Reinforcing Good Mask Choices

Illustration: Putting on a Child’s Mask by August de Richelieu from Pexels

Illustration: Putting on a Child’s Mask by August de Richelieu from Pexels

Weather-wise, we're on the edge of cooler air located to our north, and hotter, more summer like air to our south. The high heat is associated with a ridge over Africa while the cooler, more fall like weather is associated with a trough of colder weather originating in cooler Siberia.

The ridge will push north a bit over the next week and temperatures will move back from the mid to upper 20s C (70-80s F) to the low to mid 30s C (80-90s F). Yet, by early next week the ridge will amplify and the trough will push back southwards. This means that we'll be back to cooler summer weather by mid-week next week.

Some of you might have heard that there were both light and heavier showers across the landscape the last couple of days. You might have even gotten a tad wet. Most of the rain was located along coastal areas. Rain doesn't occur that often in summer — still, it seems appropriate that our wet winter would be followed by some summer showers.

"Noses in search of masks" by Dr. Barry Lynn (c) 2020

While the summer's weather has been conducive to walks and other outdoor activities, too many activities indoors have led to a large spike in the coronavirus COVID-19 infection rate. Of course, these often take place with

unmasked participants or those wearing their masks below the nose or not at all (see picture).

I had the opportunity (unwanted) to visit the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. I started counting the people walking through the hospital corridors in the mall area with their mask worn under the nose. Based on the percentage of noses exposed, one can extrapolate that we'll arrive at somewhere close to one million Israelis infected by next summer (without a vaccine). This would bring our numbers from about 1 in 100 to 1 in 10 people. Folks can always be unlucky, but a simple change in behavior could make a big difference in how many people get sick or not.

I find the whole thing to be quite stressful. Most stressful is trying to schedule appointments. How do you schedule an appointment if you can schedule it any time you want to? Suddenly, my ordered and regular life is full of far too many choices.

Yet, one ancillary, but beneficial result of the coronavirus is that it presents opportunities to take part in weddings, at least vicariously. The other night, I was off to see the doctor and was instructed to wait outside by my Maccabi appointment message. I stepped outside just in time to hear the seven marriage blessings, from a wedding taking place outside on the hill across the street. I found myself smiling. We may be confined, but in many ways we're closer to our families and neighbors than before.

For instance, the kids are mostly home this summer, and the wife both taught school and took an online course. She's learning the subject of Behavioral Analysis; supposedly, she sees it as a way to expand her professional qualifications.

Keep this in mind when you consider — as you may have inferred — that I prefer having an ordered schedule, preferably one that leaves little time for choosing new and different activities.

Still, I have to admit my surprise when the true purpose of her taking the course bore itself out. After agreeing — on the spur of the moment — to pick up the kids, I received two stickers in my WhatsApp box. The stickers came with a message: "For every 10 stickers you'll receive a gift — keep up the good work!" (I'd done something out of schedule.)

I have to tell you that I've never been more excited in my life. I've had two Sushi dinners, and even received permission to take a Friday off and do what I really like to do. This didn't work out too well (for my wife), as our choices are limited these days ,and I said that I think I would prefer to be (and was) in the kitchen making lots of different foods for Shabbat.

One goal of Behavioral Analysis is to change behavior even after the positive reinforcement ends. I can't say that I've reached that stage, hmm. I can suggest, though, that our government instruct our police to give vouchers for 50 NIS (or maybe even 100 NIS) to those wearing masks which actually correctly cover their mouth and nose. This may be the best way for us to beat the virus.

[Please note: Dr. Lynn's complete and accurate weather forecast can be found here. Editor]

Dr. Barry Lynn (Photo courtesy the author)

Dr. Lynn is a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Earth Sciences Department. He is also CEO of Weather It Is, LTD, a company that specializes in reducing weather risk. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.

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