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  • I hear what you're saying about adapting. But making these changes is hard and stressful, and some things just aren't quite like they used to be. Don't my needs matter too?
    Yes, your needs absolutely matter. And, sometimes our needs can matter but we still need to recognize that the magnitude of our need is not the same as the magnitude of someone else's need. There's a lot of conversation right now about people's need for things to be "normal" -- but we want to point out a couple of things about that conversation. First, as you will learn elsewhere on this page, we are still in a pandemic, and things simply are not the way they were pre-2020, as much as we might wish otherwise. Second, relatively manageable adaptations now can actually protect YOU, yourself, from a much worse loss of "normalcy" -- in the form of post-covid health conditions, or an overburdened, toppling healthcare system that could put you at serious risk. And finally, Judaism places great value on the "klal," or community. Prioritizing a vision of pre-2020 "normal" effectively means semi-permanently excluding high-risk people from public and communal life. The suffering of wearing an uncomfortable mask, while real, simply isn't the same as the suffering of not being able to be present in community because it isn't safe for you without a mask requirement. Let's rise to the spiritual challenge of this moment and prioritize community and safety for all.
  • I'm nervous about reading this page. The early days of the pandemic were traumatic and exhausting for me. Now you're telling me that it's not over? That's scary, and I kind of want to stop reading.
    It makes a lot of sense that you feel nervous. We're really grateful that you're here reading -- you're doing a brave thing. While it's true that the pandemic isn't over, we also have so much more knowledge and tools than we had in 2020. This page is meant to share that knowledge and those tools.
  • Most of my friends, and most other institutions, are acting like the pandemic is pretty much over. It's hard and scary to go against the grain of what everyone else is doing.
    It's absolutely hard when you have to go against the grain like this -- most humans are naturally wired to look to those around them for social signals and validation. The challenge of going against the grain is especially great if your life hasn't put you in a position like this before. Disabled people and queer people are two groups who might have wisdom to share to help you feel less alone. On that note, feeling less alone really does help -- is there anyone you know who might be on the same page as you, to whom you could reach out to talk about covid equity and this website? While this is hard, it's also an opportunity. Think of all the harm that's been done in human history by people who weren't "bad people," but who -- like most people -- just went along with the flow of what everyone around them did and believed. (The bystander effect is real!) Now -- right now! -- YOU have a chance to take a different path, to refuse to be that bystander. This moment is presenting us all with an immense opportunity for moral courage. It's hard, but the hardest things in life can be the most worthwhile.
  • I have young kids who need to go to school. They’re too young to mask, and/or I can’t always be there to make sure they mask. It’s scary to think about risks to them that I can’t fully control.
    This is so hard. Thank you for your bravery in continuing to read this page. The first thing we want to remind you of is that this is NOT your fault. Your kids are being failed by our society as a whole -- not by you. You've been doing your best to protect them with the information and tools that you have. We're here to help by giving you more information and more tools. One thing that may help to remember is that even though there are scary things you can't fully control, you do still have agency, and knowledge is power. In particular, you should know that covid is not an all-or-nothing deal -- it makes a big difference if you can help your kids get reinfected fewer times, even if you can't keep them from getting infected at all. You might want to take a look at the range of kids' N95s listed on the Project N95 website, or ask your kids' friends to take a quick, cheap rapid test before a playdate, or build an affordable Corsi-Rosenthal box air filter for your child's classroom. If you can find the energy, you might band together with others to advocate for covid protections in your child's school or at your shul. You're doing so much. You've got this. We're glad you're here, reading and learning.
  • I feel skeptical and/or scared when you say that I can’t rely on the advice of the government and the CDC. I grew up having basic faith in government institutions, even if I don't like some politicians. Where else am I supposed to get my information? Why should I trust you more than the CDC?
    This is a genuinely hard and scary, perhaps worldview-threatening experience. We're grateful that you're here taking the time to read the information and perspectives that we are presenting on this website. One thing that may help you to feel less alone is to consider is that, while facing the unreliability of public health institutions might be new for you, it's actually a longstanding experience for many disabled people, queer people, and people of color. The CDC is, unfortunately, run by humans, and those humans have lots of weaknesses and ego challenges and blind spots and biases and political motives and places where they are stuck in outdated ways of thinking -- just like ALL humans do. And, observationally, the CDC has made some very questionable decisions during this pandemic, ones that have been widely criticized by medical associations as mainstream as the AMA. This doesn't mean that there's nothing at all we can trust; it just means that we have to do our own searching, seeking, and critical evaluation. It definitely has been hard to find reliable information during this pandemic. That's one reason we created this website -- and we commit to providing you with reliable information based on trustworthy, cited sources as much as we possibly can. Another very helpful resource that you might want to check out is the People's CDC, an independent project aimed at providing a public health perspective based in principles of equity, care, and social responsibility.
  • I really need to socialize and be in community for my mental health. Are you saying I can't do that?
    Not at all! Most high-risk people need socializing and community just as much as you do -- and we've been deprived of it during this pandemic (and even before this pandemic) to an extent that is probably hard for you to even imagine. What we want is for you to join with us in the project of making social life and community as accessible as possible to everyone, including us. The good news is that we have SO many tools that we can combine to help us gather safely. It's not a question of not gathering, but of gathering in creative, adaptive, intentional ways.
  • Things have to get back to "normal," because I care about my life and want to keep living it. Without "normal," how can things be okay?
    Oh, friend! So many disabled people know your pain. Changes in abilities or health status are a hallmark of disability experience for many of us. We've learned by necessity to mourn as needed and then to furiously, relentlessly, creatively adapt. And, we disabled people are here to tell you: It will be okay. It probably won't be quite the same, but things don't need to be the same to be okay. You might even find, as you adapt and live into this new reality, that you make unexpected discoveries, or find joyous surprises -- "not the same" might sometimes mean "wow, actually better!" And even in the places where "not the same" does mean "more challenging," that doesn't have to mean that you lose the core things that make life worth living -- you just might need to access them in different ways, with different creative workarounds that eventually become part of your new routine. And -- we'll be real -- there will be some true losses, but not nearly as many as you think, and you don't have to get stuck inside of them; you can mourn them and let them move through you, freeing you to move through our new world.
  • How many people are still dying as a result of covid?
    As of August 2022, approximately 400 Americans per day were still officially recorded as having died of covid, or approximately as many people per week as died on 9/11. Furthermore, excess mortality data from June 2022 (the most recent available as of this writing) showed that approximately 900 more people were dying in the US per day than the historical average -- approximately twice the number of officially recorded covid deaths in the same time period. So where did the extra ~500 deaths per day come from? Well, many were likely related in some way to covid -- whether they were of people who had acute covid but never tested, people who died weeks or months after a covid infection from long-term health impacts, or people without covid who died because of the untenable burden covid has placed on the healthcare system.
  • We have covid treatments now, so why do we still need to take other precautions?
    Like vaccines, covid treatments are not a cure-all. Evolving covid variants are making monoclonal antibody treatments increasingly obsolete. Meanwhile, many barriers to access still exist for Paxlovid, Pfizer's antiviral; even if you can get Paxlovid, symptomatic rebound after treatment is common. Finally, we do not currently have evidence to show that either monoclonal antibodies or Paxlovid significantly reduce instances of Long Covid.
  • Why are you saying that the pandemic is not over?
    An "endemic" disease - as opposed to a pandemic disease - is a disease that does not cause large waves of infection, and/or follows a predictable pattern of waves (like the flu in winter). Covid is still causing unpredictable large waves, as well as excessive strain on the healthcare system; therefore, it is still a pandemic. Furthermore, covid is still causing very high levels of mortality, as well as morbidity, or long-term health impacts short of death.
  • I did X (got vaccinated / took a rapid test / etc). Why isn't that enough?
    See above to learn why vaccination alone does not provide sufficient protection against covid. Rapid tests, too, do not catch all cases of covid that could be contagious in the context of an indoor unmasked event. For example, the White House Correspondents' Dinner in May 2022 led to many secondary cases of covid, despite the fact that all attendees had to show proof of a negative rapid test from that day. Take a look at this graphic to help visualize why no single intervention is enough against covid; rather, interventions should be layered together.
  • Why do we need different precautions for covid than we used to take for flu?
    First, long-term health impacts from covid are quite common -- much more common than from the flu. Additionally, weekly covid deaths are still 5-10 times higher than deaths from seasonal respiratory viruses like the flu and RSV. In September 2022, Anthony Fauci said of covid and the flu that "the severity of one compared to the other is really quite stark" and "covid is a much more serious public health issue than is influenza."
  • We have covid vaccines now, so why do we still need to take so many precautions?
    Covid vaccines are a wonderful development, but they are not a cure-all. The first thing to know is that we now have a large amount of data showing that vaccines provide minimal protection against the most common serious outcome of covid infection, which is Long Covid. Beyond that, many immunocompromised people -- who are already at very high risk for covid complications -- do not respond to vaccines, and are effectively unvaccinated through no choice of their own. Additionally, the current covid vaccines do not have high durability; protection drops off sharply between 4 and 6 months after each shot. Furthermore, constantly evolving covid variants further erode vaccine protection, a trend that will likely continue even with the recently updated Omicron boosters. Finally, vaccinated people can still be infected with covid asymptomatically and pass the infection on to others, who may have serious symptoms or long-term effects.
  • What are the long-term risks if we don’t deal with covid better as a society?
    The strain of covid on our country's already-overburdened healthcare system has led to huge amounts of healthcare providers --especially nurses -- leaving their profession, an ongoing trend already impacting patient care and likely to lead to a severe nursing shortage by 2025. Meanwhile, the burden of covid is also leading to very long wait times in emergency rooms and for ICU beds across the country. This may seem like a somewhat abstract issue right now, but -- as with climate crisis -- the impact will become increasingly personal for more and more people as tipping points are reached. Furthermore, the Brookings Institution recently estimated conservatively that the economy was missing as many as 1.6 million full-time-equivalent workers as a result of Long Covid -- a number likely to grow as repeated infections lead to more Long Covid. Increased demand for healthcare and disability support, combined with fewer and fewer people physically able to work in those fields, is a looming economic and social catastrophe for our country. As with nursing shortages, the best time to respond to this crisis is before it reaches a tipping point. Finally, the skills that we need as a society to respond to covid -- adapting to new realities and engaging in community care -- are the same ones that we need to respond to climate crisis. Learning and practicing these skills now can brighten our future on multiple fronts.
  • What about the long-term impact of covid, and/or covid precautions, on my kids?
    Despite many parents' understandable concern, research shows that masking in schools does not have a significant effect on children's learning or social development. Meanwhile, Long Covid is more common in kids than most of us have been led to believe, with one recent analysis of a large group of studies, published in the prominent scientific journal Nature, citing a frequency of as much as 25%. Common long-term health impacts of covid in kids include trouble breathing, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and psychiatric symptoms. Additionally, covid is known to cause neurodegenerative symptoms (LINK) in adults; therefore, the impact of covid on kids' developing brains -- while still unknown -- is concerning. Finally, over 200,000 children in the US had lost a primary caregiver to covid as of March 2022, a number that continues to climb.
  • Only X% of people get Long Covid, so why do I need to worry?
    If you read through the links in our answer above, you will see that post-covid health impacts affect many people in subclinical ways -- that is, you may not notice them, but they are still there. Taking into account the likelihood of repeated covid infections and the below-the-radar nature of many post-covid sequelae, a huge number of people who truly believe that they have fully recovered from covid are likely to experience future health problems related to their covid infection(s) -- even if that connection isn't obvious.
  • How does Long Covid affect the body?
    The more research emerges on Long Covid, the more worrisome it appears. Post-covid health impacts can affect nearly all body systems, including the brain and nervous system, the lungs, the heart, and the immune system. Many post-covid patients experience fatigue that significantly limits their daily activities, with some qualifying for the serious diagnosis of ME/CFS, or myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally, the commonly-reported post-covid "brain fog" reflects cellular damage and myelin loss in the brain. And post-covid patients -- even those with mild initial infections and no clinically noticeable post-covid symptoms -- are at sharply increased risk for strokes and blood clots for at least a year after their covid infection.
  • MASKS: Masks make me feel distant from other people, and they stress me out because they make me feel like we are still in a crisis. What can I do?
    These feelings are understandable, but we'd like to offer a reframe. Masking is an act of love -- a sign that the person wearing the mask is deeply considering the needs of others, especially the high-risk people who have been most impacted by this pandemic and undergone the most isolation and trauma. Masking also is an incredible tool that, when done well, enables people to gather together in relative safety, thus alleviating isolation. You can make masking your own by seeking out comfortable -- perhaps even stylish and colorful -- masks that fit you well. It's understandable that masks may feel associated with the trauma of the early pandemic, but -- just as people learned to practice safer sex with condoms to combat AIDS -- we can integrate masks into our regular routine.
  • PRIORITIZING THE MOST IMPACTED: We all have needs, so why is it important to prioritize high-risk and disabled people when responding to covid?
  • OUTDOOR TRANSMISSION: Is Covid transmission a concern outdoors? What should I do to keep myself and my community safe?
    Covid risk can, unfortunately, still be significant in outdoor settings, as explained by epidemiologist Theresa Chapple in this June 2022 episode of the Death Panel public health podcast ( - as well as numerous other sources. Covid aerosols move like smoke - if you’ve experienced the smell of cigarette smoke in outdoor settings, then you have direct experience of the ways that invisible aerosols move and sometimes create a significant impact, even when not indoors. From a harm reduction standpoint, outdoors is significantly safer from Covid transmission than indoors -- this matters! At the same time, N95 masks and rapid tests are still useful tools (and potentially crucial ones, depending on the wind conditions and the degree of Covid safety needed by participants in the space) when outdoors. Distancing does have a much greater impact outdoors than indoors - so designating a “masks off” area at a significant distance from a “masks required” area can be one option, as needed.
  • VENTILATION/FILTRATION: How much ventilation/filtration do I need? How do I know if what I have in my space is enough?
    Answer coming soon!
  • TESTS: Rapid tests are quick but give limited information, and PCR tests give better information but aren't quick. Is there a third option?
    Actually, YES! Three brands of rapid at-home PCR tests are currently available: Cue, Detect, and Lucira. The one catch is that these tests are pricey. However, we want to share this information because we think that rapid PCR tests are a strong possible solution to certain types of situations that can arise in Jewish communal life -- like, for instance, an individual service leader needing to remain unmasked so that hard-of-hearing people can read their lips.
  • MASKS: Masks are uncomfortable for me, and/or the ones that I've tried don't fit well. What can I do?
    We've got good news for you! There are now lots and lots of options for KN95/N95/KF94 masks of various styles and fits, and there's a lot you can do to seek out a mask that's as comfortable for you as possible. Project N95 is one great resource. Masks that are lauded for being especially comfortable and well-fitting include the Flo Mask, Envomask, Aura N95, and Kimberly-Clark duckbill N95. It may also help you to adjust the mask straps with extra loops or knots, in order to get a good fit. Beyond this, it's important to remember that, while no one particularly likes the physical sensation of wearing masks, the physical experience of covid and/or Long Covid -- for you, or for someone that you unknowingly transmit to while unmasked -- is likely to be far worse. While comfort is, indeed, a real need, safety and protection from serious long-term health problems and death are more fundamental needs; pikuach nefesh, or saving a life, is an important Jewish value that supersedes comfort. Even in secular society, we often do things that are somewhat uncomfortable (like wearing seatbelts, life preservers, or condoms) in order to protect ourselves and/or others. With that said, a few people truly cannot wear masks because of particular issues like major sensory sensitivities, migraines, etc. If this is you, we recommend that you first try different mask options, as recommended above, to see if anything can work. If, truly, nothing works, then you're experiencing a disability issue and this qualifies as an access conflict; see below for more (LINK).
  • TESTS: I took a rapid test yesterday/this morning, or a PCR earlier this week. Why do I need to mask indoors?
    A negative rapid test means that it is very unlikely that you have covid and are extremely contagious -- but it does NOT rule out the possibility that you have covid and are moderately contagious, as evidenced by the significant covid spread at the 2022 White House Correspondents' Dinner, which required proof of a negative same-day rapid test. A PCR test is more sensitive than a rapid test, and if you test negative with a PCR, you are highly unlikely to spread covid in the hours immediately after the test. However, PCR results usually take 1-3 days to come back from the lab; by the time you get them, they tell you about your status in the past, not the present. Both rapid tests and PCR tests can be useful covid mitigation measures, but they should be layered with other measures, like ventilation and masking.
  • MASKS: I've heard that many high-filtration masks are counterfeit. How can I find reliable, authentic masks?
    Check out the extremely helpful mask listings at Project N95.
  • VENTILATION/FILTRATION: What can my community do if it’s too expensive or otherwise not possible to redo our ventilation system?
    Answer coming soon!
  • TESTS: The cost of rapid tests adds up. How can I get affordable, high-quality rapid tests?
    We have a great workaround to share! It turns out that one of the best ways to get high-quality rapid tests in bulk is to order them from Europe, where they are sold much more cheaply than in the US. We can attest from personal experience that this link is reliable and that, even with shipping costs, the tests are extremely affordable.
  • VENTILATION/FILTRATION: Why is ventilation/filtration so important -- everywhere, but especially in shul?
    To quote the People's CDC: "We now know that social distancing is not enough to protect people from COVID – the CDC recommendation for social distancing of 6 feet was based on early confusion about how the virus moves in air. While it is true that large virus-containing droplets do fall to the floor on average within about 6 feet from an infected person, they can be projected much further. Later it became clear that much smaller droplets, called aerosols, are produced just by breathing (and more are produced by talking, laughing or singing). The aerosols are so lightweight that they don’t fall to the ground. Rather, they can float in the air for hours, unless diluted with outside air or trapped in a filter. In addition, a 2021 study showed that the smallest aerosols contain the greatest amount of viruses. That makes both filtration and dilution with fresh air more important than ever." To this we would add that -- given that the highest amount of aerosols are produced by singing -- shul (or any other place with communal singing) is an especially high-risk environment, which necessitates a special focus on covid protection measures, including ventilation and filtration of air.
  • MASKS: Why do I need a well-fitting, well-vetted KN95/N95/KF94 mask? Why isn't cloth or surgical enough?
    Covid primarily spreads through airborne aerosols, which are not effectively blocked by cloth or surgical masks (or poorly-fitting N95s, for that matter). Both the CDC and the American Medical Association agree that a well-fitting high-filtration mask (KN95/N95/KF94) is necessary to protect both yourself and others from the highly contagious Omicron variant. While cloth and surgical masks may have been useful against earlier covid variants, they are especially insufficient against Omicron. Unfortunately, even though the CDC and the AMA agree on this point, public health messaging has not caught up, and as a result many people are still using outdated masks. Additionally, the unfortunate reality is that many high-filtration masks are counterfeit, and do not provide the filtration that they claim. In order to protect yourself and others, it's important to wear a vetted KN95/N95/KF94 from a reliable source, with no exhalation vent. The good news (!) is that authentic, quality & affordable high-filtration masks are now readily available from sources such as Project N95 -- with lots of options to help you get the best possible fit.
  • MASKS: Why isn't one-way masking enough?
    One-way masking is much better than no masking at all, but it is also much less effective than two-way masking -- which means that it is insufficient to protect high-risk people in an era of extremely contagious covid variants. Risk of infection from any given covid exposure is a function of both masking (on both ends) and exposure time. Let's estimate that a non-fit-tested N95 mask blocks 90% of infectious viral particles, and that you can get infected with covid after 2 minutes of unmasked exposure (likely true with Omicron). That would mean that, with one-way masking, a masked, vulnerable person is at risk of infection after just 20 minutes of exposure to an unmasked contagious person. With two-way masking, the vulnerable person would be safe for 200 minutes, or 3.3 hours. Anecdotally, in an empirical demonstration of the above calculus, the authors of this page know of multiple cases of people getting infected with the Omicron variant despite wearing well-fitted N95 masks.
  • How can my community address conflicting access needs?
    This is such an important question. The first thing that's important to say is that addressing conflicting access needs starts with the specifics of your individual situation and the people and needs involved. At JCRN, we have lots of experience coming up with creative solutions to access problems, and we have some availability for paid consultation on your specific situation, if that's something you'd like to reach out for. Another very important point to remember is that things often go wrong in situations of conflicting access needs when decision-makers with power -- likely unintentionally! -- pit different groups of disabled people against each other. For example, a shul board may decide to end a shul's mask requirement and tell the community (and probably even themselves) that they need to do so because of the hearing-related access needs of some members -- when really, there were other creative solutions out there to be found, but the board members didn't seek them out because they actually, personally, wanted to end the mask requirement and felt relieved to have found a legitimate-feeling reason to do so. That's why the best way to address an access conflict is likely to be facilitating productive, creative conversation between the disabled people involved -- and truly listening to that conversation. With that said, just to get you started, here are a few possible responses to common access conflicts: - If some people in your community can't mask because they are either too young or have other disabilities that make masking impossible, could you give a specific masking exemption to those people -- while keeping the mask requirement for everyone else -- and also maximize ventilation and ask anyone who isn't capable of masking to take a rapid antigen test before gatherings? - If some people in the community need universal masking while others need to be able to read lips, can you (1) hold services outdoors as much as possible, and use a microphone to help counter outdoor noise, (2) maximize ventilation when services are indoors, (3) have the service leader(s) take an at-home rapid PCR test just before the service, which can make it safe for them to unmask, and (4) hold kiddush outdoors so that more people can safely unmask? In meetings with multiple speakers, could you provide live-captioning (likely a better access solution for lip-readers anyway)? - If you have a Hebrew school class with one child who needs to read lips and other children from high-risk households or who are high-risk themselves, could you split the class into two groups, one of which masks and the other of which doesn't mask (but uses rapid antigen tests and great ventilation)?
  • Covid rates are down right now -- shouldn't we loosen up while we can?
    The problem is that high-risk people often will not feel safe coming to in-person communal spaces at all when community covid rates are high, and they also won't feel safe coming when rates are lower if there is no mask requirement at those times. Your "loosening up" will likely end up excluding many high-risk people from communal environments entirely.
  • We can’t subject everyone to higher precautions that they don’t want to take just to help keep high risk people safe. There are different needs to balance; we can't please everyone, right?
    First, let's reframe the language of "subjecting" people to covid precautions. For one thing, everyone is at risk for Long Covid, so therefore everyone benefits from covid protections. Furthermore, rabbis and community lay leaders can provide important moral leadership by helping the community understand why it's crucial to make sure high-risk people, who are already experiencing huge ongoing trauma in this pandemic, don't get effectively locked out of communal spaces because those spaces are unsafe. Most importantly, while everyone does have needs, balancing needs doesn't mean that everyone's needs exist on the same order of magnitude. While it's understandable that many people in your community may feel a need for "normalcy," this need simply isn't on the same level as high-risk people's need to be able to access community safely. Perhaps you, or your organization's spiritual leader, can provide compassionate pastoral support to people who are struggling with their feelings around adapting to a "new normal."
  • I respect others' choices around covid, and I feel like they should respect mine. Why isn’t personal responsibility, or “you do you,” good enough?
    The truth is that "personal responsibility" is not a workable response to a pandemic of contagious disease. We are all connected to each other, and our health is bound up with each other's health. Furthermore, one-way masking is unfortunately insufficient to protect high-risk people effectively from covid.
  • What emerging technologies may help us combat covid over the next several years?
    Get excited -- there are several emerging technologies that are absolutely worth holding out for! One is high-powered air cleaning in public spaces through safe forms of ultraviolet light -- including the old but not yet widely used technology of upper-room UV and the emerging technology of far UV. Another is intranasal vaccines, which create "mucosal immunity" specifically in the nose and thus block infection and transmission (not just symptomatic disease) much more efficiently than our current "intramuscular" (ie. injection-based) covid vaccines. Additionally, scientists are working on a "universal" coronavirus vaccine, which would combat the constant immune evasion of new covid variants by providing immunity to all coronaviruses. And finally, the authors of this page believe that with sufficient focus and effort, it must be possible to develop a truly workable, protective clear face mask.
  • What kind of hopeful future is possible with the technology we already have now?
    An exciting one! Check out our vision.
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