COVID Diary: A Non-Remote Observational Study of Mask Adherence at UCSD

Entry 7: My Life Is Being Held Back Because They Don’t Want To Wear A Mask

“This is the grandest conversation about race in my life, and then to not have a lab [during a pandemic]. . . . It’s sort of like watching a ship pass you and you really want to be on it,” Jarryd says.

Dear Diary,

The following data (N = 420; males = 265, females = 155) were collected between August 10th & August 15th. There is very little data for 8/10 & 8/12 because I was in my virusfree office on those days & didn’t see many other humans (n = 6 on those two days).

Locations for observations of UCSD Price Center, Starbucks, & some ‘outside’ participants

Here are a few key findings from this pilot data:

Sex Differences in Mask Preferences

Neck Gaiters Have a Sex…

Most maskless faces are males… surprising no one.

It’s males’ fault…
In particular, male adults…

Preexisting scholastic inequities based on sex & race are being exacerbated by COVID19 health policies that will largely remain in place until the people LEAST affected by the inequities augmented by such policies start adhering to those policies. What an amazing privilege to have — the privilege of walking out of a laboratory/building with your tough guy sunglasses on, maskless head held high, while those of us who haven’t been allowed into those buildings continue to have our lives negatively affected due to the grandest manifestation of an anticivic collective unconscious in my lifetime.

I’m currently allowed to work in my office twice a week — the days in which I lecture. On the other 5 days of the week when I’m only allowed to work in the community computer lab, a space outside (which I routinely clean by hand), or one of the other open buildings on campus that appear to have somewhat more relaxed guidance on entry/tourism, I often wear 2 masks: a mask for myself AND for the adult males around campus don’t wear a mask.

Adult males’ non-adherence seems remarkably self-jeopardizing given the now well known COVID19 data on men’s higher mortality rate & women’s higher survival rate.

(Scully et al., 2020)

Numerous reasons have been considered for this sex difference:

2. Women are more likely to wash their hands.

I would do the facepalm emoji but I don’t want to encourage touching your face

3. Women aren’t concerned that wearing a mask will hurt their femininity. I conducted a set of 3 studies in which I attempted to dunk while wearing a mask — and dunking with a PINK mask (yes, pink on a heterosexual cismale) was the ultimate test. A univariate windmill of variance in imaginary SPSS found that dunking is still possible while wearing a mask.

Willis, J. (2020). Masquerade Ball: A Disquisition On Critical Mask Theory & Masculinity.

4. Women are less likely to wear a neck gaiter (see pilot UCSD data above)

5. Women interact with friends in ways that don’t require engaging in a shared activity as often as male friendships (which goes against social distancing).

6. Women have 2 X chromosomes (you know, the chromosome containing the most genes related to immunocompetence) instead of 1. Thus, women have stronger innate and adaptive immune responses than men (Schurz et al., 2019).

7. Estrogen has more immunoenhancing effects (overall) whereas testosterone is associated with more immunosuppressive effects (overall) (Taneja, 2018).

8. Women have more emotionally supportive same-sex friendship networks than straight men (Willis, 2014).

9. Cell mosaicism in women “where a balanced expression of both parental X-linked genes is present… may provide females with greater plasticity and adaptability in the response to infectious diseases than males” which “in synergy with sex hormones, may account for the low risk and better prognosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection in females” (Gemmati et al., 2020).

10. Women have been more likely than men to survive famines & epidemics for centuries.

(Zarulli et al., 2018)

11. The homogametic (XX) sex of most species (usually females) live longer than the heterogametic (XY) sex of most species (usually males) (Xirocostas et al., 2020). Interestingly, in species in which males are homogametic & females are heterogametic, males’ lifespan advantage is 13.8% lower than when women are the homogametic sex.

XX Advantage

12. Cell-mediated immunity following vaccination is higher in women (Umlauf et al 2012), as the protective antibody response is twice as high in women (Klein et al., 2010).

13. Women’s superior antibody response may be because they have a higher number of B cells (Fan et al., 2014; Furman et al., 2014).

14. The higher number of mutations in the Y chromosome increases men’s susceptibility to viral infections (Klein, 2012; Krementsov et al., 2017).

15. Women have a higher number of T helper cells as compared to men (Uppal et all., 2003).

…I should probably just make a Medium entry about sex differences in immunocompetence.

— Please note that usage of the terms women/females & men/males are intended to reflect research with ciswomen & cismen. I wish there was more data available with transmen & transwomen, as such research (particularly with individuals on hormone replacement therapy) could provide useful information for COVID mitigation strategies. Alas, it has been difficult to acquire disaggregated data on multiple potentially consequential sociodemographic variables.

Before I go diary…

Reminder to self to get a flu shot, which the UC system thankfully mandated. Four studies (1 PrePrint, 3 peer-reviewed) have found that receiving the influenza vaccine is protective against COViD (Angel Vila-Corcoles et al., 2020; Marín‐Hernández et al., 2020; Ziedman et al., 2020), and one found that it’s protective even if patients received it AFTER being infected with COViD (Fink et al., 2020 — PrePrint).

Also remember to buy more Vitamin-D supplements before running out. Brunettes, dark haired, & darker-skinned people are ‘more likely to have a vitamin-D deficiency due to the melanin in their skin mitigating the absorption of the sunlight needed to convert Vitamin D & facilitate the maturation of immune cells’ (Zhang & Liu, 2020).

Fun fact: I started coding whether or not someone was wearing sunglasses more explicitly over the weekend. The greatest civic offense is wearing sunglasses without a mask given that the individual was cognitively aware of their face enough to put on sunglasses. It suggests greater intentionality on their part not to wear a mask. They didn’t accidentally/passively forget; they were actively anticivic.

Fun fact 2: I’ve also started coding whether women are pushing baby carriages or not, wearing a ring (when discernible), or otherwise show indication of being in a committed relationship. I hypothesize that single women may be more likely to not have their mask on (if they’re wearing one at all) as research has suggested that a woman’s face may operate as a mate signal to heterosexual males, lesbians, & bisexual males. This isn’t intended to be a preregistration, but given the the current state of affairs, why not add a few hypotheses & start your diary on entry 7.

Fun fact 3: Some people are empowered to work in their offices. It’s great that others feel empowered working from home. Both can be acknowledged while still avoiding max occupancy, given that the work-from-homers won’t be in attendance.

Footnotes.

2 = I’m Black, so people were being socially distant from me long before the pandemic (yes, I acknowledge that I’m 1/8th Native American with a biracial grandmother, but my lived experience is such that I’ve only ever checked the ‘mixed’ and/or ‘Black’ boxed on surveys).

3 = I was allowed to work within the safety of my office on those days.

4 = Given that I’ll also be teaching online at California State University San Marcos again in a few weeks, my current permissions will extend to accommodate CSUSM (it would feel incorrect to assume that only UCSD students are deserving of the quality online instruction possible here on campus).

5 = Given the significantly higher number of men observed on campus relative to women (males = 265, females = 155), a correction to the current policy that allows women with their own private offices to work in their own private offices would be much safer than the potential risks of sexual assault working outside. It’s possible that racial violence against minorities is a higher risk while working outside compared to working inside a private office with the door locked.

… we must reserve a backshop, wholly our own and entirely free, wherein to settle our true liberty, our principal solitude and retreat… We have a mind pliable in itself, that will be company… let us not then fear in this solitude to languish under an uncomfortable vacuity.” — Michel de Montaigne (The Essays, 1850)

Entry 8: San Diego County Removed From California’s Monitoring List

Dear Diary,

I wish CA’s Guidelines for Institutions of Higher Education more explicitly discussed permissions for lecturers/researchers who have our own private virusfree offices to work in that we don’t share with anyone and that no one else can access. Somehow being in that enclosed room feels magnitudes safer than sitting here in the community computer lab, an indoor place on campus we’re currently allowed to work, in which 62 people have passed by me today. In comparison, when I was in my office Monday (a teaching day) from 7:30am to 11:50pm, I only saw one human. One whole human — the campus security escort I called to walk me to my car at midnight. One single human in 16 hours versus 62 (now 63) humans already today between 9am & 2pm. Which one is safer?

Dr. Jarryd Willis, PhD, Principal Investigator, Professor, All-Dayer

Elevators would be safer than this, if for no other reason than elevators were the one social space in which we’ve historically engaged in physical distancing. If you don’t believe me, try standing right next to someone in an elevator (like, in 2022) & watch how fast they try to escape.

Toxic Positivity = people living in houses telling people who live in apartments (or less) that they should feel empowered to work from home. We’ve been discussing inequity & privilege all summer. At some point it needs to be acknowledged that many professionals feel empowered to work in their offices, particularly if they ever had to overcome feeling like an impostor in a space that now serves as a supreme bastion of wellness, self-actualization, & mental health.

Hopefully coming off the state monitor list means there will soon be a revision in policies such that I don’t have to worry about dozens of people passing me in the computer lab 3 days a week, or worry about people with negative intent attacking me outside over the weekend while I’m virtually the only Black person in sight.

As they say, ‘Black people also had to deal with the exhaustion of staying safe’ (Brueggeman, 2020).

Info on Safe Reopening

Back to work

Fun fact: The building my actual office resides in is about 20 yards to my left. I have a key to get in — in early August I let in a graduate student who forgot his keys— I’m just not allowed to go inside myself outside of lecture days. I have a PhD & I let in a graduate student into a building I’m not allowed to enter & continued to work outside. Meanwhile I’m watching antiMaskers walk out of buildings with their maskless heads held high. My career is being punished — and our economy is being punished — for their collective negligence.

Entry 9: GamerGirl’s Moral Revolution (in preparation)

As a Catholic, it is time that I confess something…

I have been playing #MMORPG videogames more often during this pandemic.

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.