there is a set of three 12" x 12" pieces but only available right now in brown.; Amazon - looks like you can get 3 yards at a time

  • Don't use the polypropylene often found in reusable grocery bags! Because of the way it is finished, it is not breathable, so it forces the air to go around it, negating any filtering activity.

5d. The Best Face Mask Filters, According to Doctors and Scientists. This is an informative article and a little shorter than 6a. above, but there are many ads for the kinds of filters they suggest!

5e. Double masking (surgical mask under cotton mask) may be the easiest option. At the end of the day/errand you toss the surgical mask and wash the cotton one.


7a. I've Had My Vaccine -- Now What Can I Safely Do? "Sorry, there is no immunity passport yet, experts told CNN. There are still safety precautions you need to follow in order to keep you, your loved ones and everyone else safe and protected from the deadly coronavirus."

7b. "Did you know that the idea of inoculation was introduced in America by a slave? Yep. Onesimus, a black man who was a gift [DEH note: that phrase makes me shudder; imagine giving a person as a gift] to the Puritan church minister Cotton Mather from his congregation in 1706, told the minister about the centuries old African tradition of inoculation. He explained that by extracting the material from an infected person and scratching it into the skin of an uninfected person, you could deliberately introduce smallpox to the healthy individual and they'd become immune. The traditional African practice was then used to inoculate American soldiers during the Revolutionary War." (from comedian and author Bruce Littlefield in Dinner Party Talk, his email newsletter.)

Unfortunately the idea was not well received, since it came from a slave. Here's a article if you want to find out more.


8a. If Your Loved One Is Hesitant to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine. This has a great, "if they say/you can say" format, with information based on current research.

8b. The Long History of mRNA research--in the (somewhat long article The Next Act for Messenger RNA Could Be Bigger than COVID Vaccines. A very interesting article which focuses on the future of mRNA but includes a lot of great info about the 20 year history of mRNA vaccine development. This may help reassure people who fear the vaccines were developed "too quickly." A couple of excerpts/summaries:

Scientists have been working on mRNA technology for 20 years. They worked extensively on side effects; they worked on carriers. They always thought it would be useful, though initially the angle they worked was getting the body to make it's own drugs to fight various conditions or illnesses, so to speak, in response to mRNA, rather than vaccination.

Because of these 20 years of research, "scientists at Moderna, a biotech specializing in messenger RNA, were able to design a vaccine on paper in 48 hours, 11 days before the US even had its first recorded case. Inside of six weeks, Moderna had chilled doses ready for tests in animals."

"The record speed was not due only to the novel technology. Another reason was the prevalence of infection. Because so many people were catching covid-19, the studies were able to amass evidence quickly."


Okay, okay, so this one's not COVID related. But it's so silly I had to include it.

And in case you want to see more of these signs (he does them pretty frequently), check out his Facebook page.

Until next time,


Photo/Art Credits:

Betsy Brown, Substack

Burning match, Gift Habeshaw, unSplash

Toxic positivity, Teach Better

Pantyhose mask, Michele Abercrombie, NPR

Cambric polypropylene fabric, Pellon

Oly Fun fabric, Fairfield

Post-vaccine bandaid, Centers for Disease Control, unSplash

Worried person, Shane, unSplash

Cat meme, Bored Panda

Bench, Bored Panda

Braces billboard, unknown

Aliens meme, Bored Panda

Theater marquee, Edwin Hooper, unSplash

Make America Grate Again sign, Vince Rozmiarek


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